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How to Cream Butter and Sugar in Baking: Tips and Tricks

Jana is a baking enthusiast. She loves sharing tips and recipes with fellow flour-sprinkled souls.

Properly creaming the butter and sugar is key to baking perfect cakes

Properly creaming the butter and sugar is key to baking perfect cakes

So, you found a lovely baking recipe. The photos of the finished cake look so amazing and you want to give it a whirl! Exciting, right?

But as it often happens, we stumble upon an unfamiliar baking term and our confidence tanks. There is no need to lose the enthusiasm that you initially felt for your new baking project. This article explains everything you need to know about creaming!

What Does “to Cream” Mean in Baking?

You are more likely to find this term in the instructions section of recipes for cookies and cakes. So, what exactly does it mean? Creaming simply means that you have to mix sugar and butter but in a manner that produces a mixture that is fluffy and smooth.

Why, that sounds positively easy! Not quite. There are a few tips to bear in mind to avoid creaming too much or too little.

What Equipment Do I Need?

In case this is your first time, here’s what you need. In addition to the correct quantities of butter and sugar stated in the recipe, you will need:

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Rubber spatula
  • Electric mixer

You can, in theory, also cream by hand but this takes a lot longer and you also run the risk of not blending the ingredients properly.

Do I Need to Prepare the Ingredients Beforehand?

The sugar needs no pre-treatment before you cream. However, the butter must be softened before you can add it to the mixing bowl. Butter that comes directly from the fridge is usually too hard and can lead to failure. If your butter is hard, allow it to sit outside on your kitchen countertop at room temperature until you can easily slip a knife through it with little resistance.

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Bear in mind, however, that the butter should not feel warm or give off an oily residue when you touch it. The perfect butter for creaming is soft but still cold to the touch.

Perfect for creaming. The butter is cold but slices easily.

Perfect for creaming. The butter is cold but slices easily.

A Quick Warning Before You Start

The goal of creaming is to blend the two ingredients well—without overdoing it. If successful, the sugar will be fully dissolved and the mixture will look yellow and fluffy. There should be no sign of any liquid. If you notice liquid forming then it means that you have overshot the mixing time and the ingredients are now separating again. The latter cannot be fixed so make sure you don’t cream for too long!

Step-by-Step Guide to Creaming

  1. Make sure your mixing bowl is clean.
  2. Add the soft butter and sugar to the bowl.
  3. Select the medium speed on your electric mixer.
  4. Mix the sugar and butter for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. You can mix for another minute or two if the mixture requires it.
  6. Once or twice, use the spatula to scrape the mixture away from the bowl’s sides.
  7. When the mixture looks fluffy and not yet greasy, stop.
Creaming adds texture and body to baking.

Creaming adds texture and body to baking.

Is Creaming Even Necessary?

You might be wondering about this. The answer is yes, when a recipe calls for creaming sugar and butter, the author is not trying to be fancy for no reason! There is a very specific reason why he or she designed a baking recipe that needs this type of mixing.

When done correctly, the creamed mixture contains lots of tiny bubbles. These bubbles allow leavening agents to work at their best, resulting in cakes that rise to their fullest potential. This method also adds a lovely texture to your baked goods.

The Best Creaming Tip

The secret lies in the coldness of the butter. You already know that the butter needs to be soft but still cold to the touch. But one of the main reasons why bakers still fail to cream correctly is that the butter becomes too hot during the mixing process.

To avoid the dreaded appearance of oil, try this tip—especially if you are hand mixing. If you suspect that the butter is getting too warm during the blending phase, quickly put the mixing bowl in the fridge for a few minutes before continuing. A good sign that the butter is in trouble is when the bowl feels warm.

© 2021 Jana Louise Smit

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