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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Burnard

Sparkling Cider Cupcakes With Sparkling Cider Frosting

Two cupcakes on a pressed glass dish

Welcome to the first actual baking post on this baking blog! These cupcakes are extremely fluffy, mostly due to the sparkling cider. It mixes with the baking power and creates soft, pillowy magic (okay, it’s not magic, it’s science, but sometimes those feel like the same thing). I’m marking this as a #🥄🥄🥄 recipe. But there are alterations that can lessen that spoon count. We’ll get into those later. More about the cupcakes...

Decorated cupcakes on a wire rack

There’s a whole lot of apple involved, but the resulting flavor isn’t overwhelmingly apple-y. In fact, it’s pretty subtle. The cakes aren’t too sweet, either. It’s a versatile recipe; if you replace the cider with, I don’t know, orange juice? You’ll end up with something entirely different, but just as tasty (although if you do use orange juice, you might also want to add some orange zest because it‘s delicious).

Closeup of frosting on a cupcake on a pressed glass dish

I like cupcakes. I don’t love them. But I like them just fine. They’re excellent party food! Which is why they seemed like a perfect New Year (new decade?!) recipe. Not that I went to a party this year. I baked, took a bath to make sure my joints would be alright in the morning, and then I went to bed early. Which, honestly, I wouldn’t have had any other way. It’s been a weird decade. I finally got my EDS diagnosis, got my asthma under control, put my theatre career on hold, stopped working, and moved from DC to San Diego for my health. As a whole, it sounds pretty dark, but I promise that’s not how I feel about it. Ask anyone with an invisible illness (or five) and they’ll tell you that getting a diagnosis is primarily a positive thing. It takes years for most people to get an EDS diagnosis. There are a lot of hoops to jump through, and that’s only if you’re lucky to find a doctor who believes you. After years and years of tests coming back normal, you finally figure it out. It’s awesome. And full of hope.

What were we talking about? Right, cupcakes! They’re the perfect party dessert. I dressed these up with gold and pearl sprinkles and served them on pressed glass, just for the holiday. Piping the frosting takes up a lot of spoons for me, so I rarely do it, but hey, I felt like ringing in the new 20s with some glamour. But these babies could be dressed down, too. You can spread the frosting on with a knife and I promise it’ll taste just as good. You can even spread on some frosting from a can if that’s what you need. It won’t be quite as good that way, but still 100% edible. Strawberry or raspberry jam would also be great! Oh, or apple butter! You’ve got options.

Cupcake ingredients

The cupcakes come together fairly quickly. It’s a standard recipe- mix your dry ingredients, cream together butter and sugar, add applesauce and eggs. It’s gonna look kind of gross at this point in the process, there’s no way around it, sorry. It’s going to be very liquid-y and the butter isn’t going to want to play well with others. It’ll get better as soon as you start adding the dry ingredients.

Gross looking butter and cider
Isn’t that gross? It is.

The next part takes some care. But only a little. Put about a third of the dry ingredient mixture into the mixing bowl. Stir until the flour it mostly incorporated. Then add about half of the cider. And then you stir it in, do so gently. The goal is to keep as many bubbles intact as possible so they can interact with the baking powder and puff up the batter as it’s cooking. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and cider the same way (one third of the dry ingredients, the other half of the cider, and the rest of the dry ingredients). Make sure you end on the dry ingredients. Go until you can’t see the powder anymore and then stop. Don’t over-mix, or you’ll keep losing air bubbles.

Batter in cupcake pan

Put ‘em in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes. Take them out when the tops are slightly golden and you can stab it with a toothpick that comes back out clean. If there’s batter on the toothpick, the cupcakes aren’t done yet.

Baked cupcakes on wire rack

Let them cool in the pans for a few minutes and then take them out to cool completely on wire racks. Don’t frost them until they’ve cooled completely.

And now for the frosting! Take about two cups of sparkling cider and put it into a small saucepan with 3/4 cups of brown sugar. Bring it to a low simmer. Let it reduce a little to create an apple cider syrup. How much you let it reduce is really up to you. The longer it goes, the denser and harder it’ll get.

Syrup cooking on the stove

Let the syrup cool in a measuring cup while you let the butter soften. When the butter and the syrup have both reached something near room temperature, you can pour about 1/4-1/2 cup of the syrup into the butter and mix them together. It’s going to look a lot like the gross batter from earlier. Add powdered sugar until everything is stable and you reach the consistency you want. Put the rest of the syrup in a cool dry place. Put it in tea or something later. Pour it over ice cream. It’s a tasty treat for whenever you feel like it. Hooray!

Finished cupcake decorated with a pale yellow buttercream and gold and pearl sprinkles

And there you go! Sparkling Cider Cupcakes with Sparkling Cider Frosting!

Finished cupcakes on a pressed glass dish

Cupcake with a bite missing


For the Cupcakes*:

🥄🥄🥄; makes 24 cupcakes

  • 3 cups King Arthur All Purpose Baking Mix

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter softened to room temperature

  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark)

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

  • 1 cup sparkling cider

1. Preheat oven to 350. Prep two cupcake tins with paper holders.

2. In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined.

3. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.

4. Add applesauce in two batches, mixing well each time.

5. Add eggs one at a time, mixing each time until you can no longer see yolks.

6. Add vanilla and mix briefly.

7. In alternating steps, add the dry ingredients and the cider- dry, cider, dry, cider, dry (make sure you end with the last of the dry ingredients). Only mix until just combined. Over mixing will mess with the carbonation and baking powder.

8. Put batter into cupcake tins. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, until the tops and lightly golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

9. Let cupcakes cool in their pans for a few minutes and then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:


  • 2 cups of sparkling cider

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

  • 3/4 cup butter softened to room temperature

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Confectioners sugar (until the correct texture is achieved)

1. Put cider and sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a low simmer. Allow the syrup to reduce by about 1/4 cup (keep track of how much it’s reduced by watching the level of the liquid on the inside of the pan).

2. Pour your newly made cider syrup into a measuring cup to cool.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and vanilla.

4. Add 1/4-1/2 cup of the cider syrup. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure!

5. When the butter mixture looks pretty emulsified, start adding the powdered sugar. Do this in batches so you have control over the consistency of your frosting. When it’s as stable as you want, it’s done! Decorate away!

*For cupcakes with fewer spoons:


  • 1 box vanilla or yellow cake mix

1. Make the cake batter the way the box says, but use 1/4 cup of applesauce for each egg. And use sparkling cider in place of whatever liquid the box calls for (including oil).

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