Sunday 29 April 2012

How you like them apples: Apple & Olive Oil Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Dorothy: [Reaches to pick an apple from the apple tree, the tree grabs the apple and slaps her hand.] Ouch!
Apple Tree: What d'ya think you're doing?
Dorothy: We've been walking a long ways and I was hungry and... did you say something?
Apple Tree: She was hungry! Well, how would you like to have someone come along and pick something off of you?
Dorothy: Oh dear! I keep forgetting I'm not in Kansas!
~ The Wizard of Oz

I made Ottolenghi's Apple and Olive Oil Cake a little while ago as a non-chocolately celebration cake for the MIL's bday.  It went down a treat.  So moist, so appley, and that maple syrup cream cheese frosting...gah insanely good.  Now, I'm a cream cheese frosting fan-girl from way back but this maple syrup frosting really took the cake.  

Because of the success of that cake, I've been itching to try them out as cupcakes.  That opportunity came when I was back up in Auckland over Easter and C's work mates requested some cupcakes.  I was stoked to get a chance to try these puppies out and  I gotta say I'm mighty glad I did.  You could say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree as, like the cake version, these Apple and Olive Oil Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting are appley maple syrupy bundles of delight.  

While I was making these, I realised I hadn't made cupcakes for ages.  Since Christmas in fact.  Mainly since I don't really do much baking down in Dunedin but also with my recent obsession with macarons, I'd been neglecting my cupcake recipes for the trendier trรจs chic macarons.  I had kinda forgotten how awesome cupcakes are.  

No more.  Thanks to these beauties, cupcakes are once again the apple of my eye.

While I know that comparing cupcakes with macarons is much like comparing apples and oranges, it's indisputable that cupcakes are the everyman's baked treat.  Cupcakes are so much more accessible and easier to make than maracons and are definitely more substantial and thus more satisfying to eat.  The great thing about the cupcake form over both macarons and cakes is that you get the perfect cake to frosting ratio.  They are also so much easier to make look pretty than my clumsy attempts at frosting a cake or getting perfectly footed macarons.  And for the receiver of goodies, they're super convenient to eat, no need for cutting and serving, plates and forks, or fussing over very delicate macarons - you can eat it straight out of the paper case AND you get to lick frosting off your fingers.

Hear, hear, long live the cupcake!

This Apple and Olive Oil Cupcake in particular is a model cupcake specimen.  Good old Yotam Ottolenghi  sure knows how to make a cake recipe.  The cupcake itself domes beautifully, is gorgeous and moist with generous chunks of apple, and has a super tender crumb.  Almost reminds me of a muffin in texture.  There's also no butter in the recipe which both keeps the cake moist and gives it healthy points too.  That is until you count the frosting...  

And since it's fall at the moment down here in NZ, it's also the perfect cupcake for the season.  A celebration of fall flavours: with juicy apples, warming cinnamon and fruity olive oil.  

A warm fluffy blanket of a cupcake.

And have I raved about the frosting enough yet?  It's smooth and creamy with a strong maple syrup flavour, so make sure you use the good stuff in this recipe.  Since you're adding maple syrup there's not as much sugar as regular cream cheese frosting and waaaaaaaay less sugar than buttercream so you don't get that overwhelming, diabetes-inducing, sickly sweetness that you can get with traditional buttercream.

The frosting recipe was just enough to frost 18 cupcakes with enough for a couple of spoonfuls for the baker's treat (and the baker's husband).  

Apple and Olive Oil Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Tweaked from Ottolenghi - The Cookbook
makes around 18 cupcakes

2 cups (280g) flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (120ml) olive oil (fruity extra virgin works best)
3/4 cup (160g) caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, separated
4 granny smith apples, peeled and cut into 0.5 cm dice
zest of 1 lemon
2 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
120g unsalted butter, softened
100g light brown sugar (run your fingers through it to get rid of as many lumps as you can)
100ml maple syrup
250g cream cheese (***make sure you use full fat cream cheese and not spreadable or low fat. I recommend using Philadelphia brand, have had some bad batches with other brands!***)
big pinch

Optional: Handful of finely chopped walnut pieces or extra maple syrup to decorate.

1. Preheat the oven to 170oC (or 150oC fan bake).  Line two 12 cup muffin tins with baking cups.

2. Sift flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda into a bowl (or just on to a piece of baking paper).

3. Whisk olive oil, vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy.  Then whisk in the egg yolks one at a time beating for around 1 minute after each addition.

4. Stir in the diced apples, lemon zest and the sifted flour mixture.

5.  Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff then fold into the appley cake batter.   The batter will be kinda stiff (not runny) and it will seem like there is more apple than batter.  Never fear, this will only lead to appley deliciousness for your cupcakes.

6. Scoop batter into the baking cups to fill them up all the way to the top. Bake for 20-25 mins or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.  Cool completely in the muffin tins. When completely cool you put the cupcakes in an airtight container and  leave them in the fridge overnight (or for up to 3 days).  The flavours develop better when you leave it overnight.

7. To make the frosting: beat the butter till light and fluffy then beat in cream cheese until just mixed in (be careful not to overbeat!).  Try to get rid of any lumps in the brown sugar then beat in maple syrup, salt and brown sugar to the cream cheese mixture until well incorporating making sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl.

8. Pipe frosting on the completely cooled cupcakes and just before serving sprinkle over with chopped walnuts or drizzle over maple syrup.  Will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for around 3-4 days.


  1. These are gorgeous. I would love one right now for breakfast!

  2. ohh these sound amazing! i love that they're an unusual flavour too :) Some of the best cake i've ever eaten was at ottolenghi's in his notting hill cafe :)

    katie x

  3. I'm always on the lookout for baking recipes that include apples. These cupcakes sound delish! Bookmarked. :-)

  4. Yum! I discovered a similar recipe recently for pumpkin cupcakes - the cream cheese icing is so delish!

  5. Oh I love maple syrup - been stirring it into my porridge all week - such a lovely taste. Your cupcakes sound delicious.

  6. Made these on Friday - let them mature overnight and iced them yesterday morning to take out for afternoon tea. Oh boy! Were they popular! My husband and I ate the last four for dessert, then licked our fingers and smacked our lips.

    The only change I made was to halve the icing recipe and it was ample.

    Thanks for this gorgeous recipe.

  7. amazing receipe ness, thank you x

  8. Oh my goodness. These sound out-of-control amazing. Bookmarking right away! :)

  9. Lora: Anyone who likes cupcakes for brekkie is ay ok by me!! Have to admit I DID have one for breakfast...convinced my self since it has apples (fruit and vitamins) and cream cheese (calcium) it was basically the same as cereal :)

    Katie: Would love to be able to go to his store one day and eat up big! Have an extra slice of cake or meringue for me next time you go to his cafe! xpx

    Shirleen @ Sugar and Spice: I love apples in baking too. Totally transforms the humble fruit! :)

    Bellacapacino: Ooooo pumpkin cupcakes sound delish! Maple would go so well with pumpkin too!

    Lesley: Omg that is the best idea! Porrige that tastes like pancakes - genius!

    Alison: Oh yay! So glad they worked out!! Thanks for the frosting tip and thanks heaps for stopping by! :)

    owlandlou: Naw thanks Alice!! Your blog is AH-MAZING!! Such a talent!!!

    Shoko: Thanks heaps for your lovely comment!!! Yotam Ottolenghi is a cake guru!

  10. I made these for a dinner party last week, SO good thank you! I had tons of leftover icing but not complaining in the slightest as I happily spent the week 'using it up' (aka eating it off spoons)- couldn't let it go to waste obviously!



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