Like many people, I am a fall fanatic. I practically wait all year for the chilly days, changing leaves and — most importantly — the onslaught of pumpkin and apple-flavored snacks, desserts and drinks. Although it’s hard to pick a favorite fall item, apple cider donuts rank high on my list. Baking apple cider muffins, however, are the perfect way to spend a cool, fall evening with friends. Similar to the donut versions, they encapsulate all the best parts of the fall season — notes of cinnamon and apple essence evoke the coziness and comfort I associate with this time of the year.
My favorite part about these sweet, spiced treats, however, is the nostalgia that they bring, reminding me of special memories and moments with friends and family. As a child, a fall season never went by without at least one trip to either Cox Farms or Great Country Farms. Whether I visited these farms to apple-pick with my family at the orchards, explore the corn mazes with my brothers or experience the nighttime thrill of the Cox Farms “Fields of Fear” with friends, one thing was always guaranteed — I would not be returning back home without a box of apple cider donuts. Just a single bite of these donuts — especially when eaten while still fresh — warmed my insides and had me reaching for another.
Inspired by my love for apple cider donuts, I decided to recreate this delicious fall treat at home, but in an easy-to-bake form — as apple cider muffins. I took inspiration from this recipe and ended with a superb result, capturing the same delicious, seasonal flavors as the donut version.
Prep time: 35 minutes
Bake time: 18-20 minutes
Cool time: 10 minutes
For the muffins:
- 1 ½ cups apple cider
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon apple pie spice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup milk (either dairy or nondairy — I used whole milk)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cinnamon-sugar coating:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon apple pie spice
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Add 1 ½ cups of apple cider to a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir the cider occasionally until only ½ cup of remains. This typically takes around 20-30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350℉. Spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
- Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, apple pie spice and salt in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the melted butter, egg, brown sugar, granulated sugar, milk and vanilla extract.
- Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and, using a stand or handheld mixer, whisk until evenly combined. The batter should be relatively thick and smooth.
- Fill each muffin tin ¾ of the way full and place the tin in the preheated oven to bake for 18-20 minutes. To check if the muffins are fully cooked, insert a toothpick or knife into the center of a muffin — the toothpick or knife should exit cleanly.
- Remove the muffins from the oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes.
- While the muffins are cooling, mix the cinnamon, sugar and apple pie spice in a small bowl until they are evenly distributed. Place the melted butter in a separate bowl.
- Once the muffins have cooled, remove them from the tin. Then, taking one muffin at a time, pour the melted butter over the muffin and shake off the excess before rolling all sides of it in the cinnamon sugar mixture.
These apple cider muffins taste like a harmonious blend of fall flavors and spices. The reduced apple cider packs a powerful, crisp apple punch, bolstered by the warm, spiced flavors of the apple pie spice. Additionally, the cinnamon sugar coating provides the perfect, lingering touch of sweetness to the muffin and really solidifies the muffin’s resemblance to the original apple cider donut. The texture of these treats also adds to their appeal. They are perfectly cakey — yet not dense — again mimicking classic baked apple cider donuts.
These past few days, these seasonal muffins have put me in the fall spirit. I enjoy them for breakfast, warmed in the microwave for around 10 seconds and paired with a steaming mug of coffee, chai or the leftover apple cider. The muffins typically last around one week after baking. Apple cider muffins are the perfect way to begin the day, especially as the temperatures begin to drop and we fully transition into fall. Put simply, it’s not fall without apple cider muffins — or donuts — in the comfort of your own kitchen.