The Creaming Method


The creaming method:  probably one of the most referenced cooking methods in baking in the US.  You’ve seen it, whether you know it or not:  “Cream together butter and sugar.”  Or “Cream together shortening and sugar.”  Seems like an easy enough method, really, but as with all easy stuff, it’s rarely simple.

Here’s how it goes:

  1. Cream together fat and sugar.
  2. Add eggs, one at a time. (I further refine this process by beating the eggs together and then very slowly drizzling them into the creamed fat and sugar).
  3. Sift together dry ingredients.
  4. Mix wet ingredients(milk/water/cream/sour cream/extracts)
  5. Alternate adding dry and wet ingredients, beginning and ending with dry.

Sounds straightforward, yes?  There are a couple of things to remember about it, though.  Here’s the most important one:

The speed at which you cream the ingredients and the length of time you cream your ingredients and the temperature of your ingredients will all effect the final product.

And that, friends, is the fly in the ointment, the raisin in the peanut butter cookie, the clove in custard.  When making cookies, make sure you cream slowly–low speed is great.  Stop the mixer as soon as you no longer see butter and sugar, but a homogeneous paste.  Unless you’re making a cakey cookie, you’re not looking for “light and fluffy” here.

If you’re making a cake, make sure you cream on a higher speed for a longer period of time.  You want “light and fluffy” here.

So, what’s the big deal?  What happens during creaming is that the sugar crystals cut into the fat, making wee little pockets full of air.  The air in the pockets expands in the oven, assisting with rise.  The more pockets, the lighter and fluffier the mixture.  The lighter and fluffier the mixture, the more air.  The more air, the more rise.  Get it?  Cool, huh?

Now you can troubleshoot.  Were your cookies too puffy the last time you made them, try creaming at a lower speed for less time.  Was your cake kind of leaden and sad last time?  Try creaming longer at a higher speed.

So, Jen–what’s this about the temperature?  All your ingredients should be at cool room temperature.  That means milk, butter and eggs (and any other refrigerated ingredients) should be taken out of the fridge well before baking time.  Cool room temperature–about 68 degrees–is the magical temperature at which butter (a very yummy and useful fat) is soft enough to blend easily with other ingredients but still firm enough to keep its shape.  It’s “plasticity,” if you will.  That means that the butter can “stretch” to hold a lot of air.  In the creaming method, this is a Very Good Thing.

Why does the milk and eggs have to be at room temp, too?  Well, you’ve worked so hard to keep your butter plastic, the last thing you want to do is have it seize up again and get hard when you add 40 degree milk or eggs.

Now, go forth and cream away!

For an even more in-depth look at The Creaming Method , please see my Squidoo lens:  The Creaming Method.

Here are some items that you’ll probably want to acquire if you’re planning on making a lot of cakes. These are affiliate links, so if you buy through them, even though it won’t cost you any extra at all, I’ll get a few cents on the dollar to help us feed the kittens. Thanks!

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Comments

  1. says

    Funny – for “cool room temperature” we have set our thermostat to 80 degrees. 68 degrees would cause our utility budget to eat the cookies before we can go flour shoppin’.

    Seriously now (well, I was actually serious about the above statement!) – I needed to re-read about the slow creaming method. Duh! I’m whipping the living day bulbs out of my cookie batters because Icantwait. (No, this was not a typo – I really say “I can’t wait” this fast when I mean I can’t wait. For my cookies, that is.)

  2. Tracey says

    I want a Kitchenaid Mixer so bad now!

    Do you know how much they cost in Australia? In stores they retail at $799 AU ($729 US). Online the cheapest I’ve seen here is $649 AU. I have seen that they only cost about $300 US over there so someone is definitely making a lot of money on these!! :(

    • says

      Good lord, Tracey! That’s highway robbery! I will say that Electrolux makes an excellent mixer–not sure how they’re priced in Australia, but you might want to look into it. I don’t think I’d have paid USD729 for my KA, no matter how much I love him!

      • Tracey says

        I’ve mortgaged the house and ordered my Kitchenaid mixer this week.. :lol: So now all I can do is wait and stare lovingly at this page.. :) What shall I make first? Hmm, maybe some cupcakes? It’s sooooo got to be a cake! :lol:

  3. Tracey says

    My magnificent piece of machinery has arrived! I was going to name “him” Adam but since I could only get a white one it kind of didn’t sound right. If I had got the black one or the pearl metallic it would have been fine but alas it was not to be! So at the moment “he” remains nameless. :lol:

    Ok, so the vanilla cupcakes won due to the fact that parents have no rights these days. (Well, not when it comes to cakes anyway.) :) They were yummo! Oooh, and I even mashed my potatoes with it last night. Soon it will take over the world.. Muahahaha :lol:

  4. Nehaa says

    I forgot to add sugar while creaming fat for a cookie recipe, and mixed it in while adding flour. Would this be okay?

    • says

      For a cookie, it isn’t as critical as for a cake. You might notice a slightly denser and crumbly texture, but otherwise it should be okay. If it were a cake, I’d advise that you start over again since the creaming is crucial to both texture and rise. :)

    • says

      That’s a really good question, @de804f118551827b1cf3b026f1363815:disqus ! Not sure where you’re commenting from, but this method is used in a wide variety of American-style butter cakes such as pound cake and standard “birthday cakes” like yellow, white and chocolate. This method can be used with pretty much any cake that calls for solid fat, whether that be butter, shortening, coconut oil, cream cheese or any combination thereof. I hope that helps. Please let me know if you have any more questions.

  5. MummaShez says

    Fabulous video. Going to try this when making my sons 1st birthday cake (rainbow cake / layers of butter cake). Should I add the coloring at the seasoning step or when all is complete and ready to bake? Other videos only suggest adding coloring at the very end but I don’t want to lose any air….? Thank you for your time

    • says

      You know, that’s a really good question, and it’s also part of the reason that I don’t like to deal w/multiple colors of batter. I’m always very aware of the fact that, after I work really hard to make a beautiful, thick and billowy aerated batter, stirring will just a)increase gluten formation for a tougher cake and b)make me lose some air.

      When you’re dealing with multiple colors, you might just have to bite the bullet and go for it, understanding that the resulting cake may be a little bit more dense than you’d like. You can mitigate that by taking great pains to achieve a “perfectly” emulsified batter in the first place.

      My inclination would be to make several plain layers (no coloring) and then put a different color frosting between each layer so you end up with a frosting rainbow rather than a cake rainbow.

      I hope this helps. If it makes any difference to you at all, I am thrilled that someone is concerned about the cake texture more than the color! :)

      • MummaShez says

        Now that is a great innovative idea!!! Coloured icing instead of coloured cake! :) Sheer brilliance – I will try the cake recipe today as a test and if I’m happy with it as is I’ll opt for colored icing instead. Thank you for your time :) I’ll let you know how I go.

          • says

            I wouldn’t. I am pretty much completely ignorant when it comes to gluten free baking. It is pretty much an artform unto itself. Where do you live that you are unable to find “regular” all purpose flour? I find it a bit surprising that GF was all you could find. Let me know, and I’ll see if I can come up with some suggestions as to where to find some!

  6. kymm says

    Hi Jenni,
    I used this creaming method to make cupcakes today. My cupcakes didn’t rise as they often don’t even when I try different recipes. Why is this?

    • says

      I would have to know more information,kymm, like what recipe you used and exactly how you did your creaming method. What temp were your ingredients? How long did you cream? What temp was your oven, etc. I always get a great rise when I use the creaming method; I’m happy to help you troubleshoot if you give me more information! :)

  7. says

    Wow, I baked my first “from scratch” cupcakes today and they are heavy, dense, and leaden. I jumped onto dogpile and did a quick search, a nice lady on cupcakes.com posted a link to your site. I never knew any of this and I am so eager to try making cakes again. I really appreciate the information you have provided. Thank You, Patricia

    • says

      I’m so happy you found me, and thanks to whoever it was who posted a link to me on cupcakes.com, Patricia! I’m glad the info is useful. If you click on the Fundamentals Tab and go to basics, you’ll find lots of information on the mixing methods as well as ingredient function. And I am always around to answer any questions you might have! Baking from scratch is a learning curve, but if you learn the fundamentals, you’ll be fine! Welcome to my site; I’m so glad you’re here!

Trackbacks

  1. […] As far as I am concerned, fat is essential, both in cooking and in baking.  Even an extremely fit person has maybe 5% body fat, so I am comfortable with this statement:-)  Fat does amazing things in foods:  it is a medium for heat transfer, as in deep-frying, but it also carries flavors, add depth and richness to a dish and assists in the rise of baked goods (see:  creaming method) […]

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