These apple cider donut muffins are made with reduced apple cider and a cozy blend of fall spices, brushed with a melted butter and apple cider glaze, and coated in cinnamon sugar. They taste just like the donuts from the apple orchard but are far easier to make! Recipe makes 6 tall bakery-style muffins.
Why you’ll love this recipe
We’re channeling the same cinnamon-sugar-coated goodness today with these apple cider donut muffins. I adapted my baked donut recipe to make super easy, super tall and fluffy muffins that taste exactly like the fried donuts from the apple orchard…except with no long lines, no wasps, and no getting out of your pajamas. Hallelujah.
It’s important to note that these are NOT just spice muffins. I think way too many recipes turn out bland and don’t taste like apple cider (even some bakeries are guilty of this) so there are some important steps in this recipe to bump up the apple cider flavor. Don’t skip them!
We love an approachable recipe around here so there are no specialty products needed for these apple cider donut muffins. It has been suggested to me several times on Instagram that a commercial boiled cider product would work, but 99% of people don’t have and won’t buy that (including me), so…nope.
Here’s what you need:
- Apple cider. Not apple cider vinegar, not carbonated alcoholic cider. There really is no substitute for this; it’s essentially unfiltered apple juice. I know it’s seasonal and isn’t generally available outside the United States, so if you can’t find it, apple juice is your best bet. We’re going to boil it down by half to concentrate the flavor and we’ll use it in both the batter and the glaze.
- Unsalted butter. It will be melted in with the reduced apple cider and used in the batter and glaze.
- Granulated sugar. Not much, only 1/4 cup in the batter and a light coating on the outside of the muffins. No overly sweet, tasteless muffins here.
- Egg. For binding.
- Greek yogurt. For moisture. You can sub sour cream or plant-based Greek-style yogurt if you’d like.
- Vanilla extract. Flavor!
- All-purpose flour. You can substitute a gluten-free 1:1 mix if needed.
- Baking powder and baking soda. For tall muffins!
- Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Cozy, warm fall spices.
- Salt. Because baked goods don’t taste right without it.
How to Make Apple Cider Muffins: Step by Step
Step 1: Boil down the apple cider by half, from 1 cup to 1/2 cup. This concentrates the flavor so your muffins will actually taste like apple cider! This can be done easily in the microwave or on the stove (takes 8-10 minutes) and you can gather your other ingredients while you’re waiting. Reducing the apple cider may seem like an unnecessary extra step, but I assure you it’s not. This is possibly the most important step!
Tip: if you reduce your cider in the microwave, use a 2-cup glass measuring cup and cover it with plastic wrap with holes poked in the top to allow steam to escape. This will prevent a mess in your microwave and you can easily see when the cider has reduced to 1/2 cup.
Step 2: Add butter to hot boiled apple cider to melt. Whisk it all together until the butter is melted, then set aside 2-3 Tablespoons of this cider/butter mixture so it measures exactly 1/2 cup. Let that cool for a minute or two. Keep the extra mixture for the glaze!
Step 3: Whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices. Set aside.
Step 4: Whisk butter/cider mixture into the other wet ingredients, then fold in the dry. You don’t want to stir this too much once you add the flour – just until a batter comes together. It’s ok if there are some lumps.
Step 5: Let batter rest for 10 minutes while you prepare your muffin tin. Usually I use muffin liners, but for this recipe I do not recommend them because you’ll need to roll the muffins in cinnamon sugar after baking. I recommend greasing your muffin cups directly with softened or melted butter and then sprinkling a bit of sugar into the cups to help the muffins release. Make sure to move the pan around in a circular motion to help the sugar spread out and adhere to the butter.
Step 6: Bake! See tips below on the baking strategy to get the tallest muffins.
Step 7: Brush each warm muffin top with the reserved cider/butter mixture and then roll in cinnamon sugar on all sides. The bottoms and sides should be warm enough that the cinnamon sugar will stick to them, but if need be you can brush the cider/butter mixture there too.
Step 8: Devour. That cinnamon sugar coating and the warm fluffy muffins…it’s so delicious. Tastes like fall in a bite!
How to Bake Tall Muffins That Don’t Sink
If you’re like me, you’ve been disappointed by muffins that puff up super tall in the oven and then deflate the second you take them out. It’s the worst, right? This is usually caused by the shock of taking the muffins out of the hot oven and into the cooler air outside of it before their structure has set.
I’ve done a lot of experimenting and research to figure out how to bake tall muffins that hold their shape and don’t sink, and here are my best tips:
- Let the batter rest for 10-15 minutes before scooping and baking. This thickens the batter and allows the baking powder to activate.
- Only use every other muffin cup (see photo below) – meaning for 6 muffins, you’d use a 12-cup muffin pan. This allows for better air flow around the muffins and lets them rise higher.
- Bake at 425 degrees F for 5 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F WITHOUT opening the door and bake for another 12-15 minutes. The initial blast of high heat activates the chemical leavening reaction in the muffins and allows them to rise super tall, and the subsequent gradual reduction in heat allows their structure to set before they are removed from the oven.
Voila, beautiful domed muffin tops!
You can use these tips in any muffin recipe and I promise it will work. I’ve tried these methods with all sorts of different recipes (even gluten-free ones) and have had great success. Just make sure to keep that oven door shut until they are set or else they’ll deflate on you!
The apple cider donut muffins are best on the day they’re made because of the cinnamon sugar coating. They can be stored, however, as follows…
- Room temperature: 1-2 days in a tall tupperware that doesn’t touch the sugared tops, or individually wrap them in plastic wrap to take on the go
- Fridge: up to a week in a tall tupperware; microwave for 15-20 seconds to reheat
- Freezer: up to 3 months, well-wrapped individually in plastic and stored in a freezer bag. Microwave for 30 seconds to reheat or allow to come to room temperature for 1-2 hours.
Additions and Substitutions
- In place of the all-purpose flour, substitute an equal volume (1 cup) or equal weight (125g) of a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix that contains xanthan gum. I tested and like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1:1 Baking Flour.
- Dairy-free: use a plant-based butter and plant-based Greek-style yogurt.
- Double the recipe for 12 muffins instead of 6! Note, the cider will take significantly longer to reduce (more like 20 minutes).
- Mini muffins: will make 12, bake 5 minutes at 425F and 5 more minutes at 350F (check often for doneness).
More Apple Recipes:
Apple Cider Donut Muffins
- 1 12-cup muffin pan
For the Apple Cider Donut Muffins:
- 1 cup (236 ml) apple cider (see instructions below)*
- 3 Tablespoons (42g) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 Tablespoons (40g) plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour (use spoon and level method if not measuring by weight)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- Pinch ground cloves
- Pinch salt
For the Glaze and Cinnamon Sugar Coating:
- Remaining reduced cider/butter mixture see instructions below, about 2 tbsp
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
For the Apple Cider Donut Muffins:
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C). Grease and sprinkle a bit of sugar in every other cup of a 12-cup muffin tin (recipe makes 6 muffins; using every other cup creates better air flow and taller muffins). Note: I do not recommend using muffin liners for this recipe as you'll need to roll the muffins in cinnamon sugar after baking.
- Reduce the apple cider: In the microwave in a 2-cup glass measuring cup or bowl covered in plastic wrap poked with holes for venting, heat cider on high for 8-10 minutes until reduced to 1/2 cup (118 ml). Alternatively, on the stove, heat the apple cider over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a gentle boil. Continue to simmer, stirring every minute or two, until it is reduced by about half, around 10 minutes.
- Once cider is reduced, whisk in the butter until it is melted and combined, and set mixture aside for a few minutes to cool. It will be a little syrupy in texture. You need 1/2 cup (118 ml) of this reduced cider/butter mixture for the muffin batter, and 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) for the glaze.
- In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup (118 ml) of the reduced cider/butter mixture, sugar, egg, yogurt, and vanilla until well-combined.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients – flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
- Pour the dry ingredients into the wet, and stir to combine with a large spoon or spatula. Stir until the ingredients are just combined, with no big patches of flour. Do not over mix – if you do, the muffins will be tough, and no one wants that.
- Spoon the batter evenly into the 6 muffin cups. I use a 1/4 cup ice cream scoop for this!
- Bake for 5 minutes at 425°F (218°C), then decrease the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C) WITHOUT opening the oven door, and bake for 12-14 more minutes until muffins are domed and set. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean or with just a couple crumbs attached.
For the Glaze and Cinnamon Sugar Coating:
- While the muffins are baking, whisk together sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl (big enough to dip the muffins in) and grab a pastry brush for the butter/cider glaze.
- When muffins are still warm but cool enough to handle, brush each muffin with the extra butter/cider mixture, then roll the tops, sides and bottom of each muffin in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Make sure to coat the muffins with as much cinnamon sugar as desired!
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