Words by Anneka Manning
How often have you come across a recipe that asks you to “cream the butter and sugar”? My guess is, probably more than once. It’s a phrase that you will regularly find in cake, biscuit, slice, pudding and buttercream icing recipes, but it is hardly ever explained – so if you don’t actually know what they are asking you to do, don’t worry, you’re not alone! This week, I’m going to take you through what “creaming” actual means with simple step-by-step instructions, and give you my “5 Key Tips” to keep in mind when using this mixing method.
To start with, you will need an electric mixer (our grandmothers used to do it with just a wooden spoon, but it does take quite a while and a lot of muscle to reach the right consistency this way!). Either a stand mixer or hand-held beaters will do the trick.
Basically, this method is about beating butter with sugar, and sometimes a flavouring, until it is pale in colour and light or “creamy” in consistency. It is mainly used to incorporate a little air into the butter so that it will add to the “lightness” of the final product. It also makes it easier to incorporate the remaining ingredients, such as eggs, milk and flour. How “creamy” a butter and sugar mixture becomes depends on the proportions of ingredients used – the more sugar, the less “creamy” it will become.
How To Cream Butter and Sugar: Step-by-Step
- Place the softened butter, sugar and any flavourings, such as vanilla or grated citrus rind, in a mixing bowl.
- Use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat the ingredients, until the ingredients are combined.
- Increase the speed to high and continue to beat, scraping down the side of the bowl every minute or so to make sure that the ingredients are combined evenly, until butter mixture is pale and creamy. This will take anywhere between two and five minutes, depending on the consistency of the butter and the type of mixer you use. Don’t rush this step – make sure you beat until it is pale in colour (you will notice it changing the more you beat it), light and creamy in consistency and also increased slightly in volume.
5 Key Tips For Creaming Butter and Sugar
- The butter should be “softened”. This simply means that it should be soft enough to spread easily on bread. If it is too cold, and therefore too firm, it will be hard to beat and to incorporate air into it, and it won’t transform into the light, “creamy” consistency you want. Also, if it is too cold, the mixture will curdle once you add the eggs, which can result in a cake with a heavy, coarse and uneven texture.
- Standing the butter at room temperature for about an hour will usually soften it to the right consistency, but in winter you may have to leave it out for longer – even overnight.
- If you have forgotten to take the butter from the fridge ahead of time, don’t heat it in the microwave to soften it quickly. Microwaves, due to the way they work, often heat things unevenly (from the inside out), which means the butter may start to melt in some parts before other parts have softened. If butter is warmed too much and melts, or partially melts, its structure changes, making it almost impossible to incorporate air no matter what you do. Using melted or partially melted butter in this method will result in a heavy and “greasy” baked product. Even though you may have to postpone your baking for a little while, your best bet is to cut the butter into small cubes, spread it on a plate and let it soften at room temperature. It may be a good opportunity for you to stop for that cuppa you haven’t had time for until now!
- Use the paddle attachment if using a stand mixer and the standard beaters if using hand-held electric beaters.
- If you are using hand-held electric beaters, you may need to beat the mixture for a few more minutes than stated in the recipe to reach the desired consistency.
So, now you are in-the-know about creaming butter and sugar, take a look at this delicious recipe for Lemon & Almond Slice as well as these other baking recipes and put into practice your new-found knowledge.
Until next week… happy baking!
For more posts by Anneka Manning, click here.
Anneka Manning is a food author and the founder of exciting new Sydney-based cooking school, BakeClub. Visit her website at www.bakeclub.com.au to join the club, book into a BakeClass, download delicious no-fail recipes and be inspired by baking videos. You can also find BakeClub on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. To find out more or ask about private BakeClub classes, call (02) 9399 7645 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.