Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 16 to 18 cupcake cups with paper or foil liners.
Mix the flour, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon together in a bowl and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla.
Dissolve the baking soda in the applesauce and add to the butter mixture.
Gradually add the flour mixture and the buttermilk, beating with a mixing spoon (I don’t recommend using an electric mixer for this part, as it may toughen up the gluten in the flour) until well-blended.
Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 of the way with batter and bake for about 20 minutes or until they spring back when touched. Let cool completely and frost with Quick Caramel Frosting or lightly sweetened whipped cream
To make the caramel icing, combine the butter and both sugars in a heavy saucepan and heat over medium, stirring often, until mixture begins to boil (this should take about 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the milk. Return to heat and cook until mixture begins to boil again. Remove from heat and add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth, then spoon over the cupcakes. Icing sets quickly, so make sure to spoon it on while warm. If it starts to solidify in the pan, put it over a medium low heat.
Alternatively, you can just frost the cupcakes with lightly sweetened whipped cream.