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make the best-tasting cupcakes
I am a Great British Bake Off super fan. Not only have I watched all the series, masterclasses and Christmas specials, but I also watch repeats of them all. In the 2017 series, Kate made a sticky toffee apple caramel cake that Prue liked so much, she asked her for the recipe. And ever since I watched the episode, I’ve been wanting to make one too.

I decided that I wanted my apple cake to be truly apple flavoured. After much experimenting, I settled on using fresh apple (which I pan-fried to soften and remove some of the moisture) AND dried apple rings, soaked in apple juice, plus some extra apple juice to loosen the cake batter. A little lemon zest perks the whole thing up, whilst not giving the cake a lemony flavour.

Making them as cupcakes mean the mixture can bake through, even with the moisture from the fruit, without the top or edges going too brown.

Caramel and apple are a match made in heaven so there’s light muscovado sugar in the batter and Fiona Cairn’s amazing salted caramel buttercream on top. The finishing touch is a drizzle of the caramel sauce.

Posted by Holly from Paris, Île-de-France, France • Published See Holly's 7 projects »

  • Step 1

    Cut the apple rings into approximately 1cm pieces with a knife or scissors and place in a small bowl. Pour 100ml of apple juice over the pieces and leave to soak.

  • Step 2

    Chop the (fresh) apple into 1cm cubes (leave the skin on). Heat a small frying pan and add a knob of butter. Fry the apple cubes over a low heat until soft, then leave to cool.

  • Step 3

    Heat the oven to 180C and line a muffin tin with 10 cupcake cases

  • Step 4

    Cream the butter and sugar together, ideally in a freestanding mixer, for about 3 minutes.

  • Step 5

    Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and lightly whisk them.

  • Step 6

    Sieve the flour and baking powder into another bowl.

  • Step 7

    With the mixer on the lowest speed, add about a third of the egg to the creamed butter and sugar, then a spoonful of the flour mix, then another third of the whisked egg, followed by a spoonful of the flour mix and once more until you’ve used up all the egg.

  • Step 8

    Next, add the rest of the flour mix and stop the machine as soon as it’s all incorporated.

  • Step 9

    Measure out 4 tbsp apple juice and pour it in, mixing the batter one last time.

  • Step 10

    Add the cooled, cooked apple chunks and rehydrated dried apple pieces (but not the residual juice they were soaking in) to the batter, plus the zest of half a lemon. Fold into the cake mixture until well combined.

  • Step 11

    Divide the batter between 10 cupcake cases and pop the tray into the oven.
    Bake for 20 minutes, by which time the cupcakes should be golden and risen.
    Place the tin on a cooling rack and when the cupcakes have cooled a little, lift them out of the tin to cool completely.

  • Step 12

    If you want to make the caramel (and you really should – it’s very satisfying!!) measure 60ml of cold water and the white sugar into a small or medium-sized saucepan, preferably with a heavy base and high sides, as the caramel will bubble up when you add the cream. Use a slightly bigger saucepan if yours doesn’t have high sides.

  • Step 13

    Swirl the pan over a low heat to dissolve the sugar in the water and then crank up the heat to boil the mixture. Don’t stir it. It will take a few minutes for the water to evaporate (during which time the mixture will look like frogspawn – don’t be alarmed) but it will eventually change colour, first a light straw colour turning into a deep golden brown.

  • Step 14

    When about half of the mixture is golden brown, turn the heat off and add the cream, whilst standing as far back as possible. Now you can use a spoon and stir it gently. The bubbling will subside and it should have become a glossy, syrupy caramel.

  • Step 15

    Add the salt and vanilla extract and stir in.
    Leave the mixture to cool completely but don’t put it in the fridge.

  • Step 16

    For the buttercream, beat together the butter and icing sugar for 5 minutes, ideally in a mixer. Then add 3-4 tbsp of your homemade caramel or dulce de leche and beat again until combined. Taste it to see whether it needs anything else: a little more salt, vanilla or caramel.

  • Step 17

    When you’re satisfied with it, fit a piping bag with a star nozzle and fill it with the buttercream. Pipe the icing onto the cupcakes in a swirl, starting from the outside and working your way into the middle. Drizzle the iced cupcakes with a little extra salted caramel or dulce de leche.

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