The Unexpected Ingredient That Will Majorly Upgrade Cream Cheese Frosting

Whether you're a red velvet aficionado or simply someone who prefers the slight tang that a cream cheese frosting has when compared to a standard buttercream, there's no denying that every baker could use a go-to cream cheese frosting recipe in their back pocket. It's endlessly versatile, it can be further flavored with additional mix-ins, and it can be used on everything from squares to cakes and more.

To make the perfect cream cheese frosting, you'll need all of the classic ingredients: powdered sugar, butter, and of course, cream cheese. However, there's one unexpected ingredient you won't want to leave out of the mix if you want to give your sweet topping an upgrade, explains recipe developer Susan Olayinka of the cream cheese frosting recipe she created for Mashed. And luckily, it's not a specialty baking ingredient, but rather a pantry staple that just about everyone will have on hand.

Salt balances out the frosting's sweetness

There are countless technique tips for getting the perfect, smooth frosting, from leaving your ingredients out until they're at room temperature to adding them in small batches, all designed to prevent clumps. However, if you don't have your ingredients balanced to your taste, it won't matter how smooth the frosting is.

All you need to balance out your cream cheese frosting recipe is a pinch of salt, according to recipe developer Susan Olayinka. "I love a sprinkle of salt in anything sweet," says Olayinka. This unexpected addition isn't because Olayinka prefers things on the savory side. Rather, as she explains, when you add salt to a sweet dish, such as cream cheese frosting, "it balances the sweetness."

"I find frosting a tad bit sweet sometimes," Olayinka says. "So the salt and tangy cream cheese help to balance the sugar." She suggests pairing cream cheese frosting with carrot cake and regular vanilla cake. And you can always add less confectioner's sugar than the recipe calls for in order to adjust it to your palate, she adds.