The key to building big apple flavor in these tender apple cinnamon muffins lies in the technique. We found sautéing chopped tart apples in butter with brown sugar and cinnamon before stirring the apples into the batter concentrated the apple flavor and evaporated the excess moisture that would have made the muffins wet and gummy.
Replacing traditional buttermilk with a combination of apple cider and plain yogurt added more apple flavor and tang with less moisture to sog out the muffins. For a finishing touch, we added a crunchy topping of cinnamon sugar. Do not substitute apple juice for the apple cider. Make sure to spray the muffin tin thoroughly, inside the cups and on top.–America’s Test Kitchen
Apple Muffin FAQs
The cardinal rule of muffin making is not to overmix. Rather, just stir to moisten the ingredients. Don’t beat, whisk, or blend. If you see a few wisps of flour, that’s ok.
You actually think you’ll have leftovers? Oh, that’s rich. But for the sake of argument, let’s say you do have leftovers. In that case, store the muffins in an airtight container where they’ll last up to 3 days at room temperature.
Easy. Place the cooled muffins on a rack and freeze fully. You can then either wrap each muffin in plastic or toss the whole batch into a freezer bag. Make sure to squeeze out as much air as possible.
When it comes time to dig in, you can thaw them for an hour on the counter and zap them in the microwave to warm them.
Use a firm apple that you enjoy eating, but not one that is overly sweet. Granny Smith, Empire, or Braeburn are all good choices here.
Apple Cinnamon Muffins
For the topping
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the muffins
- Vegetable oil spray
- 2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsalted butter, plus 4 tablespoons (2 oz) melted
- 2 Granny Smith, Empire, or Braeburn apples (1 lb or 454 g), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch (6-mm) pieces (3 cups)
- 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- 1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the topping
- In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon and stir until mixed thoroughly.
Make the muffins
- Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Spray a 12-cup muffin pan generously with vegetable oil spray.
- In a 12-inch (30-cm) skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add apples, brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Cook, stirring often, until the moisture has completely evaporated and the apples are well browned, about 9 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon together.
- In a separate bowl, whisk granulated sugar, eggs, oil, and 4 tablespoons melted butter together until thick and homogeneous, about 30 seconds. Whisk cider, yogurt, and vanilla into sugar mixture until combined.
- Fold sugar mixture and cooled apples into flour mixture until just combined. Using greased 1/3 cup dry measuring cup, divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups (cups will be filled to rim); sprinkle muffin tops evenly with topping.
- Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out with few crumbs attached, 18 to 22 minutes, rotating muffin pan halfway through baking.
- Let muffins cool in muffin pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove muffins from muffin pan and let cool on wire rack 5 minutes. Serve. (Muffins can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.)
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
With their sweet, crumbly topping and tender crumb, these apple cinnamon muffins are like personal-sized coffee cakes. I made them a couple of days ago and have been enjoying one warmed up with my coffee in the morning (and usually a second one in the afternoon!)
Prepping and cooking the apples was the most time-consuming step, but it’s easy to mix the rest of the ingredients while the apples are cooking and cooling so the whole process doesn’t take too long. Next time I’d increase the cinnamon in the batter and the topping, it was very subtle and I would like to taste it a bit more!
These apple muffins were excellent! The layers of cinnamon and the amount of apple flavor included in the recipe (sautéed apples and apple cider) made for an apple explosion in my mouth.
They taste even better at room temperature than they do warm. Plus, I’m a sucker for toppings on muffins, so the cinnamon sugar topping sold me on the recipe. My muffins looked almost identical to the photo.
I ate these the way any warm muffin should be eaten—slathered with butter! It was delicious. It was great how there was cinnamon in every layer of the muffin—cooked with the apples, in the batter, and in the sugar topping. I think browned butter in the batter would have sent these muffins (though, already great) through the roof.
The next time I make these, I may decrease the sugar in the batter because my go-to muffin recipe has less sugar and don’t suffer from it. I think it was fine today because Granny Smith apples are so tart, but I will likely use another type of apple next time, so I will use less sugar. I might also reduce down the cider to concentrate the flavor and so there is slightly less liquid.