Creaming 101

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Creaming 101

By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

Creaming is the first baking step in most cookie and cake recipes. Usually, the directions read “Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.” Did you know that this is one of the most important steps if not THE most important steps in the entire recipe? If done correctly, it should take nearly 10 minutes to complete.


What is the Science Behind Creaming?
Creaming incorporates the maximum amount of air bubbles so a recipe will rise in the oven and be light in texture. It is done by beating with a hand mixer or standing mixer with a paddle attachment, the “fat” which is usually butter, first and then adding sugar, usually granulated white sugar, and creaming the two together. Fat can also mean vegetable shortening, margarine or lard.  The sugar can be white or brown.

When butter and sugar are creamed together, the rough sugar crystals cut into the fat, creating air bubbles that are held in by it. These small air bubbles serve as a nuclei for leavening gases and steam. If the fat and sugar is creamed correctly, the entrapped air is more evenly dispersed around the fat leading to more even rising.

It’s important to remember that leaveners simply enlarge the air bubbles that already exist in the batter; they do not create more. A cookie or cake will rise when leaveners, such as baking soda and/or baking powder, are moistened and heated. They release carbon dioxide which gravitate to the air bubbles and expand them like very small balloons. If not creamed properly, the result will be a cake that is lopsided, one that has not risen as high as it can or one that will first puff in the oven and then fall.

The proper way to cream…don’t skimp on time!
1.  Use the paddle attachment on your standing mixer or the beaters with your hand-held electric mixer.
2.  Make sure to use room temperature butter (around 65ºF) cut into 1” pieces, placed in the mixer bowl.
3.  Using your mixer, begin at low speed to first soften the butter. Then increase the mixer to medium, for approximately 1 minute, until it is smooth.
4.  Beat fat into a plastic-like consistency. Be mindful not to over-beat. Over-beating the butter can soften it too much, which will diminish its ability to trap and hold air.
5.  With the mixer still set on medium, slowly add in the sugar at the side of the bowl. The best way is to add it 1 tablespoon at a time, taking approximately 10 minutes to complete. If you don’t have the time, you can slowly add the sugar in a steady stream or in small clumps (brown sugar) at the side of the bowl while mixing. Make sure to scrape the sides and the bottom of your mixing bowl often with a rubber spatula.

How do I know when to stop the creaming process?
Stop creaming when the mixture becomes light in color and fluffy in texture.  The volume of the mixture will have increased and when touched, it should have the consistency of a thick gritty mayonnaise.

Paula’s Note:  if at any time during softening the butter or creaming, the butter starts to separate or break down, it is usually because it is too warm. To correct, place the butter or butter and sugar mixture in the refrigerator for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, even if half-way through creaming. This should chill and harden the fat so you can resume again.

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Leave a Comment

Reader Comments:

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I think you really know exactly how to do creaming.excellent job I learned a lot and more to what have already known. grin

By Anonymous on July 26, 2014

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Paula, Thanks for all the wonderful tips. Glad you are back. Dee

By Dee on March 07, 2014

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I found your website today. I enjoyed your article about Loquats. I remember loving them as a child, growing up in California. I found your chicken pot pie recipe. It is exactly what I am searching for. I love the way southerners speak. I hope to be moving south next year. I really enjoy food and food preparation. I am a member of a large brass band and like to take treats to practice sometimes, for our break. I am planning to make Chicken pot pie followed by red velvet cheesecake brownies for St. valentine's day. The band will get some brownies. I'll be checking in! I will need a good baked Ham recipe. Thank you. Best wishes, Holly Rose

By Holly Rose on January 26, 2014

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I was fighting my cookie baking for the last few years. NONE of my cookies were turning out and I couldn't figure out why. Well after reading this article I thought 'hmmmmm maybe I've been rushing the process.' So I followed this and have to say all the cookies I've made so far have turned out absolutely perfect!!!

By carol on December 20, 2013

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I really miss watching you... You're so fun to watch... I feel at home... when one door closes another opens... you are blessed...

By Dawn Holmes-Boone on December 12, 2013

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I SO MISS seeing you on TV! Glad you have a website!

By Cathyhochhalter on December 08, 2013

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What is the brand of the electric hand mixer you use on your cooking show? I have trouble making meringue for my pies.

By Bonnie Nixon on November 24, 2013

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Thank you Paula!Sometimes my fat and sugar do seperate and looks thin.But now I can refrigerate it

By Peggy Yost on July 18, 2013

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thanx Paula, that was a very good tip, sometimes my cakes are very heavy and i dont know why, tho i take alot of time creaming the butter and suger. should we still feel the suger grains after creaming ? plz help.

By anna on December 18, 2012

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Paula, thanks for the info. I often have not baked because I don't have a standing mixer with the bowl. I only have a hand held electric mixer. Now that I know I can use this I will bake more often. After all, I love to cook, maybe I will love to bake also.

By Susan on December 06, 2012

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thanks for the tip! this might be the reason why at times my cookie is rounded up or may be too flat.

By alyssa on December 30, 2011

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I never do this...maybe that's why my cookies turn out flat! Thank-you!

By lilshortchick82 on December 21, 2011

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"Serve as nuclei," not, "Serve as a nuclei."

By Lee on December 13, 2011

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I've been using my food processor to cream. My cookies always come out great, but now I'll more aware of the 'over beating' issue! Thanks for a great article!

By Amy Bagnall on December 05, 2011

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This was a great tip. I knew to let it beat for a while, but I didn't know about slowly adding the sugar. Learn something new every day.Thank you!

By Kris on December 01, 2011

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VERY interesting! I have been learning more about this step recently, but my mother always swore that the best cookies were mixed by hand, also! Whenever someone gave her a cookie, she knew when she ate it, if it was mixed by hand or not! I learned to make cookies by hand, but rely on my machine most of the time! She also would agree about butter temperature being important!!!! WOW...it made me think about the thousands of cookies she made every Christmas...mixing them by hand! Man, I miss her!

By Mary on November 27, 2011

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i love your show i watch it everyday... you are so funny

By sherry proctor on November 27, 2011

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im excited about reading your advise on creaming. this is a good lesson for me, i shall try this next time. thank you for sharing Paula!

By mere on November 04, 2011

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My grandmother would cream her butter and sugar by hand. It amazes me to this day how beautiful and smmoth it looked. I can do it by mixer, but to me it never looks as good as it did when she did it by hand. My grandmother died close to forty years ago. Her baking was legendary.

By mamatutu on July 05, 2011

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Thank you so much for the tip Paula! I love to bake and learned from my mom, but she always added all the butter and sugar together at the beginning and then started to cream. My cookies were always so flat, I can't wait to try this method now!

By Kandace on July 05, 2011

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