The Creaming Method

3 Nov
You really need a stand mixer to do the creaming method.

You really need a stand mixer to do 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.
  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 along with my recommendations for some essential kitchen tools, please see my Squidoo lens:  The Creaming Method.

Here’s my Creaming Method video from my PMAT Live! video series:

25 Responses to “The Creaming Method”

  1. Chef Keem July 16, 2009 at 11:36 pm #

    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 October 14, 2009 at 10:11 am #

    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!! 😦

    • onlinepastrychef October 14, 2009 at 10:14 am #

      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 October 23, 2009 at 9:51 am #

        I’ve mortgaged the house and ordered my Kitchenaid mixer this week.. 😆 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! 😆

      • onlinepastrychef October 23, 2009 at 10:39 am #

        Oooh! Congratulations:) I agree, it must be a cake. I vote pound cake or angel food cake. Can’t wait to see what the inaugural recipe is!

  3. Tracey October 29, 2009 at 9:39 am #

    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. 😆

    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 😆

    • onlinepastrychef October 29, 2009 at 9:44 am #

      Sweet! I think if you airbrush him with some swirly blue and silver, you can still call him Adam! 😉

      • Tracey October 29, 2009 at 9:46 am #

        On it right away.. 😆 😆

  4. Alexia Lubin January 13, 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    Umm…i used this to make a cake it tasted great thankz pastry chef!

    • onlinepastrychef January 13, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

      So glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for letting me know. 🙂

  5. Ivan III October 1, 2010 at 3:10 am #

    Wonderful and informative video! I’m baking a cake for my mom tonight!


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