How to Cream Butter and Sugar

Learn how to cream butter and sugar with a mixer or by hand. Creaming is an important step in many baking recipes like cookies and cakes. It’s not complicated but knowing what to look for and the best creaming technique will make a big difference in your baked goods.

This creaming tutorial will take you step by step through the process so you can cream butter and sugar like a pro!

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overhead shot of bowl with butter and sugar

If you’ve ever wondered why some dessert recipes, like cookies and cakes, instruct you to cream the butter and sugar I’m here today to clear it up for you and share my best tips for creaming. 

Many recipes have this step but very few actually explain why it’s important or even explain the correct way to do it. So, I thought – why not a tutorial? Creaming is such a critical step in baking recipes – when it’s not done correctly your cookies and cakes may turn out flat, soggy or even greasy. Done properly, your cakes and cookies will puff up and have a wonderful tender crumb.

What is Creaming?

In a nutshell, creaming is combining a softened fat (like butter) with sugar until it turns creamy, light and fluffy.

Creaming can be done by hand with a bowl, spoon, and fork, or with a stand mixer or handheld mixer. Doing it by hand definitely takes more effort, but it’s helpful to know in case you’re ever without a mixer and need to make an emergency batch of cookies (it could happen!).

When you cream butter and sugar together, you’re accomplishing one thing: incorporating lots of air into the mixture which will help naturally leaven your baked goods and create a tender crumb.

How long to cream butter and sugar will vary depending on whether you’re doing it by hand or with a mixer. With a mixer it will take between one and three minutes. By hand, it will take longer.

Whether you cream with a mixer or by hand, the best way to know if your butter and sugar are creamed is by looking at it. As more air is incorporated into the mixture you will notice the color will lighten and the texture will turn fluffy. You know you’ve reached the right stage when the mixture is pale yellow and soft but with enough structure to hold soft peaks.

It is possible to over-cream butter and sugar. If creamed too long the mixture will turn white and, if you use it, will give your baked goods a dense, almost gluey, texture. So, don’t leave your mixer unattended and keep an eye on the mixture so you can see when it’s ready. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to correct over-creamed butter and sugar.

Softened Butter

Starting with softened butter is an important part of the process. If the butter is too cold it will be hard to incorporate air and your mixture will be too dense. If it’s too hot the mixture will not have enough air and will be oily. In both cases, your cakes and cookies will have a dense texture instead of the light and tender crumb.

So, how do you know if your butter is softened to the right temperature? (Learn how to soften butter quickly.)

  • You can get technical and measure the temperature of your butter by sticking a thermometer in it. Butter that is at a temperature of 60°F is softened enough for creaming. 
  • Or you can tell if your butter is softened to the right temperature by pressing on it with a fork. If the butter is too cold it will have no give. Softened butter will still hold it’s shape, but when you press on it with the fork the butter will give and the fork will sink into it. 
  • If your butter is too warm it will have turned oily and so soft that it can’t hold its shape.

How fast your butter will soften depends on the temperature of your kitchen, but leaving it out at room temperature for at least an hour is usually enough time. If your kitchen is hot, it will need less time and if it’s chilly it may take longer.

over head shot of bowl with butter and sugar

How to Cream Butter and Sugar

Once your butter is softened it’s time to cream! The easiest and fastest way to cream butter and sugar is with a stand mixer or handheld mixer (if using a stand mixer, fit it with the paddle attachment). The process is the same for both:

  • First, place the butter and sugar in the bowl.
  • Set the mixer to medium speed and cream the butter and sugar for one to three minutes. It’s a good idea to stop at least once to scrape down the sides of your bowl to ensure an evenly creamed mixture.
  • Once the mixture turns pale yellow in color and has a light and fluffy texture, you’re done.

How to Cream Butter and Sugar by Hand

If you find yourself without a mixer you can cream butter and sugar by hand. It’s a great arm workout! 

  • First, it helps to cut the butter into thin pieces and mixing them with the sugar before you start creaming them together.
  • Using a fork, press the tines into the butter and sugar to fully combine them. When combined, the mixture resembles a paste.
  • Grab a wooden spoon and beat the butter and sugar together using the same motion you would to scramble eggs. If it’s easier, you can also use the fork to cream them. 
  • Be sure to scrape the bowl a few times!
  • Depending on how fast you can mix, it will take three to five minutes to achieve the right color (pale yellow, remember?) and a fluffy texture. There should be no streaks of butter in the mixture – all of it should be well combined.

Even though creaming only takes a few minutes, it makes a big difference in the quality of your baked goods. I hope you’ve found this post helpful! Let’s review, shall we?

  • You can cream butter and sugar with a mixer or without a mixer!
  • Start with softened butter that holds its shape but, when pressed with a fork, it gives to the pressure. You can also use a thermometer to measure the temperature – 60°F is ideal.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until it turns pale yellow in color and has a light and fluffy texture, which, if using a mixer, takes about one to three minutes on medium speed.
creamed butter and sugar in bowl

Want to practice your creaming skills? My chewy soft sugar cookies and soft and chewy oatmeal cookies are great recipes to try.

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