Author: JSterbenz

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars (with a Vegan option)

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars (with a Vegan option)

DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for humans not dogs! The other day, my friend Soumi hit me up and asked me to help her bake some stuff for a department potluck. Only problem: she likes to bake vegan stuff. Vegan baking is definitely out of my […]

How to Make a Chocolate & Strawberry Hippo Cake

How to Make a Chocolate & Strawberry Hippo Cake

DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for humans not dogs! My roommate just had her birthday and I needed an excuse to make a new elaborate cake. She loves hippos (and cows). One of the first things I noticed when she moved in was that she had […]

Apple Pie Cupcakes with Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Apple Pie Cupcakes with Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream

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DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for humans not dogs!

It’s officially fall which means I can officially crack out my cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, apples, and pumpkins. Time to start making butternut squash everything until I can’t stand it anymore. Anyway, I decided to go with a twist on classic apple pie for my first fall baking undertaking. It’s been a while since I’ve made cupcakes so I decided to make apple pie cupcakes!

apple pie cupcakes

To create apple pie cupcakes combined some cinnamon apple cupcakes, apple pie filling, and brown butter frosting. If you’ve never heard of “brown butter” before it is the absolute best thing ever! For real. It’s what makes pie crust taste like pie crust. When sugar burns it carmelizes and tastes like, well, caramel. When butter burns, it undergoes “browning” and takes on this delicious, nutty flavor. Because pie crust is a lot of butter, some flour, and water, it is the primary flavor. It’s also half the flavor of toffee (the other half is caramel and then whatever flavor you add.) I’ve never made brown butter buttercream before but it’s easy enough just to substitute brown butter for regular butter in the recipe! Plus, I couldn’t make apple pie cupcakes without including the flavor the best part of the pie!

beagle with apple cupcakes

I was actually pretty proud of how well I was adulting last night, because I managed to make these cupcakes at the same time as lasagna I was meal-prepping for my dinners for the next week. And, I managed not to end up with tomato cupcakes and apple lasagna. Seriously, for someone who can’t multitask in the kitchen, it was exciting. The apple pie cupcakes turned out looking great and, as someone who isn’t usually a fan of any frosting, I absolutely love the brown butter frosting.

apple pie cupcakes 2

A couple notes:

  1. The best apples for baking are the tart ones. Don’t pull out your honeycrisp and pink lady apples for pie-making. I generally use Granny Smith.
  2. If you have one, use a pan with a white bottom when browning your butter. It browns fast and you want brown butter, not black-charcoal-butter.
  3. To pipe the buttercream, I used a star tip, but really anything is fine as long as it’s large enough. You could even just cut the bottom of a piping bag.
  4. Make the brown butter well in advance, it can’t be liquid when you make the frosting or you’ll get something that’s not frosting.


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4.75 from 8 votes
apple pie cupcakes
Apple Pie Cupcakes with Brown Butter Frosting

Apple pie cupcakes with baked apples, cinnamon and spice apple cupcakes, and delicious pie-crust flavored browned butter swiss meringue buttercream.

Servings: 12 cupcakes
Apple Pie Filling
  • 1.5 apples (chopped)
  • 1.5 tsp lemon juice
  • 1.5 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1.5 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 pinch ground ginger
Cinnamon Apple Cupcakes
  • 1.25 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 apple (finely chopped or grated)
Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  • 3.5 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3-4 egg whites
Make Brown Butter
  1. Place 3.5 sticks of butter in a saucepan. Preferably one with a light bottom.

  2. Turn heat to medium-high, and let bubble while stirring.

  3. Brown flecks will begin appearing in the butter, leave on heat until you reach your desired level of browning.

  4. Immediately transfer to a bowl to stop the cooking.

  5. Let harden to room temperature.

Make Apple Pie Filling
  1. Chop your apples and place in a large saucepan. I like to use the same one that I used to brown the butter to add a little flavor.

  2. Stir in lemon juice.

  3. Stir in remaining ingredients.

  4. Stirring occasionally, leaving on medium heat for ~20 minutes until the apples soften.

  5. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Bake the Cinnamon Apple Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter.

  3. Mix in both sugars.

  4. Beat in eggs, one at a time.

  5. Mix in vanilla, baking powder, salt, spices, and 1/4 cup of flour.

  6. Mix in half of the buttermilk.

  7. Mix in 1/2 cup of flour.

  8. Mix in the second half of the buttermilk.

  9. Mix in the remaining 1/2 cup of flour.

  10. Fold in the chopped or grated apple.

  11. Fill cupcake lines most of the way, and bake for ~30min or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Make the Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  1. On a double boiler, whip together egg whites and sugar until the mixture reaches ~140°F.

  2. Remove from heat and continue whipping until the meringue forms stiff peaks.

  3. Mix in butter and continue beating until it looks like frosting. (It may curdle, just mix through it and it will eventually look right.)

Assemble the Apple Pie Cupcakes
  1. Pipe a double layer of frosting around the outer edge of each cupcake.

  2. Fill the centers with the apple pie filling.

  3. Serve at room temperature. (It definitely shouldn't be refrigerated, but if you try to warm them the icing will melt.)


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Chocolate Chiffon Cake with Green Tea Whipped Cream Frosting

Chocolate Chiffon Cake with Green Tea Whipped Cream Frosting

DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for humans not dogs! It was my mom’s birthday yesterday, (Happy Birthday, Mom!) so of course I had to bake her cake. That also means that it’s been pretty much exactly one year since I first started my instagram with Pascal […]

Coffee & Almond Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream

Coffee & Almond Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream

DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for humans not dogs! It was a coworker’s birthday this week, which meant I had an excuse to bake a full cake. I haven’t baked a cake in a bit because I no longer live with a ton of roommates, so […]

How To Do a Mirror Glaze

How To Do a Mirror Glaze

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Mirror glazes are undoubtedly super cool, and they’re also pretty easy. The worst part of a mirror glaze is the cleanup. You end up using a bunch of different bowls, and the glaze itself is super sticky so the bowls become a pain to clean. Another point of note based on the stickiness: it’s super sticky so watch out for dust, stray hair, crumbs, etc.

mirror glaze

The recipe for the glaze is as follows:

5 from 2 votes
Mirror Glaze

A shiny, chocolate-based glaze to finish a cake.

  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 tsp gelatin
  • 12 oz chocolate chips (white if you're going to color)
  • gel food coloring
  1. Bloom the gelatin in 1/4 cup of cold water for 5 minutes.

  2. In a large metal mixing bowl, combine the condensed milk, sugar, corn syrup, and the rest of the water.

  3. On a double boiler, heat the mixture while stirring constantly until it begins to simmer.

  4. Add the bloomfed gelatin. Stir until it melts and is incorporated completely.

  5. Add the chocolate chips and stir in until it melts.

  6. Strain into another container, and let cool and color as you desire.

mirror glaze

Once the glaze is made, grab a large baking pan. You want the cake to be able to fit inside the baking pan. Then, place an upside down mug, or another flat surface that’s smaller than the cake in the pan.

Pour each color of glaze into each other. Do not stir or you’ll just get a muddy color. 

Then, pour the glaze over the cake, and let it sit and drip off for about 15 minutes. If you want to add a small amount of a color, then you can drizzle it on top with a spoon.

Move the cake back onto wherever you’re going to serve or store it.

mirror glaze

That’s it! Like I said, it’s really very simple. However, there are a few points you need to remember.

  • The glaze must be room temperature when you pour it. Otherwise, it’ll melt the buttercream off the cake and you’ll have a disaster on your hands.
  • Speaking of buttercream, the glaze will look much smoother if you frost the cake with a base layer of buttercream first.
  • You can use any kind of chocolate, but obviously white chocolate is best for coloring.

mirror glaze pin

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Double Chocolate Orange Mousse Bars

Double Chocolate Orange Mousse Bars

DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for humans not dogs! My dad’s girlfriend’s daughter, Qing, was feeling pretty sick this weekend, so I went over on Friday night to hang out and baked something while I was there. She wanted brownies, and I tried to think of […]

Mini Oreo and Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Mini Oreo and Peanut Butter Cheesecake

DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for humans not dogs! One of my coworkers, Helen, is super awesome and went to a conference in California last week to present her research. I’d originally promised to bring in something that would combine peanut butter and chocolate for good […]

Baklava Cheesecake

Baklava Cheesecake

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DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for humans not dogs!

I love baklava. No, seriously, it’s basically my favorite dessert. I have very clear memories of a drunken night a few months ago when my housemate offered me some leftover baklava and my friend and I ate the entire box. We’re not talking a small box either, it was a huge box of the stuff. Luckily, I grew up in southeast Michigan which means that there was always plenty of quality Middle Eastern food to be found, and the best (Michigan) baklava, in my very reliable opinion, is from Shatila in Dearborn. I also happened to be visiting my friend in Nashville, Luísa, for Labor Day weekend, and last time I was there, I baked her house a doce de leite cheesecake. Apparently, her landlord has requested that I make a cheesecake every time I visit. So, of course, I decided to make a baklava cheesecake this time.

beagle with cheesecake

One of the reasons why I decided to make baklava cheesecake in Nashville, is because baklava requires phyllo (or filo) dough. For whatever reason, I haven’t been able to find it anywhere in Ann Arbor, but I knew my friend had found some in Nashville before. (If you’re wondering why I didn’t even consider making it myself, it has to be so thin that it’d be really tricky, and I’d need a huge worksurface.) Other important flavor factors in baklava are honey, walnuts, cinnamon, rose water, and orange blossom water. Most recipes for baklava don’t call for rose or orange blossom water, but Luísa claims they are critical flavors. I love the flavor of rose water so I wasn’t going to argue with her. Of course, to make a baklava cheesecake, the final critical component was (cream) cheese.

baklava cheesecake side

A couple notes:

  1. When you bake the cheesecake, put it on top of a baking sheet or bake it in a water bath. The butter leaked out of the pan from between the sheets of phyllo dough. I chose not to use a water bath because I’m guessing that the phyllo wouldn’t be as crispy. If I find phyllo in Ann Arbor, I’ll make another baklava cheesecake and experiment.
  2. It takes forever to bake. I gave myself an hour. I needed 2 hours. I didn’t get to eat any because I had to rush out to get back to Michigan in time.
  3. To make the crust: butter half a sheet of phyllo, fold in half, butter half again, and then fold in half a second time. Then arrange the sheets around the perimeter of the pan.

how to assemble baklava cheesecake crust


pin for baklava cheesecake

4.67 from 6 votes
baklava cheesecake top
Baklava Cheesecake

Honey cheesecake topped with baklava filling and surrounded by flaking phyllo dough.

  • 1 cup crushed shortbread cookies
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted (separated)
  • 12-20 sheets phyllo dough
  • 16 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups Greek yogurt (full fat, plain)
  • 5 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp rose water
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
  • 5 oz walnuts (roasted)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  1. In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the roasted walnuts

  2. Bring to a boil, and let cook for ~20 minutes until it thickens

  3. Let cool for 15min

  4. Stir in walnuts

  5. Let cool completely to room temperature

Cheesecake Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F

  2. In a bowl, combine crushed cookies and 4tbsp of melted butter

  3. Press into the bottom of a 9" springform pan

  4. Bake for 5min

  5. One sheet at a time, butter and fold a sheet of phyllo dough in half twice. (Butter, fold, butter, fold)

  6. Place phyllo in a circular pattern around the sprinform pan so that a small amount sticks up over the top

Baklava Cheesecake
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F

  2. Mix together cream cheese and sugar until fully combined

  3. Beat in eggs, one at a time

  4. Mix in Greek yogurt

  5. Mix in honey, cinnamon, rose water, and orange blossom water

  6. Pour into the prepared crust

  7. Bake (placing the springform on top of a baking sheet to catch runaway butter) for ~2hrs or until firm with a slight jiggle at the center

  8. Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature

  9. Cover top with the prepared topping

  10. Chill for 3hrs before serving

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Game of Thrones Cake

Game of Thrones Cake

DISCLAIMER: This recipe is not for dogs With the finale of Game of Thrones coming up I was definitely feeling the hype and decided to make a Game of Thrones cake. Of course, I needed to incoporate the two most important aspect of Game of […]