These caramel apple muffins are bursting with cosy spices, grated apple and a buttery, crunchy streusel on top then smothered in luscious caramel.

If you’re in the mood for cinnamon and apples right now then you’ll love these muffins. You’ll love these apple cinnamon pancakes and caramel apple cinnamon rolls too.

A muffin tin with 6 crumble-topped muffins in it.

Why you’ll love them

  • Their texture is all at once moist, tender, soft and fluffy
  • Their flavour is all cinnamon, apple and caramel goodness
  • They’re easy to make – yes, 3 layers but each one is simple and fairly quick
  • No special equipment. The batter is mixed by hand – it couldn’t be simpler
  • A breakfast treat. Yes indeed. While rich and sweet, they’re a wonderful weekend treat

I can’t say enough good things about these caramel apple muffins. I tested them over and over to get them just right and they truly are. They taste amazing, they’re easy to make and, if you’re a muffin for brekky person, you’ll love waking up to these.

Tools you’ll need

Ingredients for caramel apple muffins

When you think about the 3 separate components to this apple muffins recipe – muffin, streusel, caramel sauce – there really aren’t a large number of ingredients.

Ingredients for caramel apple muffins on a marble benchtop.

Detailed quantities and directions in the recipe card below.

  • Apples: You can use any apple in this recipe but I find crisp, slightly tart Granny Smith apples best. I turn to these apples almost exclusively but feel free to use your favourite.
  • Flour: Use plain / all-purpose flour for these muffins.
  • Buttermilk: Whole buttermilk is best and gives the most tender crumb.
  • Sugar: There is white granulated sugar in the muffins and brown sugar in the crumble / streusel topping. In all my testing, this was the best combination for flavour. White sugar is used in the caramel too.
  • Eggs: Eggs add structure to baked goods and the fat in the yolks adds richness. Use large eggs, free-range if possible.
  • Pecans: I love the added crunch and nutty flavour of adding pecans to that crumble top.
  • Butter: Butter adds both richness and flavour. Use unsalted, so you can control the amount of salt you add. You’ll also be adding butter to that luscious homemade caramel sauce.
  • Cinnamon: Ground cinnamon is used in both the muffin and the crumble topping.
  • Vanilla extract: Vanilla adds flavour and balance. Don’t use essence which is a synthetic flavouring.
  • Baking powder: Baking powder provides lift to the muffins.
  • Salt: Just a little salt added to the muffins intensifies all the flavours and balances the sweetness.
  • Cream: Cream is used in the caramel sauce.
  • Sea salt flakes: Totally optional, but I love adding sea salt flakes to the caramel sauce.

How to make apple muffins

You’ll love how easy these muffins are to make. Good thing too because once you taste them you’ll want to make another batch.

See the recipe card below for the full recipe details.

The crumble topping

2 images showing how to make the crumble topping.
  1. Combine all the crumble ingredients in a bowl (photo 1) and mix them with a fork until combined and clumping (photo 2)Set it aside in the fridge until it’s required.

The apple muffins

A collage of 4 images showing how to make the muffin batter.
  1. Dry ingredients: Begin by sifting together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then give them a good whisk to make sure they’re well distributed. 
  2. Wet ingredients: Make a well in the centre, then add all the wet ingredients (photo 3).Give it a mix until it’s almost combined, then add the grated apple (photo 4) and mix that through until it’s all just combined.
  3. Divide the batter among 12 muffin cases or cupcake liners in a muffin tin (photo 5)Now scatter that crumble over the top of each muffin (photo 6) and bake.
  4. Let them cool slightly in the tin before moving to a wire rack.

The homemade caramel sauce

2 images showing how to make caramel sauce.
  1. Clean your saucepan by rubbing all around the inside with some vinegar or lemon juice, then rinse out.
  2. Add the sugar to the saucepan and give it a gentle shake to level it out, then add the water (photo 7). Let this sit for a minute or two so almost all the sugar is wet. 
  3. Place the saucepan over low heat on the stove and don’t touch it. You must use low heat and let it slowly dissolve then gradually come to a boil. Let it boil until it turns golden amber, then take it off the heat and add the butter and cream (photo 8). Stir it into a smooth caramel sauce.

Caramel sauce tips

Homemade caramel sauce is a wonderful thing and really not tricky to make but it would be remiss of me not to let you know about some important rules to follow so that you can avoid crystallisation.

Crystallisation is where the sugar in syrup starts reverting back into sugar crystals. This can result in a grainy caramel, not smooth as it should be. Crystallisation can be caused by a number of things but generally it’s because something got into the syrup that shouldn’t be there. It could be a tiny bit of fat residue from the pan or even one stray sugar crystal.

  • Never use non-stick pans. While some people say it’s fine, I’ve never had a caramel work when I used a non-stick pan, so use stainless steel instead.
  • Clean your pan before you start: Rub vinegar or lemon juice all around the inside of your pan, then rinse it out – no need to dry it. The acid will remove any traces of grease that may be in the pan.
  • Keep the temperature low: Low and slow is best and gives the sugar time to dissolve completely into the water before coming to a boil.
  • Don’t stir after it starts boiling: While you don’t need to stir it to dissolve the sugar, sometimes it can speed up the process. Use a metal spoon that’s been cleaned with vinegar or lemon juice and rinsed and make sure it’s in the pan from the start. You can then stir gently sugar, don’t be rough and once it starts boiling, remove the spoon and don’t stir again.
  • Don’t let it boil until the sugar has dissolved: If you see signs of bubbles before all the sugar has dissolved, just remove it from the heat and give it a swirl to dissolve the last bits.

So, what if you’ve done all this and you still notice crystals beginning to form? It’s ok, don’t throw it away. It happens to us all. 

Off the heat, add a tablespoon of tap water to the syrup, give it a good swirl until it’s looking clear again. If it keeps happening, very slowly drizzle the syrup into a new pan, making sure the crystals which are heavier, stay back in the first pan. Then heat again.

You don’t have to throw away syrup that has started crystallising as long as you catch it early.

With all that said, caramel sauce really is quite simple to make. It’s 4 ingredients, a little time on the stove and the end result is the most luscious sauce you’ll want to pour on everything. It’s so much better than shop-bought.

A muffin that's been broken open showing the fluffy inside.

How to serve caramel apple muffins

Let the caramel sauce cool a little before serving as it’s molten hot as soon as it’s ready. The muffins can be served while still warm or at room temperature with caramel drizzled over the top. 

They’re also lovely served as a dessert with a scoop of ice cream too.

If you don’t feel like making caramel, you could just drizzle them with some maple syrup or add some whipped maple butter.

How to store them

These caramel apple muffins store well in the refrigerator, in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Let them come at least to room temperature before serving or heat them in the microwave for 15 seconds. They’re still so fluffy and moist the next day.

Even leftover muffins with caramel sauce on top will keep fine and can reheat perfectly.

Can you freeze apple muffins? Indeed, you can. Make sure they’re in an airtight container or wrapped individually for even better results and freeze for up to 3 months.

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A muffin tin with 6 crumble-topped muffins in it.

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Two stacked muffins with caramel drizzling down the sides.

Caramel Apple Muffins

5 from 1 vote
Caramel Apple Muffins are super-moist, super-tender cinnamon apple crumble muffins, topped with an easy homemade caramel sauce. Crunchy crumble, cinnamon, apple and soft, fluffy muffins with smooth caramel are next level delicious.

Ingredients

FOR THE STREUSEL

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 65 g plain (all purp) flour (½ cup / 2.3oz)
  • cup, packed brown sugar (65g / 2.3oz)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans

FOR THE APPLE MUFFINS

  • 2 small apples, grated (about 1 ¾ cups, not packed)
  • 260 g plain (all purp) flour (2 cups / 9.2oz)
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar (200g / 7oz)
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup whole buttermilk (180ml)
  • 113 g unsalted butter, melted (½ cup / 4oz / 1 stick)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

FOR THE CARAMEL SAUCE

  • ½ cup white sugar (100g / 3.5oz)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter (57g / ½ stick / 2oz)
  • ¼ cup thickened (heavy) cream
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

Equipment

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 200C / 395F / 180C fan forced. Line a regular 12 hole muffin tin with muffin or cupcake cases.

FOR THE STREUSEL

  • Combine streusel ingredients in a medium bowl – melted butter, flour, sugar, cinnamon and pecans – and mix with a fork until fully combined and starting to clump. Set aside in the fridge until needed.

FOR THE APPLE MUFFINS

  • Wash and dry the apples, then coarsely grate them, discarding the cores and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine muffin dry ingredients – flour, white sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk well to combine.
  • Make a well in the centre. Add the buttermilk, melted butter, beaten eggs, and vanilla. Stir with a spatula until almost combined. Add the grated apples and mix until combined.
  • Divide the batter among cases evenly to just below the top of the muffin cups. Top with the crumble topping.
  • Bake 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a crumb or two attached.

FOR THE CARAMEL SAUCE

  • Rub vinegar or lemon juice around the inside of a small stainless steel saucepan, then rinse out – no need to dry.
  • Place the sugar in the saucepan and give it a shake to level it out. Dribble the tablespoon of water all over, then let it sit for a minute to soak in a bit.
  • Cook over very low heat, without stirring, until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Once sugar is dissolved, let it come to a boil. Let it bubble away for 7-10 minutes until it turns amber in colour. If at any time it starts to look like it’s crystallising add 1 tablespoon of water and give it a swirl to dissolve them before bringing back to the boil.
  • Once it's amber in colour, take it off the heat and immediately add the butter, cream, and sea salt flakes. Stir well. Bring it back to a boil for 30 seconds until it looks caramel in colour.

Notes

  1. Tablespoons: I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (=4 teaspoons worldwide).
  2. Weighing: For best results, you should always weigh ingredients like flour and sugar. Kitchen scales are relatively cheap but if you can’t weigh the ingredients, use the spoon and level method (don’t scoop).
  3. Oven temp: All ovens vary, make sure to check your bakes 2-3 minutes before the recipe suggests.
  4. Caramel troubleshooting: See the post for more information.
  5. Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge (2-3 days) or freezer (3 months). Reheat in microwave to fluff up again.
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