LINE a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Fill about half of a large bowl with ice water.
COMBINE cream, sugar, shortening and corn syrup in heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue cooking until temperature registers 245°F on a candy thermometer, about 10 to 12 minutes.
REMOVE from heat; briefly plunge saucepan into ice water to stop caramel from cooking. Remove from ice water; let mixture cool for a few minutes.
INSERT a craft stick into the stem end of each apple. Dip 1 apple into the caramel; coat the top and sides with caramel using a spoon. Transfer to prepared baking sheet to cool. Add toppings, if desired, or garnish as desired. Repeat with remaining apples.
Use 5-inch craft sticks, 1⁄4-inch in diameter. Serve in seasonal cupcake liners, if desired.
(1 caramel apple)
Calories from Fat170g
Total Fat 19g
Saturated Fat 10g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Total Carbohydrates 70g
Dietary Fiber 4g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Vitamin D 0%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet