Is there an easy way to cream butter and sugar by hand?
Creaming does more than just combine the two ingredients. As sugar is rapidly mixed into fat, it creates millions of tiny air pockets that expand in the heat of the oven, giving baked goods lift. Skip the creaming step and your cakes and cookies may turn out squat and dense.
Creaming softened butter and sugar by hand using just a bowl and a wooden spoon is hard labor: It’ll take 20 minutes compared with the mere 3-minute hands-off sprint in the mixer. Our search for an easier way led us to an unlikely product: whipped butter.
We selected two recipes—one cookie and one cake—that started with a creaming step and made each according to the recipe using a stand mixer. Then we made each by hand, substituting an 8-ounce tub of whipped unsalted butter for the two sticks each recipe called for. To our surprise, the cookies were indistinguishable, and the cake made with whipped butter was every bit as fluffy as the one made according to the recipe.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Make sure to use pure whipped butter, not “light” butter or butter spread. Also, because it contains so much air, whipped butter must be substituted by weight, not volume. Lastly, cold whipped butter is relatively brittle and must be softened at room temperature before using; trying to speed things up in the microwave will cause both your butter and your baked goods to fall flat.