This cinnamon apple muffins recipe features moist, tender muffins studded with apple, a buttery brown sugar crumble topping, and a decadent vanilla glaze. It's the perfect fall treat that doubles as breakfast and dessert.
Have I ever told you about my mom’s apple pie?
She always makes it deep-dish style (like Chicago pizza). Sometimes she’ll make it with a double crust and sometimes she’ll make it with what she calls a “French crumble topping”. And her thick apple layer is perfectly spiced and sweetened.
It is hands-down the best apple pie. In the world. (Tall claim, but I’m sticking to it! But I won’t argue if you tell me the same about your mom’s pie.)
Her apple pie is what I love about Sundays in the fall at home.
My mom would make a cozy meal like roast chicken, pot roast, or chicken kiev. And after dinner we’d all sit out on the deck if the weather wasn’t too chilly, sipping hot tea. Later we all knew what was coming for dessert.
And then if I was really lucky, she’d send me home with a piece of apple pie for breakfast the next day.
I’m really not much of a pie maker. I used to be intimidated by it, but a couple years ago I conquered that fear one weekend when I made four pies consecutively to develop the best, most flaky and most flavorful crust ever for a local magazine article. No, luckily I’m not intimidated anymore.
The truth is, I’m a little pie-lazy.
You know how it goes. The fruit needs prep, the crust needs a bit of care when handling, it’s a (relatively) long bake time, etc.
And then because I’m a food blogger and not a normal human, I can’t just make a pie to share with my family or friends. No, if I were to make a pie, before sharing it with anyone I would need to photograph the daylights out of it. And let me tell you, pie doesn’t photograph easily, not for me, anyway.
There you have it; I’m a lazy pie maker.
So instead of bringing you apple pie during pie season, I’m bringing you apple muffins. I know it’s not the same, but they are delicious in their own right.
I’m telling you, if you pop by and I offer you one of these muffins along with a cup of coffee I don’t think you’ll turn it down (I know I wouldn’t be able to!).
The Best Cinnamon Apple Muffins with Crumble Topping
These muffins are moist, sweetly scented, and perfectly apple-y, without being too sweet, too heavily spiced, or too heavy in general.
I am perfectly happy dubbing these beauties muffins instead of cupcakes (it's a fine line, friends). Which of course means they’re breakfast-friendly.
But don’t listen to me, I think my mom’s deep dish apple pie is suitable for breakfast. (Of course only in autumn though, lol!)
In these sections I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas. For the full recipe (including ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.
Crumble Topping Ingredients
- Unsalted butter - at room temperature or slightly melted
- Light brown sugar - or dark brown sugar for extra molasses-y flavor
- Flour - all-purpose flour is perfect for making a streusel topping for muffins and pies
- Cinnamon - to bump up the flavor and aroma
- Salt - so the streusel isn't bland; if you only have salted butter, you can use it instead of unsalted butter and omit the added salt
- Sliced almonds - these are also called flaked almonds; these muffins have a little almond extract in the batter and sliced almonds in the crumble topping to make them extra special, but if you prefer you can omit the almond extract and flaked almonds, and feel free to use chopped pecans or walnuts in the streusel instead
Apple Muffin Ingredients
- Buttermilk - use full-fat buttermilk for the best flavor and texture
- Avocado oil - or vegetable oil (or another mild-flavored oil)
- Sugar - regular granulated white sugar
- Egg - acts as a binder and also helps provide the right fluffy texture
- Vanilla extract - for flavor and aroma
- Almond extract - don't overdo it with the almond extract because it's strong; this is optional, and just creates a more decadent flavor profile and deeper aroma
- Flour - all-purpose flour
- Baking powder - the main leavening agent
- Salt - a natural flavor enhancer
- Cinnamon - this warm spice pairs perfectly with apple
- Baking soda - in addition to baking powder, we use baking soda as a leavening agent because of the addition of an acidic ingredient (i.e., buttermilk)
- Apple - use a sweet/tart crisp apple here, such as Honeycrisp; I like to peel the apple, core it, and cut it into .5-centimeter cubes
Vanilla Glaze Ingredients
- Powdered sugar - the base of our glaze
- Vanilla extract - for flavor and aroma
- Heavy whipping cream - this makes the glaze thick and rich; you can also use milk, but if you do, start with 1 ½ tablespoons and work up from there
The Almond in This Recipe
The small amount of almond extract in the muffin batter helps create a more decadent cake-like flavor. Additionally, it ties the flavor of the muffins in with the streusel, which contains sliced almonds. If you prefer, you can omit both the almond extract and sliced almonds.
How to Make Cinnamon Apple Muffins with Crumble Topping
Step 1: Make the Crumble Topping
Add the butter and brown sugar to a medium bowl and use a fork to mix until well-combined.
Add the flour, cinnamon, and salt, and stir with a fork until it forms large crumbles. (After a while, it helps to switch from using a fork to using clean fingers.) Stir in the almonds.
Set the streusel topping aside for now.
Step 2: Make the Muffins
Preheat the oven to 375F; line a muffin tray with 8 paper liners.
Whisk together the buttermilk, oil, sugar, egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract in a large bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda, and stir just to combine (be careful not to over-mix; a few streaks of flour are fine). Fold in the diced apple.
Spoon the batter into the lined muffin tray, and sprinkle the crumble topping on top. Bake until a toothpick inserted inside comes out clean or with just a couple crumbs, about 22 minutes.
Cool to room temperature before glazing.
Step 3: Glaze the Muffins
Once the muffins are cooled, make the glaze. To do so, add all ingredients to a small bowl and whisk to combine. Drizzle the glaze generously on top of the muffins.
Let the glaze set before serving.
Variations on This Recipe
- Warm spices. Omit the almond extract in the batter, increase the cinnamon to 1 ¼ teaspoons, and add ¼ teaspoon nutmeg. Omit the sliced almonds in the streusel.
- Use any type of nuts you like. Instead of sliced almonds in the crumble topping, you can use chopped walnuts, pecans, or any type of nuts you like. (If you do this, you may want to skip the almond extract in the muffin batter.)
- Skip the glaze. The glaze really is the icing on the cake here!
Apple Muffins Recipe FAQs
What is the Secret to Moist Muffins?
Here are my 3 best tips for tender, moist muffins:
- Oil - don't be tempted to swap it out for butter if you're looking for moist muffins
- Buttermilk - this is acidic, and helps make our muffins tender and moist
- Sugar - make sure you use the amount of sugar that the recipe calls for; sugar doesn't only add sweetness, it also helps keep baked goods moist for longer
What Apples Are Best For Baking Muffins?
I like to use a sweet/tart crisp apple for baking muffins. A few good varieties are Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Cortland, and Jonathan.
For muffins, avoid overly sweet apples (such as Fuji) and overly tart apples (like Granny Smith). I save super sweet apples for eating out of hand, and make really tart apples into apple pie or crisp!
More Apple Recipes You'll Love
Cinnamon Apple Muffins Recipe with Streusel Topping
- ⅓ cup buttermilk
- ¼ cup avocado oil or vegetable oil (or another mild-flavored oil)
- ⅓ cup granulated white sugar
- 1 large egg
- ½ tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup finely diced apple peel and core the apple, and then chop it into .5-cm cubes
Make the Crumble Topping:
- Add the butter and brown sugar to a medium bowl and use a fork to mix until well-combined. Add the flour, cinnamon, and salt, and stir with a fork until it forms large crumbles. (After a while, it helps to switch from using a fork to using clean fingers.) Stir in the almonds. Set the streusel topping aside for now.
Make the Muffins:
- Preheat the oven to 375F; line a muffin tray with 8 paper liners.
- Whisk together the buttermilk, oil, sugar, egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract in a large bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda, and stir just to combine (be careful not to over-mix; a few streaks of flour are fine). Fold in the diced apple.
- Spoon the batter into the lined muffin tray, and sprinkle the crumble topping on top. Bake until a toothpick inserted inside comes out clean or with just a couple crumbs, about 22 minutes.
- Cool to room temperature before glazing.
Glaze the Muffins:
- Once the muffins are cooled, make the glaze. To do so, add all ingredients to a small bowl and whisk to combine. Drizzle the glaze generously on top of the muffins.
- Let the glaze set before serving.
This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on October 11, 2013, and updated on September 15, 2023.