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By Nellie's Kindness Crew
Found in the instructions section of most cookie and cake recipes, creaming butter and sugar is an important step in baking. "Creaming" refers to the process of incorporating sugar and softened butter into a uniform, fluffy, and smooth mixture in which the sugar is dissolved and evenly dispersed. Though it requires a hand or stand mixer, it's worth the extra effort for delightfully chewy cookies and finely crumbed cakes.
Creaming butter and sugar before adding other ingredients like flour and eggs dissolves the sugar using the water contained within the butter, removing grittiness and ensuring that whatever you're baking will have the right texture. This process also beats air pockets into the butter, lightening the structure of the mixture. In a hot oven, those air bubbles will expand, giving your baked goods the proper height and rise. Eggs and flour can be easily overmixed, so taking the time to cream butter and sugar before adding other ingredients ensures that your batter or dough won't split or lose its structure.
There are three key elements to perfectly creamed butter and sugar: an electric hand or stand mixer, softened butter, and patience.
While creaming butter and sugar isn't a difficult process, there are a few things that can go wrong. Keep these tips and tricks in mind to avoid overmixing, undermixing, and a chunky or greasy mess!
When I baked my cake, I used a sugar and butter ratio 1:1 with creaming method, but the cake came out kind of oily. Did I do anything wrong?
Hi Annie, thank you for taking the time to reach out! A few things can cause a cake to come out a little oily. If the batter is overmixed, it may cause the fats to separate more before baking. This may also happen if the cake is baked at too low of an oven temperature. We're sure your cake was still delicious!
I used organic unbleached sugar, it seems very grainy still. Is that because of the sugar? It isn't quite as fine as granulated white sugar.
Hi Jen, the type of sugar you're using could certainly be contributing to the graininess you're experiencing. It may also be how the butter was softened, as temperature can play a part. We have some insights on how to soften butter here: https://www.nelliesfreerange.com/blog/how-to-soften-butter
Hello, I made a marble cake but it did not become fluffy and became flat. How do I know if a butter is softened or at room temperature? Is there a way to check if the butter is not too soft and just right for mixing with the sugar?
Hi Mae, great questions! We have some insight on softening butter in a different blog that might be helpful for you: https://www.nelliesfreerange.com/blog/how-to-soften-butter
Hi, thanks for the info. I need to cream light brown sugar and granulated sugar together. It still feels grainy at the end. Is it ok to cream both sugars together or should I just do the granulated and add the brown to the dry mix? Thanks very much
Hi there! In our experience, even creaming the two sugars together is going to result in it still feeling a little bit grainy. The key is to not overmix though, and watch that your ingredients don't get too cold. Best of luck to you!
I have a question about creaming the butter before adding the sugar.
Im wondering if that can dry out the cake more if we cream the butter only for 5-6 min until very pale and then adding the sugar and cream for 3-4 min?
Only creaming thé butter Alone can make thé cake more dry and dense?
Hi Carolanne, in creaming the butter and sugar together, you are using the sugar to aerate the butter and fill it with bubbles. The more fine bubbles you have, the lighter in texture your cakes will be. Mixing the butter before could help to soften it, but mixing too long without the sugar could cause overmixing.
Thanks for the tips. Baking(cooking) is my passion. I grew up baking with my "granny," and was even lucky enough too acquire one of her original cook books, which, I believe is a " Betty Crocker."
Hi Beverly, thank you for sharing these wonderful memories with us.
Does this work the same for brown sugar? I made cinnamon rolls the other day but the brown sugar in the filling ended up with a grainy texture. The recipe has 1/2 cup butter to 1 cup brown sugar. Do you think that should cream properly? I also added a half tablespoon of instant clearjel.
Hi Eric, it shouldn't make a difference with brown sugar vs. regular sugar! It sounds like you might have overmixed? Depending on if you're mixing by hand or using an electric mixer, it should usually take about 5 minutes to get that fluffy texture. Hope this helps. Happy baking adventures!
Mom’s oatmeal raisin cookies flatten out within 45 seconds in the oven and are thin and chewy and have lots of little air holes (standard Quaker recipe). I believe it is the butter/sugar creaming. What should I do to cream butter/sugar to get cookies that flatten out and are chewy? Suggestions other than temperature?
Hi Chucky, are you making sure your butter is soft? You want to make sure that you're using softened butter for creaming butter and sugar. Chilled butter is too hard to break down and fully blend with the sugar. Good luck and happy baking!
Creaming my butter by itself for 5-7 minutes solves the chewy top when my cake is complete...thanks I was overmixing the two (sugar and butter)
We're so glad that you were able to figure this out! Happy holiday baking!
Aaannnd, not having baked anything in years, I broke all the rules. So I'm very happy to have cleaned up the mess, read your article and will do it all again in a few hours when the butter has come up to room temp naturally. I will also not cream the butter and sugar for the recipe's recommended time of 8 MINUTES and follow your directions to the letter. Thanks so much for the instructions!
Hi Nancy! Don't feel bad, we think we've all been there at one point or another! Cooking/baking is all about learning as we go. :)
This is a huge help. I've tried to make my Mother's recipe for Mexican Wedding Cookies (also known as Snowball cookies) and haven't been able to get it right. Can't wait to try again with your helpful advice.
We're so glad to hear that our recipe helped provide some helpful information for you, Janet! We can't wait to hear how it goes!
How much Softend Butter and suger do you mix?
This may vary depending on the recipe, but in general, a 1:1 ratio of butter to sugar will make a nice final product!
Thanks for info... I have a recipe for a lemon loaf that calls for creamed butter... good to have this information.
You're so welcome, Linda! We're glad to have helped!
Hello. When making buttercream icing with thickened corn starch and water, I use a hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar, add vanilla and when I add the starch mixture it doesn't incorporate and looks curdled. Should I beat longer? Butter is room temp, mixture is thick and cooled...I have a terrible time with it.. please help..
We aren’t familiar with that technique for making buttercream. We recommend looking into a classic buttercream recipe such as this one from Mint + Mallow Kitchen: https://mintandmallowkitchen.com/easy-vanilla-buttercream-frosting/
Hi! I make a French Silk Pie that is not cooked, so I sometimes have a gritty butter and sugar mixture. How do I get rid of the grittiness? Thanks!
Hey Nancy! You'll find that sugar won't fully dissolve with butter, because there's just not enough water content to do so. To best combat this, make sure your butter is as close to room temperature as possible, almost to the point of melting. In addition, beat the mixture for a longer period of time on a lower speed, allowing the sugar to dissolve a bit more. You'll always see some degree of grit, but we hope this will help you to minimize it as much as possible!
We're so glad you're finding it useful, Peris!
How do you know how long to cream the butter and sugar before it is too long? What does "too long" look like?
Hi there! Great question. If you overmix the sugar and butter, the butter will separate out of the mixture and it will be grainy or soupy, so be sure to stop once your butter becomes light and fluffy. Please let us know if you have any additional questions.
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