MAKES: Enough for any cake

TIME: 10 minutes

A close relative of true buttercream frosting, but a little more buttery and a little less sweet. It’s rich and flavorful, though, so you’ll probably find yourself using less than you would traditional buttercream, just a smear instead of piling it on. For a real treat, you can also use this frosting instead of butter on pancakes, waffles, and French toast or on sweet quick breads, muffins, or scones.

12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) butter, softened

21/2 cups confectioners sugar

Pinch salt

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cream or milk, plus a little more if needed

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Use a fork or an electric mixer to cream the butter. Gradually work in the sugar and salt, alternating with the cream and beating well after each addition.

Stir in the vanilla. If the buttercream is too thin, refrigerate; it will thicken as the butter hardens.

Variations

Not-Too-Sweet Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. Not too sweet, not too chocolaty; wonderful with Chocolate Vanilla Layer Cake or any of its variations: Add 2 ounces melted and cooled unsweetened chocolate to the mixture after adding about half the sugar. Start with 2 tablespoons cream and add more if needed.

Not-Too-Sweet Maple Buttercream Frosting. Great for cakes as well as pancakes, waffles, and French toast: Substitute 1/2 cup maple syrup for 1 cup of the confectioners sugar. Omit the vanilla extract. Start with 2 tablespoons cream and add more if needed.

Not-Too-Sweet Honey Buttercream Frosting. Wonderful on Honey-Spice Cake: Substitute 1/2 cup honey for 1 cup of the confectioners sugar. Omit the vanilla. Start with 2 tablespoons cream and add more if needed. Proceed with the recipe.