Updated Wednesday, August 17th, 2011
Total Time: 1
Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes
It took several attempts to create a cupcake that was full of apple flavor without being mistaken for a breakfast muffin. Finally, I considered adding boiled cider, which is just very concentrated, unfiltered apple juice. (You can buy boiled cider at some gourmet and Whole Foods stores; from Wood's Cider Mill in Springfield, Vermont [woodscidermill.com]; or from the King Arthur Flour catalogue. Alternatively, you can boil your own cider by simmering 1-1/4 cups of fresh apple cider down to 1/3 cup in about 25 minutes--it just won't be as concentrated as the commercial product.) That did the trick, adding rich flavor to the batter while also producing a very tender, cakelike product. Spiced cream cheese frosting was the perfect finish.
Note: This recipe produced a large yield: 24 cakes. You may cut the recipe in half fairly easily--almost everything divides into two, except for the eggs and the boiled cider. In that case, use 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk and 3-1/2 tablespoons boiled cider. The frosting divides neatly in half.
Preheat oven to 325° and set one rack to the middle position. Place paper liners into the cups of two standard muffin tins (2-1/2-inch-diameter cups).
Using a hand-held mixer or a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine butter and sugar at medium-high speed until pale, very fluffy, and mousse-like, 7-10 minutes. Stop every few minutes to scrape down the sides of your bowl with a spatula--you want everything evenly mixed, with no clumps of butter.
While you're waiting for the butter and sugar to whip, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a medium-size bowl. Whisk together and set aside.
When the butter/sugar mixture is fully whipped, add 1 egg and continue mixing at medium-high speed until fully combined. Repeat with remaining 4 eggs. Add vanilla.
In a small bowl, stir boiled cider into milk. It may look a bit curdled--that's fine.
Add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter/egg/sugar mixture and mix on low speed just until combined. Don't overmix. Add about half of the milk mixture and mix just until combined. Repeat with flour mixture, then milk mixture, then flour mixture.
Using a 1/3-cup measuring cup or large spoon, fill each muffin cup two-thirds of the way. Bake until tops are firm but still pale and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, 25-30 minutes.
While cupcakes are baking, make the frosting: Using a hand-held mixer or a standing mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, combine cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat well, scraping down the sides once or twice, until evenly combined. Set aside.
When cakes are done, remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a rack 10 minutes before removing; then let cool at least 30 minutes before frosting. Frost generously.
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