Creaming butter and sugar is a step that's found in so many baking recipes, and it really can be the key that takes your baked goods from great to excellent.
Creaming is actually a really interesting step that tends to be often overlooked and/or not totally understood. When sugar is creamed into room temperature butter, a ton of tiny little air pockets are formed that result in puffier, softer, more cake-like goodies.
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While creaming isn't necessary for all baked goods, recipes that benefit from it really benefit from it. Cakes, cupcakes and muffins become softer with a more open crumb. With cookies, creaming take a dense, chewy cookie to a softer, taller, meltier cookie.
Depending on your equipment at-hand, properly creaming butter and sugar generally takes somewhere between 4-6 minutes. A standing mixer will free up your hands and save your arms, but you can absolutely stick with a hand mixer and a mixing bowl.
The key step here is to use room temperature, softened butter. If your butter is too warm or too cold, you'll run into issues like curdling and separation.
White sugar and brown sugar work exactly the same, only the color will change.
All you need:
The mixer you're working with will absolutely dictate how much time it takes to properly cream your butter and sugar, but you want to work at a moderate speed. Too fast and you'll have butter and sugar flying around your kitchen, and you'll likely end up with over creamed butter and sugar. Too slow and the process will take eons, and you'll likely end up with under creamed butter and sugar.
Add your room temperature butter and sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer or a large mixing bowl.
Begin mixing on medium-low, until the butter and sugar begin to incorporate.
Turn the speed up to medium-high and continue mixing, occasionally scraping the bowl down as needed. This step can take anywhere between two and seven minutes, but typically should take about 5.
Keep mixing until the butter and sugar is pale yellow and forming stiff peaks. If you're using brown sugar, the butter will become a nice, light brown.
Tip: If you're using a standing mixer, don't rely solely on a timer. It is totally possible to over-cream your butter and sugar, and just like dough, once you've gone too far you can't turn back. You'll end up with a grainy, soupy mess that'll turn your baked goods into glue, so keep your eyes peeled.
- Standing Mixer - This is by and large the easiest, most consistent way to cream butter and sugar. You'll free up your hands to get working and save your arms. You can't go wrong with a KitchenAid.
- Hand Mixer - If you don't have and don't want to invest in a stand mixer, you can definitely cream butter and sugar together efficiently and well with a decent hand mixer. Start on a low speed and gradually work your way up to medium / medium-high.
- Mixing Bowl - I love this set, because lids.
- Silicone Spatula - A decent silicone spatula will keep any butter and sugar from accumulating up along the edges of your mixing bowl.
Looking for some baking inspiration? Try these: