by | Mar 12, 2021 | The Writer's Life | 9 comments

by Carla Neggers

Maple-sugaring season has arrived here in New England. In Vermont, where I live, the sap is running, and steam is rising again from sugar-shacks. It’s a short season requiring warm—but not too warm—days and cold nights.

And it’s so much fun.

The longer days, the snow-covered hillside strung with sap tubes – the mud and epic potholes – are welcome signs of spring. This year, perhaps more than ever, I can’t wait for my first batch of pancakes dotted with wild-blueberries and drizzled with warm, first-run syrup. I watch my carbs but I don’t plan on resisting.

Growing up in rural western Massachusetts, my six siblings and I helped make our own maple syrup. Our dad, a Dutchman and former merchant marine, loved getting out in the woods. We used buckets and milk bottles to collect the sap. Tubing is popular now for the professionals and small DIY operations.

We’d burn off the sap in a tub on an open fire in the backyard and then finish boiling it down inside on the woodstove. Move inside too soon and it’s a good way to peel wallpaper. Not, ahem, that I speak from experience.

Getting a couple of Mason jars of syrup was a treat we’d savor throughout the year. I’ve learned about syrup grades since then, and other uses for maple syrup besides pancakes.

Here’s a recipe for one of my favorites, maple buttercream frosting. I love it on apple-spice cake.


¼ cup butter (preferably unsalted)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup (whatever grade suits you!)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons milk

Blend together butter and syrup with one-third confectioner’s sugar. Continue blending alternative milk and the rest of the sugar (use as much milk as needed for consistency). Add vanilla.


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  1. Jenny Milchman

    omg, I love a good frosting recipe–thank you, Carla! I am thinking with your chocolate cake 🙂 It’s sugaring season here too. A great time of year. Pretty pic!

    • Carla Neggers

      Those of us in the northeast are getting a nice taste of spring. Sap is running!

  2. Gayle Lynds

    Wow, Carla, what a wonderful childhood experience you had with tapping maple trees and making syrup. The closest I got (Iowa, here) was one of the Bobbsey Twins books — I think it was “at Sugar Maple HIll” — and I never forgot how magical the whole process seemed, from tree to pancake with the most delicious syrup in the world. You’ve brought it all back to me, and I love your recipe. Now that I live in Maine, I’ve been using maple syrup to sweeten coffee, to make pumpkin pie, but had never thought of frosting! A great, evocative blog. Thank you!

    • Peter Parker

      This blog is really perfect for me. I would like to know more about it. Because I’m seeing an author who can write for us very frequently. I would love to hire a talented author for my guest post site.

  3. Carla Neggers

    My son-in-law is from Cedar Rapids. 🙂 And love that the words in a childhood book create such vivid images for you.

  4. Karna Small Bodman

    What a great process – and love that recipe! I use Maple syrup not only on pancakes, of course, but in other recipes too. Try this: Mix 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup tangy mustard, 1 T. vinegar — pour over skinless/boneless chicken thighs and bake at 350 for 30 min.

    • Carla Neggers

      Karna, that recipe looks great! Will try it this weekend.

  5. Lisa Black

    Okay, now I’m curious–what does burning off the sap smell like, and why?

    • Carla Neggers

      It takes about 40 gallons of dap, which is quite watery, to make one gallon of syrup. To me it doesn’t smell like much until it gets syrupy. 🙂