I really should eat healthier and exercise. I decided to start with the eating part—eating, I can do. As step one of my 12-step program, I bought apples from the farmers market with good intentions to snack on more fresh fruit. As the week progressed I passed the bowl of candy red apples each day, and admired the colorful centerpiece they made on the kitchen counter. That is as far as I got, so you could say that I finished 1/2 a step out of 12.
At that point I had a dilemma. What to do with the apples? So in the name of not being wasteful, I decided to make cinnamon-apple cupcakes. Apples are at their peak in autumn, but with the marvels of modern technology we can get them all year round. Apples range from the sweet and juicy fuji, gala and golden delicious varieties (great for sauces and cakes such as this recipe) to the tart and crisp granny smith used for apple pie because it is drier and keeps its shape during baking.
Apples and cinnamon are a classic pairing. By itself, cinnamon is an earthy balance of sweet and bitter. Cinnamon’s warmth is a counterpoint to the apple’s cool, astringent taste. Before you start stuttering in disbelief (I know, ”cool and astringent” are not the first words that come to mind when I think of apples either), just imagine biting into a fresh, crisp apple. We tend to associate cooked apples with warmth because they are often paired with warm spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
Gaining confidence from my first post, I decided to go beyond the recipe and slather the cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting. Why maple cream cheese frosting? Apples and caramel are another classic pairing. Maple syrup has the same sweet molasses flavor as caramel, but includes a smokiness that creates another layer of complexity. And more importantly I am addicted to cream cheese frosting, which probably takes me back to step zero in my program.
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup stick margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces block-style fat-free cream cheese, softened (about 3/4 cup)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups chopped peeled Rome apple (about 2 large)
Preheat oven to 350°.
Beat 1 1/2 cups sugar, margarine, vanilla, and cream cheese at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, beating at low speed until blended.
Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Combine 2 tablespoons cinnamon mixture and apple in a bowl, and stir apple mixture into batter. Pour batter into an 8-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray, and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon mixture.
Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack, and cut using a serrated knife. Note: You can also make this cake in a 9-inch square cake pan or a 9-inch springform pan; just reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes.
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Add powdered sugar, syrup, and vanilla; beat until smooth.
Bake cupcakes for 25 – 30 minutes.
These cupcakes store well in the refrigerator, but make sure to bring them to room temperature before eating so that they regain their tender crumb.