1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
1 box white cake mix
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup butter*
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups. In shallow pan, bake almonds 6 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Cool 15 minutes. Reserve 1 cup almonds for garnish.
2. In food processor, grind remaining almonds until finely ground. In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, oil, eggs and almond extract with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. (Batter will be lumpy.) Fold in ground almonds. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
4 In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; boil and stir 2 minutes. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling. Remove from heat. Cool to lukewarm, about 30 minutes.
5. Gradually stir powdered sugar into brown sugar mixture. Place saucepan of frosting in bowl of cold water. Beat with spoon until smooth and spreadable. If frosting becomes too stiff, stir in additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time. Frost a few cupcakes at a time with 1 tablespoon frosting each; sprinkle reserved almonds lightly onto frosting. Store loosely covered at room temperature.