WHY IS THE TEMPERATURE OF BUTTER SO IMPORTANT?
The required temperature of 65 -70 degrees for softened butter (also known as room temperature) is important in having a successful end result with baking a cake. A hallmark of a great cake is having a soft crump that is light. Room temperature butter allows for air to be incorporated when the butter is creamed with sugar. The sugar crystals cut into the butter allowing for air to enter creating air pockets.
WHY NOT START OFF WITH COLD BUTTER?
You can, but it will be frustrating. The butter chunks will bounce around the bowl and the mixer will work hard until the butter comes up in temperature. If using a hand mixer, your arm will get quite a work out. The time for creaming butter that starts off cold right from the refrigerator can take about 15 minutes.
WHY NOT MICROWAVE THE BUTTER TO SOFTEN IT?
Most microwaves have a “ soften butter” feature. This feature will soften the butter, but it will also warm the butter up unevenly. Potentially, you can end up with melted edges and cold spots in the center. Using a stick of butter that has melted some will not result the creamy consistency.
In an article published by The Scientific American, Chad Mueller explains that microwaves use a radiation wave that flows through food utilizing the water in food to heat it. When the waves enter the food the moisture in the food vibrates and the friction from the vibration heats up the food in the microwave. The distribution of the energy is varied and results in hot and cold spots. Like other foods, butter contains water.
SUPER FAST METHOD TO SOFTEN BUTTER – A GRATER
This is my go to method. Almost always, I grate the butter right into the mixing bowl. The small pieces from grating the butter quickly bring the butter to a perfect temperature. In the bowl, the grated butter will look fluffy and much like grated cheese. This method does get the grater dirty requiring one more item to be washed, but it worth it with the quick results. To prevent your hands from becoming completely greasy, keep the wrapper on the butter stick and fold the wrapper back as the stick reduces in size.
ANOTHER FAST METHOD TO SOFTEN BUTTER
If you do not want to grate the butter, you can slice it in very thin slices. The thin slices reduces the overall density of the stick of butter and allows for quicker warming up. Butter that has been thinly slices should reach room temperature in about 15-20 minutes.
While waiting for the butter to come up to room temperature, this is a great time to prep for the recipe. Use this time to measure out all the other ingredients and prepare your baking pans.
WHAT ABOUT THE BOWL/CUP METHOD TO SOFTEN BUTTER?
This is not a method that I personally use, but there are many people that do like it. The steps are to place a stick of butter on a plate and cover the butter with a hot bowl or cup. You fill the glass with water and microwave the water until it is hot. Once the water has been heated, remove it from the microwave, pour out the water and place the bowl and/or cup over the butter on a plate. Leave the cup over the butter for about 5 minutes to allow the heat from the bowl/cup to soften the butter.
WHAT IS THE DOUBLE BOILER METHOD TO SOFTEN BUTTER?
Using a double boiler or a medium size saucepan filled with about 1/3 full of water, place a heat proof bowl on top of the saucepan. Place the butter in a heatproof bowl. The butter will soften as the water heats up. It is important to keep a close eye on the butter. It takes no time at all for it to start to melt.
WHAT IF THE BUTTER MELTS SOME ? CAN IT STILL BE USED IN A CAKE RECIPE?
I am sorry, but the quick answer is no. Butter is churned giving it it’s structure. The structure and function of the stick of butter is changed if it melts. When butter is melted (liquified), the components that gives it the density (fat and protein) separate and will not return to the original structure when cooled. The difference in the densities between the fat and protein is what prevents them from coming together when cooled.
PREFERRED METHOD TO SOFTEN BUTTER
If you do not have roughly an hour to wait for the butter to come up to room temperature sitting on the counter top, either grating the butter or slicing it into small pats. This is the preferred method to bring it up to room temperature. You will be guarantee to have your butter at the perfect softness ( room temperature) for creaming every time. Using a form of heat to soften butter potential can change the structure of the butter and ultimately greatly effect the end result of the bake. Why shave off a minute or two and potential not have the great outcome?