Spiced Applesauce Cupcakes with Roasted Apples and Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

What happens when you can’t decide whether to make Smitten Kitchen’s Spiced Applesauce Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting OR Roasted Apple Spice Sheet Cake?  OR whether to make a sheet cake or layer cake?  You get Spiced Applesauce Cupcakes with Roasted Apples and Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting!  And holy shmoly are they good!  I think I have outdone myself.

As written below, this recipe makes enough cake batter for one 8-9″ square pan or about 18 cupcakes.  I made cupcakes and doubled the frosting amount.  Had just a little left over and I did a very generous scoop of frosting!

Spiced Applesauce Cupcakes with Roasted Apples and Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting


For cake
1 medium apple, any variety you like to bake with, peeled, halved and cored

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs

1-1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

For frosting (double if making cupcakes!)
5 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Finely chopped walnuts, optional, for decorating

Dried apple rings, optional, for decorating

 Roast apple: Heat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet or roasting pan with parchment paper. Arrange apple halves face down on paper and roast in a single layer until they feel dry to the touch and look a little browned underneath, about 20 minutes. Slide parchment paper with apple onto a cooling rack and set aside. Once cool, chop into smallish chunks (about 1/2″).

Reduce oven to 350°F.

 Butter an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan.  Cut parchment paper to fit on bottom, line the pan with parchment and butter that too or put liners in cupcake pan.

Make cake: Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in applesauce. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined, then stir in roasted apple pieces (should be about a cup). The batter will look a little curdly and uneven but don’t worry, it will all bake up perfectly in the end.

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Reinvert cake onto a rack to cool completely.

If making cupcakes, fill each cup about 3/4 of the way full.  They don’t dome up too much, so you can safely fill them pretty full. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean.  Let cupcakes cool in pan on wire rack for about 15 minutes,, then remove from pan onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Make frosting: Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Sift powdered sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until incorporated. Spread frosting over top of cooled cake.  If making cupcakes, I used an ice cream scoop (about 3 tablespoons) to generously top each cupcake. 

 To decorate, I sprinkled each cupcake with a little chopped walnuts and then took one smallish apple ring, cut it (just so its not a ring anymore) and then twisted it (like the lime or lemon twist garnish in your cocktail.) Too cute!