Creaming Butter and Sugar: The right temperature, the right timing, the best results for your baking.

For many new bakers and a few veterans, too, cakes are some of the first baked goods we make on our own. We may start with a mix, but then when we realize how easy a cake can be, we branch out to from-scratch cakes and encounter a deceptively simple direction right off the bat.

“Cream the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy.”

In creaming the butter and sugar together, you are using the sugar to aerate the butter and fill it with bubbles that can capture the gasses released by your leavener. The more fine bubbles you have in your network, the lighter in texture your cakes will be and the finer the crumb. This is true for your muffins as well, while it makes your cookies light and crisp instead of hard and dense.

Just like Goldilocks, we can encounter a variety of issues when dealing with this phrase. Too hard, too soft, and just right. Just what does softened butter look like? Should it be melted?How long do you beat? Should I set my mixer to low or high? How do I know when it’s RIGHT?!

We’ve assembled not only some excellent photos, but an incredibly helpful video to get you on the right track for perfectly creamed butter and sugar every time. This is one of a new series of videos with our own Gwen Adams, associate editor of Sift magazine, and a frequent blog contributor.

PicMonkey Collage

The butter on the left is just right. Notice how the spreader sinks in a bit, but the butter still has structure and solidity.

It was left out a room temperature for an hour before using. Keep in mind the timing will vary depending on how warm or cool the kitchen is. Planning for 30 to 60 minutes of softening time should get you to the right spot on most baking days.

The butter at top right is too cold and firm. It came straight from the refrigerator set at 40°F. The bottom-right butter was microwaved for 30 seconds and is far too warm.

Creaming Butter-6

Next, let’s explore what will happen if you cream your sugar with these butters. Up first, butter that’s too cold.

Again, the main reason you want to cream butter and sugar is to use the sugar crystals to punch little holes in the butter and have those holes capture air. Butter that is too cold won’t expand very easily and it’ll never capture much air.

The result? Heavy and dense, the creamed butter will resemble chunky, grainy spread the consistency of natural peanut butter.  There’s also little or no change in color. Properly creamed butter and sugar will be pale yellow in color, but not white (more on this later).

Creaming Butter-5

If the butter is too soft or melted, the air bubbles will be created but then will collapse again. This causes a greasy, wet mixture that will result in heavy, soggy cakes. Any air bubbles you’ve managed to create will also be knocked out as soon as the eggs and flour are added.

Notice how smeared the mixture is around the edge of the bowl. This makes it much harder for it to incorporate into the other ingredients, too. You have to repeatedly scrape down the bowl as the oilier butter resists releasing from the bowl.

As a side note, this is also what happens if you try to cream oil and sugar. Leave the oil for recipes that don’t call for the creaming method.

Creaming Butter-4

Now that we’ve seen both extremes, let’s check out the results when the butter is at the right temperature.

There we have it. The mixture is lightened in color, it’s visibly fluffy, and it’s not clinging to the sides of the bowl.

Creaming-Butter-8-900x600

Let’s look at the three results side by side. Starting on the left: too cold and the mixture sits in a lump. Too warm, and the mixture spreads out and has an oily layer. Finally, properly creamed, the mixture sits up tall and has visible fluffy peaks.

Besides looks, the feel of each mixture will be different as well. Under-creamed and your mix will feel like wet sand or damp cornmeal. Over-creamed, and your mix will have the feel of oil and sugar on your fingers, rather like a facial scrub.

Your well-creamed mix will be moist and light and the sugar will be nearly dissolved. You’ll barely feel any grit when you rub it between your fingers.

Creaming Butter-9

Of course, having the softened butter is just one part of the equation, albeit a big one. Mixing at too high or too low a speed and for too short or long a time will also wreak havoc with your creaming.

With the advent of the more powerful stand mixers that we use today, gone are the days of having to whip the butter and sugar mixture on high speed for several minutes to achieve good results.

Instead, a moderate speed (typically speed 3-4 on a stand mixer) for 2 to 3 minutes is sufficient to get the aeration you’re looking for.

In the photo above, the softened butter and sugar were beaten together at high speed (10 on our KitchenAid stand mixer) for 5 minutes.  You can see it’s nearly pure white compared to the original color of the butter used. Sorry, fellow bakers, if it’s gone this far there’s no going back.

IMG_7225

If you’ve ever had dense, gummy streaks in your cake, this is your culprit: over-creaming.

A member of our Baker’s Hotline team, pastry chef JoAnn, recommends saving it, though, by adding some cinnamon or other favorite spice and using it for a sweet spread on your toast, pancakes, or strata.

Creaming Butter-7

Not too hard, not too soft, but just, just right.

We hope you’ve found this information helpful. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, and we hope these photos and our video will help you achieve the cakes and bakes of your dreams.

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. Amy

    Very helpful! I think over creaming was the culprit in the orange cardamom pound cake I made recently; not underbaking. I knew you could over cream, but not what that looked like.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Glad this helped, Amy. I was a habitual over creamer for years until I saw the light. 🙂 ~ MJ

    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Great question! Hand mixers will take closer to 4 or 5 minutes, but still use a medium speed and scrape the bowl often. ~ MJ

    2. Susan B.

      Thank you Jackie Sue, for asking that question, I was wondering the same thing. And thank you MaryJane for the “clarifying” answer. (nothing like a little butter humor in the morning!) 😉

    3. Jackie

      Be careful. I bought a stand mixer because I felt my hand mixer always over beat my butter. I’m no expert, so just be careful. I think I used to over warm my butter too. Great article by the way. The way you cream the butter makes a HUGE difference in the finished product. But, I’m still learning, thanks for the tips!

  2. Tiara

    Thank you for the photos! It’s so helpful to see what properly creamed is suppose to look like. I’ve also noticed when I cream butter and sugar that it’s different with what you use – stand mixer vs. hand mixer. When I use my KitchenAid hand mixer, the butter/sugar never sticks together, I always end up with a sand-like consistency. Do you know if I’m just not creaming it long enough? And what about using margarine, cream cheese or shortening – is there a difference then?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      It could be that either the butter isn’t warm enough, or that you aren’t creaming long enough. Hand mixers will take closer to 4 or 5 minutes, but still use a medium speed and scrape the bowl often. ~ MJ

    2. Kim

      Could it perhaps be whisk versus paddle attachment? You should use the paddle for creaming, I believe.

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Kim, yes the paddle it is! The whisk would incorporate too much air into the butter and break it into small chunks, whereas the paddle attachment does the trick of beating the sugar granules into the butter to create tiny air pockets. Happy creaming! Kye@KAF

  3. Susan Liller

    Thank you for this very informative post! Especially the setting on a Kitchenaid stand mixer (10) is way too much- overcreaming. I’ve been baking for over 40 years and no one has shown me this, been trying to figure it out on my own. Most recipes say lighter in color and fluffy- kept trying to go for palest butter color in creaming. Plus knowing the texture it’s supposed to have when rubbing rubbing mix between you thumb & finger helps me so much! Might have saved me thousands in butter/baking costs 🙂

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Wonderful, Susan. What will you be spending your new found wealth on? I bet it’ll have something to do with baking! ~ MJ

  4. Sandra Fiegen

    Thank you for the great information! foods principles that we all need. are you working on more topics? information like this makes a ‘good’ cook a ‘great’ cook!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      We have some great new tip blogs and videos in the works for all kinds of baking basics. Stay tuned! ~ MJ

  5. Maya

    if you’re butter is too cold you can always cut it up, put in the mixer, and beat it on high speed for a couple of minutes to soften it before you start adding the sugar.

    Reply
    1. Rachael

      Sometimes you can rescue undercreamed butter/sugar by scraping down the bowl and adding an egg yolk. I don’t know why this works, but it does.

  6. Ruth Jeffries

    What about those few of us who learned to bake cakes at our grandmothers’ knees and creamed sugar and butter by hand? I often still do and was teaching this to my grandson recently. Next question: is there a difference in creaming results when using regular cane or superfine sugar?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Hi Ruth,
      Lots of folks still like to cream by hand, and essentially you are shooting for the same textures. It definitely takes longer with a bowl and spoon and it’s harder to over cream, but the basics would still apply as far as too warm or too cold for your butter. Superfine sugar is easier to blend into the butter and you won’t be able to feel it between your fingers, so paying attention to color and loft will be important. ~ MJ

  7. Remy Joseph

    This was very instructive even for an experienced cake baker (many birthday cakes under my belt). I think we’ve all made the same mistakes and wondered where we went wrong…now I know the reason for at least one of my booboos!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Thanks for sharing your tip, Jen. I’m a habitual scraper, somehow it soothes me. 😉 ~ MJ

    2. Joanne

      I have the paddle with the rubber edge. Almost never have to scrape the bowl! Best invention and never use the old one anymore!

  8. Edward

    How would you alter your advice for those of us who live in Europe and as such have different style butter (with a much different moisture content) to work with? I could leave my butter out on a counter for a week at room temperature and it would never get that soft! I tend to run mine through the mixer with the paddle for a minute before slowly adding the sugar, but it still has a graininess at the end. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Hi Edward,
      Try placing the butter, still in the wrapper, in a bowl of warm water for 5 to 10 minutes to soften it. You can also add a teaspoon or two of water in with the mixture. Not much, but just enough to soften things up. ~MJ

  9. Kathleen

    I’ve been using a sour cream muffin recipe from KAF’s Whole Grain Baking Book that calls for 1/2 stick butter and 1 cup sugar. I use a hand mixer for creaming, and it never works, no matter how soft the butter is or how long I run the mixer. The mixture is just too dry, and the mixer only spits out pebbles of butter/sugar. I decided that the recipe was simply flawed, and compensated by adding more butter. Will it actually help if I cream the butter alone before adding the sugar?

    PS – the muffins seem to turn out fine anyway.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Hi Kathleen,
      I would try creaming the butter first, to incorporate some air before adding in the sugar. It may be the moisture content in your butter, too. Try adding a teaspoon or two of water to see if that helps. ~ MJ

  10. Carol Rickards

    Thank you, MaryJane, for a very informative explanation. I’ve baked for years and never quite knew what under/over really was. Enjoyed Sift and am looking forward to the next issue. We’re never too long into baking that we can’t learn.

    Reply
  11. Snickers40

    Ooops, add me to the “overbeating” crowd. I’ll be much more careful next time although I usually make cookies instead of cakes. I’m never quite sure how long to beat for muffins though and every direction says not to overbeat, but when is enough? I’ve made my share of hockey pucks.

    Reply
    1. Stacey

      If I’m using the creaming method for muffins, then I cream the butter and sugar as above. When adding the flour, I use low speed and barely mix it in — in fact, I sometimes do that part by hand.

  12. EL

    Some of us still do this the extremely old fashioned way — with a spoon. I can’t afford a stand mixer and don’t feel like cleaning an automatic mixer (for one small baking experience). A spoon works fine. And the butter creams well. It does take a bit of effort, but that’s okay too.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Titley

      I read a comment from Carol Rickards in the Q&A of April 27th. She mentioned “Sift” and how much she enjoyed it & was looking forward to the next issue.
      Is “Sift” a publication of King Arthur Flour? I am interested in learning more about it.
      Thanks.

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Barbara, Sift is our wonderful new magazine! Our first issue came out in the Spring and the next one is due to be available on August 25. Check out this blog for more information. Barb@KAF

  13. "Pat Herber "

    What a great tip! I’ve been baking since I was five( a very long time ago) and have also ” over creamed” many a time to get to that ” light and fluffy” description. I am definitely a visual learner so I really appreciate those pictures. Thanks so much!

    Reply
  14. Wanda

    Thank you so much for the information and the video. I’m visual so the video helped. I am 80 so have baked many cakes, but the info on the speed and texture of the mixture was very much appreciated

    Reply
  15. Teresa Mayberry

    Yet another reason I love King Arthur Flour! I love to bake, and I can trust the advice and recipes offered by King Arthur Flour. Every chance I get, I point people to your Facebook page, website, and blog. Now, I’ve subscribed to your YouTube channel. Thank you for another excellent post.

    Reply
  16. sandy

    I find it extremely helpful to have pictures of the process, including those that show what the butter/sugar mixture should NOT look like. That may be the most useful part of the instructions. After 50+ years of baking I still make mistakes that could have been caused by several different factors; this lesson helps narrow it down. Thank you!

    Reply
  17. Carrie Bell

    MaryJane…..HI!!!…Thanks so much for all this valuable information on PROPER creaming techniques!….I am looking forward to all future baking lessons and tutorials from you and your esteemed baking staff!…Also..can i use “european style”, or a butter with a higher butterfat content, such Plugra for a substitution for “regular butter” such as Land O Lakes in my butter cakes recipes? Thanks again!

    Reply
    1. JAKESGAM

      Carrie, I always use higher grade butter like Plugra or Kerrygold. They have less water which I understand also makes cookie dough spread more and not keep their shape. Hope this helps.

  18. Denise

    Moisture content of the butter….hmmm, something I never thought of. I think I’m starting to understand why sometimes my cookies are perfect and other times they aren’t when using the exact same recipe and room temperature butter!

    Reply
  19. Elena

    Thank you! This was so helpful. I’ve always just kind of guessed what it meant to cream butter, but for whatever reason, never bothered to look it up. The pictures were super helpful and thank you for giving the science behind what is happening. Happy baking!

    Reply
  20. Mary HH

    Great info – esp the pix; prob an overbeater – learned years and years ago at the side of my grandma and then mom (I’m 71 now); I will for sure watch the color when creaming; always use a good brand of butter and of course KAF flour. Thank you for all the info mhh

    Reply
  21. Jean Satzer

    I soften butter in the microwave a lot. BUT — I cut the cold butter into small chunks, and only do about 2-3 second bursts with a minute or two in between each burst. I do this while assembling the other ingredients.

    My understanding of microwaves is they cook from the edges in, and I’ve also found when I microwave veggies they come out piping hot, but in a minute they are cold again. SO — the wait means the temp normals out, and the cold that’s left in the butter chunk, cools the chunk down. In all, it takes me about 10 minutes to soften the butter, but I don’t microwave it for more than a total of 10 seconds. And no melting at all.

    I have an older over-the-range hood/fan/microwave combo…. my appliance repairman was surprised it’s lasted so long. I think it’s because the microwave part hardly gets used.

    And who knows? Since pretty much I use the microwave as a keep this away from the kitties device, I could be totally wrong, and just the mere act of cutting up the big cube into little cubes to give the air more surface to work with to soften the butter quicker…

    Reply
  22. Jaytee

    So I find this topic a little weird because in the tried and true butter cake recipes I use I have always done a long creaming instead of a shorter one, and I have never had an issue or problem at all.

    I think that the kind of creaming required depends very much on the recipe.
    A TRUE Old Fashioned Pound Cake- that contains NO leaveners (cream of tartar, baking powder or baking soda)
    completely relies on really light, well creamed butter and sugar to trap the air that makes the cake rise.
    In years and years of making said pound cake, in creaming the butter and sugar in my kitchen aid mixer for 10 minutes, I have never ever had a problem.
    Of course I never soften butter in the microwave but on the counter or kitchen table.

    But I will say that I learned quickly that Old Fashioned Pound Cake is a Fall/Winter recipe as room temp butter of Spring and Summer is definitely too warm to ensure reliable, consistent results.
    Of course it could be not just the heat but the humidity too- considering how hygroscopic sugar is.

    Gesine Bullock Prado, one of your own guest instructors, strongly recommends a long creaming time for her Golden Egg recipe in her book “Confections of a Closet Master Baker”.
    That recipe does have leavening- baking powder.
    Frankly, it’s the best golden butter cake recipe I’ve ever tasted, (and I’ve tried many including KAFs) and I’ve never had a problem with gumminess or any other issue with the long creaming time in her recipe either.

    My theory is there’s got to be another variable that combined with longer creaming leads to gumminess.

    BTW, there is no other chocolate cake recipe on earth that beats KAF Fudge Birthday cake.
    I use that recipe to make my own cake mixes.
    Off topic, yes, but WOW what a cake! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Suzy A.

      I am with you. I use my great grandmothers buttermilk pound cake recipe. (Soda in the buttermilk). I cream the butter for 10-15 minutes while adding sugar gradually. Have never had sugar completely disolve until eggs go in. The lightest most wonderful cake ever. As I read the above I just was amazed. My recipe would never work with a 5 minute creaming process. King Arthur Flour makes the best and I have tried all the flours.

  23. Ann

    Ah ha! I over creamed the butter and sugar when I was making the vanilla cupcakes last night! They are quite dense – Still eatable, but not nice and airy. Thanks so much for the information!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      I’m so glad this helped you out, Ann. Believe me, we have all done it! ~ MJ

  24. Marianne

    I never thought about it. I just put the butter and sugar in the mixer and beat the dickens out of it until it looked light and fluffy to me. Glad to finally have this information. Will do it this way from now on. Thanks for the very useful information.

    Reply
  25. jmm

    And now let’s watch the lady stand there by the mixer. She pays hundreds of $’s to go to the gym. WHY??? With a wooden spoon and a pottery mixing bowl she could get a little exercise and mix it just right at the same time. Is anybody THINKING???

    Reply
    1. DeeCee

      JMM, some of us have severe arthritis and cannot use our arms and hands as well as we could decades ago. So, yes, I’m thinking–that spending $ on a device that enables me to still cook/bake is better than not being able to move my arms for a day or two. Just sayin’ . . . .

    2. EL

      Some people bake more than others and really use a stand mixer. I do cream with a spoon (a metal one), but I also hate the extra clean up of a mixer (don’t have a dishwasher).

      It would be wonderful (I think) if KAF were willing to expand this blog to include a comparison of the different mixing methods.

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for the suggestion, El! I will pass it on to our blog team. Barb@KAF

    4. Bridgid

      It would be great if I had hundreds of $ to go to the gym. But instead I’d rather spend that money at KAF. DeeCee has a great point, not all of us are physically capable of hand creaming any longer. I think there are a lot of people thinking – thinking of baking the best way they can. 🙂

  26. Lynn Anne

    This was incredibly helpful! I have had the experience of the gummy dense cake, just like it the picture, and always assumed that it was from underbaking, or the temperature in the oven was off. I am so glad to know this. I just got a new, more powerful mixer, so now I know that I need to be more careful about this. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      You never know what you’ll learn when you click to the King Arthur web site, do you Lynn Anne? Good luck with your future cakes! PJH

  27. Ann

    Thank you very much for this informative and helpful post! I’m guilty of over-zapping butter in the microwave, in a hurry to bake, and over-mixing in the incredibly powerful stand mixer. I do remember the days when we didn’t have microwaves and KitchenAids, and Mom set the butter on the counter to come to room temp and used her MixMaster to cream butter and sugar. And Mom, of course, remembered the days when she used a bowl and a spoon to do this! Aren’t we lucky to have fabulous, time-saving tools these days? But, it’s back to basics on how our latest tools can be used (or not) to achieve great results. I’ll definitely put this simple yet powerful knowledge to use – great to get instruction on what I’ve apparently been doing haphazardly for many years, unknowingly. Thanks again!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      We’re so glad you found this so helpful, Ann. My trouble with creaming by hand was I always wanted to eat the straight butter and sugar right off the spoon! 🙂 ~ MJ

  28. Jenn

    I use Zulka Morena brand sugar, the granules are bigger than regular sugar. Does the creaming still take the same amount of time or longer?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Hi Jenn,
      We don’t have any first hand experience with this sugar, so your best bet is to keep checking every few minutes (still creaming on medium speed) until the color and texture resemble the correct consistency and then note the timing for future use. ~ MJ

  29. Kelly

    Kitchen Aid Professional Model is very powerful, yet I must scrape the sides several times to cream. Sometimes I begin that step ‘by hand’, just to get it started. Otherwise, it just sticks to the sides. Setting of 5 is very fast, so getting used to the speed is a big ‘learning curve’! Thank you for assuring me it is NOT a bad mixer, just stubborn ingredients!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      That’s a great way to put it, Kelly. A mixer is a great tool, but still a tool we need to know the quirks of. ~ MJ

  30. Jennifer

    Most of the cookie recipes I use say to cream the butter first for 30 seconds then add the sugar and cream the two together. I have started using this method for all of my recipes. But I too have over creamed looking for the “light and fluffy” consistency. This was extremely helpful!

    Reply
  31. Kari

    I, also, have ALWAYS over-creamed. When I am done creaming, the mixture usually looks like mousse.

    Thank you so much. This should help my cakes and such tremendously!

    Reply
  32. Jenni

    Very informative. I find that my creaming for cookies is different than my creaming for cakes. With cookies, I don’t need a bunch of volume, so creaming on low just to the point it comes together in a smooth paste is sufficient. For my pound cakes, I cream until very light and fluffy, usually about 10 minutes on medium speed. I am always rewarded with a moist, even, velvety crumb, no sad streaks and a gorgeous melt-in-your-mouth texture.

    Reply
  33. Kate

    What about Xylitol? Can that be creamed with butter? I recently tried to make an Italian Olive Oil cake and used Xylitol rather than sugar. What a waste of ingredients that was!
    But if I used real sugar and creamed it with the olive oil (like the recipe requested), would the creamed sugar result like the melted butter? The olive oil cakes that I have tasted do have a dense feel….is that why?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We defer to the website for Xylitol or other sugar substitute that will provide the best tips for baking with it. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  34. Rose Johnson

    What about coconut sugar? It is steadily rising in popularity and I do prefer its health benefits over white sugar?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Haven’t really had much experience with it, Rose. However, I will add it to the list. Jon@KAF

  35. Mar

    Just adding my Thanks as well… Never had it explained that the mixer capability
    would affect the time required. I just followed the recipe, and was also over-mixing.
    Thank you for this post.

    Mar

    Reply
  36. Donna

    Holy Crow! I’m guilty of being an over creamer! Thanks so much for the tutorial, now I know better and so will my cakes!

    Reply
  37. Barbara Ann

    I have a Bosch Kitchen Machine that is over 30 years old, but still is in perfect shape and I love it. My question–it only has 2 speeds–low and high. I can also choose to just kind of pulse it. I should then just pay attention to the color of the butter/sugar mixture?

    I love the thoroughness of your tutorial!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Barbara Ann, I think your pulsing idea sounds like a good one! Barb@KAF

  38. Toni Heijnen

    Awesome show and tell and explanation! I have always wondered what it really meant to cream the butter and sugar and now I truly do. Thanks for the help. Great site.

    Reply
  39. Susan E.

    OMG!!! I have finally gotten the answer! Since I started baking so many, many moons ago, I could never get my cakes (especially Bundt) to come out of the oven without that awful gummy streak. Of course, in my case, it has always been more than a “streak”. I CANNOT wait to try again with my new found knowledge… seems like such a basic thing that I should have learned a long time ago. Just goes to show you that you can teach an old baker a new technique.

    Thank you so much for all your blogs. I read them religiously, and I would not be the baker I am today without all of your shared wisdom. From my heart, THANK YOU!
    S.E.

    Reply
  40. Lynne

    Please test your techniques with not just a Kitchen Aid, but also a hand mixer (see second post above) AND with that poor, forgotten, former workhorse of the kitchen, the Mixmaster.

    I’m fairly sure I’m not the only reader of your blog that uses one of these. If you are truly interested in providing a good resource, it should include ALL the tools likely to be utilized for a particular technique.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Lynne,

      Thanks for your feedback. We don’t have a Mixmaster here in the Test Kitchen, but we will keep your suggestion about including a hand-mixer in the future in mind. The photos and textural descriptions should help you gauge the state of your butter and sugar when creaming, no matter what piece of equipment you are using. A hand mixer will likely take slightly longer than a KitchenAid, and be sure to scrape the bowl down and move your hand mixer around in the bowl to get a smooth, even mixture. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  41. Rod

    While the photos are nice what is the desired temperature of the butter. I know there is an instant read thermometer in that test kitchen! A mention too that over mixing causes a rise in bowl temperature due to friction and adds to failure.
    Cheers,
    Rod

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sharing the tip about the bowl temperature, Rod. As for the temperature of butter for those of you who like to be super precise in your baking, butter at room temperature should register between 65-68 degrees when an instant-read thermometer is inserted in the center of the stick. At this temperature, the butter is firm but leaves an indention when gently pressed. Happy baking and happy creaming! Kye@KAF

  42. Judy

    On 4/27/15 Joanne commented that she uses a “paddle with a rubber edge” to scrape the bowl. What product is that?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The rubber edged paddle can be helpful since it scrapes the sides of the bowl as it mixes. I actually prefer using just a regular paddle when creaming. I find you need to scrape almost as many times to be thorough. Here are some images of the rubber edged paddle. Happy baking, Judy! Elisabeth@KAF

  43. Marilyn Farmer

    I love to learn something new everyday… and today this is it! I’ve been baking for almost 50 years and never knew you could over-cream your butter and sugar. I’ve been doing it at high speed and for too long! Thank you so much for this great informative post!

    Reply
  44. Tony

    I’m semi-retired and fallen in love with baking from scratch and giving away all manner of things to neighbors and friends. But I did keep 2 not-so-good pound cakes last month because they looked “undercooked” when I cut them open (although I did not understand how that was possible as the edges and top were so dark).
    It turns out I was over creaming the butter and sugar.
    I never realized timing was so important. My cakes looked like the “bad” picture you showed as a result of over creaming.
    I think I’m good to go now! Great lesson tip!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It’s never to late to start baking from scratch! We’re so glad to hear you’ve joined us in the world of learning, baking, and sharing Tony. Your neighbors and friends are very lucky indeed. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  45. Renee

    This was so informative. I have been having problems with crumbly cakes and a little dryness. Could better creaming help?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Renee, creaming your butter and sugar can help give your cake a lofty rise and a tender texture. If your cake is dry and crumbly, your batter might also be too stiff (try adding additional liquid) or you cake could be over-baked as well. (It’s done when a sharp knife or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean!) You also may have better success using our cake flour, which is known for its luxurious crumb and texture. I hope these ideas give you a place to start and result in a perfectly baked cake. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  46. Irene in T.O.

    Overcreaming isn’t possible if you are creaming by hand and if your kitchen is under 72F. If your kitchen runs at 80F then overcreaming can happen.

    Reply
  47. Vy Bui

    I am totally new to baking, and try to read, watch, and learn anything from Google, YouTube… However, haven’t seen any tutorial that have most useful and detail information as yours. Specially are picture After reading, now I know I always over creaming my butter & sugar… And learn the reason behind why need to cream butter & sugar together first.
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful information.

    Reply
  48. Alloel

    Serve up something sweet and light at your next St. Patrick’s Day party these Guiness Stout Cupcakes! Yes, the batetr contains 1 and a half cups of Guiness Stout, as well as more traditional staples like flour, sugar, cocoa powder and eggs, among other things. Following the theme, the frosting contains alcohol as well Irish Cream made into a buttercream frosting, thanks to the addition of butter and sugar. Top each with a sprinkle of sugar (or green sprinkles) and a plastic four-leaf clover to set the mood. Source Java Cupcake

    Reply
  49. Nora

    Please help! I am trying to make a buttercream frosting and maybe after about two minutes of mixing confectioners sugar with butter, the mixture gets runny. The butter is at the right room temperature. Using a hand mixer on medium speed and have tried 3 different times. I don’t even get to the part where you add the vanilla or cream 🙁

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sounds like your frosting may not have enough powdered sugar, Nora. Please give our baker’s hotline a call to we can troubleshoot further. 855 371 2253 Jon@KAF

  50. shelly

    I have always gone back and forth with creaming and never really gotten it exactly right. Your post was wonderful and so informative. I think my problem usually stems from my kitchen being too cold – so even with room temp butter and that cold stainless steel bowl, it just never comes together. I discovered your post half way through my most recent attempt and quickly warmed a dishrag with hot tap water and wrapped it around the lower part of the mixing bowl while running, It came right together! I don’t know how the cake is yet but I’m optimistic. Thank you!

    Reply
  51. Allison

    Very helpful article. Now I know why my pound cake has the “wet” texture.

    May I know what kind of sugar you use?
    Do you use the “baker’s” granulated sugar or just the regular granulated sugar?
    If using powdered sugar, will the mixing time still 2 minutes?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Depends on the recipe, Allison. We generally use plain, granulated sugar for most our our baking. Some very finely textured cakes use the baker’s special. We don’t really use confectioner’s sugar for cakes, but it does work well in rolled cookies and glazes. Jon@KAF

  52. Granma726

    I am so glad that i stumble on this site. All the comments was very informative to me. I have a Kitchenaid Professional 600 Stand Mixer and I love to bake cakes..I should have read about the towel two days ago when the first cup of flour went all over the counter as usual. Are you adding all the liquid into the batter and all the flour at the same time? I was not very clear on that idea.. I cream my butter on {4} for about 5 minutes, before I had the sugar, cup at a time.. Sometimes my white cake for the pineapple upsidedown cake is a little dense…Maybe with these changes I can improve on it. Keep up the good work, and thanks for this information.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Some recipes have you add the flour and liquids in stages to avoid the flour cloud! Please follow each recipe’s individual directions regarding how the add the ingredients. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  53. Valerie moreland

    Good evening I found this information to be extremely helpful I just started baking about 2 years ago and my specialty was a lemon pound cake however my husband bought me a KitchenAid mixer this past Christmas and I tried to make with pound cake I have made 5 of them and they have all been gelatin like so after reading you’re very useful information this evening I am on cake number 6 with my KitchenAid mixer I’ll keep you posted.

    Reply
  54. Ruth Hoffman

    Thank you so much for that wonderful useful information on the creaming of butter and sugar. Pictures were very helpful as well Ruth

    Reply
  55. Wendy Sites

    You mentioned creaming oil and sugar, and that is what I need help with. I have a recipe for a chocolate cake that uses oil as its only shortening. I bake them in a convection oven (My sister owns a restaurant and I started baking to give her a hand when the former baker got ill.) With no formal training other than mom, I am having trouble with the chocolate cake falling in the center. It is done as I test for that. I read you can cream the oil, sugar and eggs and I did try that, and it seems to help. Have you even heard of that, and thinking of the science behind it, does it make sense? We have no butter to put holes in, so how does doing this seem to help?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Some causes of a cake falling in the center are the following: *Oven Temperature too low – bake at high temperature; *Excess sugar,shortening or leavening – decrease amount; *Over creaming – cream less; *Insufficient eggs – increase amount; *Flour too weak – needs a quality cake flour; *Wrong type of shortening – increase quality of shortening. Have you thought of using shortening instead of oil as a fat? I have never heard of creaming oil, sugar and eggs together. Recipes with oil, usually have the oil added with the liquids. Maybe time for a new recipe?? There are some great chocolate cake recipes out there. Here are two from our website: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/chocolate-cake-recipe or
      http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/new-favorite-fudge-birthday-cake-recipe. Hope this helps and Happy Baking!JoAnn@KAF

  56. Karen Jackson

    Thank you so much for reposting this — I now understand why my KAF pound cake has been overly dense. Over creaming the butter. Fascinating. I love the chemistry of baking.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You can follow the same creaming method for brown sugars. I am not sure about stevia. Have you looked on their website for tips? Happy Baking!JoAnn@KAF

  57. Kay Carrasco

    I bake a lot of cookies, so properly creaming butter and sugar is important to me. I don’t have a stand mixer, so use a hand mixer (one is larger and more powerful than the other). My question is about the beaters. I have a set that is made of rounded metal (like heavy wire, but *not* a whisk) and another with the flat, ribbon-type of metal blade. Is one set better for creaming than the other? I think I’m noticing that when using the wire-type, the cookies tend to be a little tougher, so perhaps it’s not working the sugar in quite right? And if so, what *are* those wire style beaters for?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      When creaming (butter and sugar), use the beaters and when whipping (eggs or heavy cream), use the whisks which are the thin wire attachments. Happy baking! Elisabeth@KAF

  58. Susan

    I have done this so many times. I put the mixer on medium to beat the butter and sugar and then go off to get the rest of the ingredients ready. It never dawned on me that I was over beating it. Thanks for explaining some of my cake problems.

    Reply
  59. Bonnie

    Too bad I didn’t see this about three days ago-BEFORE I tried a German Chocolate Cake from scratch for the first time!! Overbeaten all the way! Nice and moist, but couldn’t pick up a layer without it falling apart!! I have yet to use my stand mixer without overbeating something! Guess family will just have to get used to eating flops till I get the hang of it! I’ve baked for more than 45 years, so it’s not that I’m totally inexperienced!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It sounds like you need to dial it back several notches, Bonnie! You can still enjoy that new mixer, just more slowly. Have fun breaking it in! Elisabeth@KAF

  60. Kathy

    This comment isn’t about creaming but about sugar. I love your products but 6 months ago I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. My wish would be that you embrace sugar free in your mixes with the same gusto you have embraced gluten free. I would love to be able to buy some of your cake mixes again. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for your impassioned plea, Kathy, as you transition from baking with sugar to sugar free baking. We do offer a couple Sans Sucre mixes for brownies and cinnamon apple coffeecake, as well as sugar free chocolate chips. Using our recipes, you might use your favorite sugar substitute and their guidelines for using the product in baking. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

    1. Susan Reid

      Gayle, if you can leave an indentation in the stick of butter without having to press it very hard, it’s at a good temperature for creaming. Susan

  61. CYN ALDER

    The organic sugar I buy at Costco is marked fine, but is much more coarse than Imperial cane suare! Should I reduce the grain size in my Cuisinart, before creaming with butter? Feels very granular even when using the paddle at the right speed on my KitchenAid stand mixer and watching the time.
    Thank you?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Hi Cyn,
      Yes, if you prefer the smaller size for a better consistency in creaming, you can pulse the sugar in the processor until it’s a smaller particle size. Just be careful that you don’t make powdered sugar! 🙂 ~ MJR @ KAF

  62. Elaine Smith

    After reading the directions and watching the video of creaming butter and sugar properly; mine still failed to cream smooth and fluffy. I am using 3 cups sugar and 2 sticks butter in a pound cake recipe. What might I be doing wrong?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Elaine, for more help troubleshooting your creaming technique, please give our Baker’s Hotline a call at 855-371-2253(BAKE). Barb@KAF

  63. Sophia Adebayo

    Hello, this really helpful for me.I baked recently and the cakeOh.had oil and dense not fluffy.when tasted it has this butter feel on my tongue.I felt bad because my hand mixer got spoilt in the process of creaming.sometimes the cake is undercooked,the middle is half cooked but the putter part is cooked and burnt.Please I used a locally constructed oven.is it that the heat is high or low,then when baked I hear this frying sound the butter is frying the cake and it comes with holes in the cake and oily.kindly advice and confused.looking forward to hearing from you.thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It sounds like you may need to contact our Baker’s Hotline for the best advice, Sophia. I am confident that having a conversation with a baker will help clear things up in no time! Please feel free to contact our Baker’s Hotline at 1-855-371-BAKE (Monday-Friday 7:00am-9:00pm EST, Saturday & Sunday 8:00am-5:00pm), and we’d be happy to provide you with further assistance at that time. Elisabeth@KAF

  64. Gigi

    How much would this need to be adapted for dark brown sugar? I’m making bourbon balls but want them to have a caramelly, deep flavor. I’m gonna roast the nuts before soaking them in bourbon, but the recipe calls for confectioners sugar mixed with butter.. I’m thinking that subbing half of the sugar weight with dark brown and creaming before stirring in the powdered sugar and nuts will achieve the effect, but I don’t want crunchy sugar crystals…..

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Gigi, you might consider adding a touch of molasses to the filling instead of substituting brown sugar, as this will change the texture drastically. Confectioners’ sugar has an almost melt-in-your-mouth feel and is processed finely, whereas you might have a granular texture with brown sugar. Plus, there’s more moisture in brown sugar, which may throw off your recipe. Stick with the confectioners’ sugar if you want to be sure you’ll have good results, otherwise feel free to experiment! Kye@KAF

  65. Mandii

    After reading this article I think I have worked out why my last 4 cakes have failed. raw runny batter in the middle. I thought my oven had carked it, but after testing all the elements it is perfectly fine. All four were prepared in my new Kitchenaid mixer so I think I may have over creamed the batter. Will try again tomorrow and follow your tip. 2-3 mins on 3 or 4 speed. Wish me luck. if anyone has any more suggestions, please.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Good luck, Mandi! Let us know how your cake turns out. Fifth time’s a charm! Barb@KAF

  66. Leslie Landberg

    I’m mystified by this reliance on appliances. I was taught the classic French method and learned to do everything by hand. For one thing, you’ll have way more control. The devil is in the details, so why use something overpowered? It takes scarecely more time by hand than by hand held beaters and builds stamina and muscles!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We love hearing from passionate by-hand bakers, Leslie. There certainly is in an art in making everything, completing every step of a recipe, by hand. We find it is sometimes difficult to replicate the speed and length of time required to achieve the proper texture of certain recipe components, i.e. creamed butter and sugar. The structure of cakes tends to be a bit lighter and loftier if a stand mixer is used to complete this step. However, if you’ve found that you like the results mixing by hand, we applaud your determination! Kye@KAF

  67. Jacqueline Francis-breaux

    I’ve been trying to figure out why my cakes sometime have heavy lines in it like your picture. I have been creaming butter and sugar for 5 minutes; now I know why….Thank you

    Reply
  68. Chikkinlittle

    Mary-Jane,
    Wow. 60 years of baking with a number of epic failures which I now understand were due to 1) impatiently zapping butter to soften it or 2) wandering away to feed the dig or wipe her feet while creaming using a stand mixer. Mystery solved.
    Excellent presentation. Photos helped immensely.
    Bless you,
    Chikkinlittle

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re so glad this article was of help and will be sure to pass your thanks along to Mary Jane! Mollie@KAF

  69. Steve

    First time I used my new stand mixer, the butter immediately clumped and wouldn’t smooth out. Today I tried a different routine of warming the metal bowl and beater on the stove while preheating the oven. Worked beautifully. The first time, even though the butter had been out for 2 hours, it worked as though it had just come out of the frig.
    Steve

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Try leaving your butter out overnight to soften, Steve. Sometimes a warm mixing bowl can also help if your kitchen is cold. Sounds like you’re learning new tips and tricks for getting the best results with your mixer! Kye@KAF

  70. CR

    In spite of the intro to the article promising “the right temperature”, the actual temperature is not actually mentioned. 🙁

    I leave the butter out all morning in our “room temperature” but butter isn’t soft enough.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The “right” temperature is room temperature–which we understand does vary from kitchen to kitchen. If you’re the kind of bake who likes to use specific guidelines, look for 65-68 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer when it’s inserted in the center of the stick. I hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  71. Tolu

    Woow, this information is so helpful. But. My question is that in a situation where you have over mixed because you slept off, can on allow the butter nd sugar to cool before you start mixing in your ingredients or whats the remedy inother for the butter and sugar not to waste? . Let me note here that when it over mixes d quantity looks reduced maybe because its melted due to overmixing. Thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Tolu, once you’ve gone too far with the creaming, you can’t really go back. However, we do recommend saving this mixture and adding a little cinnamon or other favorite spice and using it as a sweet spread on pancakes or toast. Barb@KAF

  72. Mide

    Oh my goodness, I have looked for information on what causes the dense dummy streaks for so long and I hope this is why I get this problem sometimes. I thought maybe the eggs are mixed in properly so I always mixand still get the streaks. So, does this mean it’s the butter and sugar that’s been overmixed? Also, how does one know when the sugar butter mixture is just right? How long is the mixing meant to go on for using a stand mixer? Thank you

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Dense, gluey streaks in cakes are caused by a cake that sinks! You can prevent that with slow creaming and slow mixing featured in this blog. Using those slow tips will create better cakes and get you back to happy baking. Irene@KAF

  73. Stacey

    I have tried to cream my butter and sugar but the butter was too cold so it is now like a bread crumb consistency, any tips to rescue it, I don’t want to waste all the ingredients!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Hi Stacey,
      You’ve probably already figured this one out, but if you let the mixture sit out for 5-10 minutes, the butter will soften up more and then you can re-whip for a couple of minutes to fluff it up. ~MJ

  74. Max

    I would like to ask you if I can cream just the butter…without the sugar.Will i have the same results in baking?thank you in advance

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Max, creaming the butter and sugar creates air pockets that help leaven your cake; without the sugar, this doesn’t happen, as they work in concert. So while creaming butter makes it easier to integrate it with the remaining ingredients, it doesn’t help with structure. PJH

  75. Chris Thompson

    Great article- thank you!

    So, you wouldn’t have an approximate temperature that’s ideal for creaming butter, would you? I just bought my first instant-read thermometer and this seems like the perfect excuse to bake something fun with it…

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We understand the urge to put new tools to good use! Butter at room temperature should register at least 65-68 degrees when an instant-read thermometer is inserted in the center of the stick. At this temperature, the butter is firm but leaves an indention when gently pressed. If it gets any warmer than mid-70s, and your butter will be too soft. Happy baking and happy creaming! Kye@KAF

  76. Victoria

    I just made a Victoria sponge using the “all in” method and was curious about how this method compares to the more typical creaming butter and sugar. Do you start with a softer butter? I would assume you don’t want to mix as long as you would cream, but if the butter isn’t softer than typical, it wouldn’t blend well. Any thoughts?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Great question, Victoria. (Hey, you made your namesake cake!) You’re not the first one to wonder about how cake mixing methods compare, so we actually have a full blog that will be coming out very soon (next week!) showing side-by-side comparisons and in-depth explanations of the methods. We hope you check back in a few days. Tips we can share now: your butter should be room temperature when making both kind of cakes. You’ll want to try to limit mixing time as much as possible to prevent it from becoming tough, but since the fat is added right from the start, it helps coat the flour and prevents gluten from forming as readily. The instructions in the recipe should give clues about how long to mix the batter–usually until just combined. Happy cake baking! Kye@KAF

  77. Sally Boyd

    I use organic cane sugar in all my baking. It seems that no matter how much I beat the sugar/butter it never loses that grainy texture to get light and fluffy. Do you have any advice?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Try pulsing the organic cane sugar in a food processor slightly before adding it to the butter mixture. This should make the granules a bit finer and dissolve more easily. Give it a shot the next time you make a recipe and see if that helps. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  78. Rose

    What about creaming butter and sugar when baking at high altitude. Your article says “In creaming the butter and sugar together, you are using the sugar to aerate the butter and fill it with bubbles that can capture the gasses released by your leavener.”
    At high altitude those air bubbles are the enemy that can often cause your cakes to fall/sink in the middle.

    I do follow the rule for decreasing leavener and sugar at high altitude. Despite all attempts, there is no such thing as light and fluffy at high altitude:(

    BTW – I do have Susan Purdy’s “Pie In The Sky” cookbook but what if I want to try recipes from other sources?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Rose, next time you have a recipe that calls for creaming butter and sugar, try cutting back on your mixing time. Shoot for two 30 second increments, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through. The creamed mixture should still be light, but also have enough structure to maintain a good texture in your cake. If you haven’t already seen our High-Altitude Baking Chart, check that out as well. It might be helpful in your baking adventures. Kye@KAF

  79. Elaine Walker

    This was so helpful. Lots of cookbooks and recipes lead you astray on this. I’ve seen recommendations to cream for 5 minutes, which on a KitchenAid Pro creates less than great results. It would be great if you could expand the instructions to be a bit clearer for different kinds of mixers etc. I see that you’ve commented on this in the comments but it would be great to see a table with the categories below.
    – by hand
    – hand mixer
    -Kitchenaid Artisan (the older style)
    – KitchenAid pro

    Hence my question: I have the pro, which looks a lot like the one on the video, but I also have an older artisan style. Should I use 2 minutes on both machines, even though they have clearly different motors?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for your suggestion, Elaine. We don’t have an Artisan mixer in our test kitchen, so we can’t speak directly to the differences, but it sounds like you have the perfect set-up to do your own experiment. You might also try reaching out to KitchenAid directly to ask them if the RPMs are the same at any given speed. Best of luck and happy baking! Mollie@KAF

  80. Beth

    Aaaaugh! No wonder baking is so frustrating. There are so many places to go wrong. I’ve learned to weigh ingredients and have them at room temperature. Now I find out that you can cream incorrectly. Where does it end?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It ends in a beautifully delicious cake, Beth! And while we like to dive deep into the areas where things CAN go wrong, most of the time many many things go right, and when it does, it’s glorious, isn’t it? Mollie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes it sure can, Gail. Overmixing can happen any time you’re creaming together butter and sugar, which some cake mixes call for. Use the general time frame shown in this post any time you’re creaming together butter and sugar. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

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