So many delicious cake and cookie recipes begin with one simple, yet important, ingredient: room temperature butter.
Firm enough to maintain its shape but soft enough to be whipped and creamed with ease, room temperature butter is essential for making smooth batter and lightly-textured baked goods – but how do you do you soften frozen butter to room temperature without melting it?
Whether you’re making chocolate chip cookies, a soft yellow cake or whipping up some homemade buttercream frosting, these tips and tricks for how to soften butter quickly to temperature butter will help you churn out better bakes in no time!
Why is room temperature butter important?
To understand why room temperature butter is important, we have to go back to the first stage of most baking recipes – creaming butter and sugar.
The harsh crystals of granulated or brown sugar work to aerate your butter, digging small pockets into the butter which help trap air. While your cake or cookies are in the oven, the trapped air expands, thus giving you fluffy and tender baked goods.
If the butter is too cold, the sugar can’t penetrate the butter and air pockets are unable to form. This could result in clumpy batter or uneven bakes. The same goes for butter that is too warm. Melted or liquid butter will thin out your batter, giving you ultra-flat cookies or cakes that are dense and uneven.
How to get butter to room temperature
So what’s the best way to soften your butter to that perfect temperature? There are a few ways to go about it:
For a quick fix, you can use the microwave; however, be careful not to melt your butter to a liquid state. Heat your butter for 2 to 5 second increments on the lowest power until the desired temperature is reached.
2. Double Boiler
Similar to the microwave, a double boiler can help bring your butter to room temp, but you have to be careful not to melt it completely. For this method, bring a pot of water to a slight simmer (not boiling). Remove from heat. Place cubed cold butter in a large glass bowl and set it over the pot of hot water until desired temperature is reached.
3. Cutting the Butter
Perhaps the easiest and safest way to bring your butter to room temperature is to simply let it sit out at room temperature! If you have the time, take your butter out of the fridge about an hour before you begin baking. If your kitchen is too hot and your butter melts beyond room temp, put it back in the fridge to harden slightly.
For a quicker take on this method, simply cut your butter into slices and arrange on a plate. Place near the oven or in a warm part of your kitchen to soften.
How to test if butter is ready
1. Fingerprint Test
This is a quick way to make sure your butter is soft enough for creaming. Simply press your finger into the butter. If it makes an indent easily without your finger sliding anywhere, you’re good to go. If your finger comes out greasy or it goes through the butter easily, your butter may be too soft. Simply place it back in the fridge to firm up a bit before trying again.
2. Thermometer Test
For a more scientific method, you can use a thermometer to measure the temperature of your butter. For proper room temperature butter, you’re looking for an internal temp somewhere between 65 and 67 degrees F.
When to use chilled or melted butter
While room temperature butter is very common for most cookies and cakes, there is a time and a place to use cold or melted butter.
Delicious flaky layers in pie crusts and pastries come from using small pieces of cold butter. This butter should be very firm and cold to the touch. Using cold butter for pastries and crusts gives the butter time to melt during baking, leaving behind small air pockets that produce flaky layers.
Melted butter is key to making chewy cookies and bars. It should be fluid and slightly warm to the touch, but not hot. Using butter that’s too hot could ruin other ingredients in your batter (for example, it can cook your eggs or curdle other dairy products). Melted butter is also great for holding a mixture together, like a graham cracker crust or rice cereal treats.
Ready to put your skills to the test? This Classic White Cake or Basic Yellow Cake are made even better using room temperature butter. Or try this Louisiana Crunch Cake or these delicious Oat Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies!
What’s your tried and true method for softening butter? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to tag us @wiltoncakes on Instagram so we can see your delicious creations!
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