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How to Cream Butter and Sugar

What does a recipe mean when it asks you to "cream butter and sugar"? Our Test Kitchen experts explain.

blog_image by Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen

blog_image by Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen

Once a common baking term, "creaming" is seen less often in recipes these days, sometimes even replaced by the word “mixing.” There are distinctions between the two methods, though, and for best results when baking, it helps to know exactly what you’re looking for when creaming butter and sugar.

What is Creaming Butter and Sugar? 

Technically, creaming means mixing butter and sugar together on a moderately high speed until well blended, fluffy and pale yellow. It’s often the first step in a cookie or cake recipe and forms the base to which other ingredients are added.
You accomplish two things when you cream butter and sugar:

  1. Creaming evenly disperses the sugar throughout the batter, completely dissolving it into the butter.

  2. You also increase volume by mixing thoroughly and incorporating more air into your batter. The result? Lighter textured cookies and cakes.

Why Use Softened Butter for Creaming Butter and Sugar?

To properly cream butter and sugar, you want to start with softened butter. Chilled butter is too hard to break down and fully blend with the sugar. Overly soft or melted butter will whip up into frothy air bubbles, which eventually collapse into a greasy, wet batter and bake into a heavy and soggy baked good.

To soften butter, beat the butter and sugar at a moderate speed for 2 to 3 minutes, and you’ll be well on your way to baking perfection! Undermixed butter and sugar looks gritty and chunky, which can lead to dense cookies and cakes. It is possible to overmix the butter and sugar. If you overmix, the butter will separate out of the mixture and it will be grainy and soupy. Be sure to stop once your butter becomes light and fluffy.

The Tools You Need to Cream Butter and Sugar

Stand mixers are ideal for creaming butter and sugar, but hand mixers work well, too. Should you not have either, you can gently mash sugar into your softened butter with the tines of a fork. Next, grab a wooden spoon and stir the mixture until light and fluffy. A rubber spatula can be used to periodically scrape the mixture from the side of the bowl.



How to Cream Butter and Sugar

  1. Place softened butter and sugar into large mixing bowl.
    2018 how to cream butter sugar buttersticks

  2. Mix, using hand mixer or stand mixer on medium speed 1-2 minutes, or until butter mixture is pale yellow, light and fluffy. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the side of the bowl once or twice while mixing.
    2018 creaming butter sugar fluffy

    ​3. This is what it will look like if you go too far: slightly soupy and greasy. 
    2018 creaming butter sugar overmixed

We hope you now better understand the how and why of creaming butter and sugar. Now when you see recipes instructions to "cream butter and sugar," you’ll know exactly what to do!

Looking for more answer to baking and cooking questions? Visit our Frequently Asked Questions page for more tips, tricks and for more tips, tricks and knowledge from our experts in the Test Kitchens.

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