A quick glance through the instructions in many cake recipes will normally lead you to find references to ‘creaming the mixture’. If you’re a newbie to home baking, or have previously stuck to ‘all in one’ recipes, you may be thinking ‘but I’m not making a cream cake!’ Well don’t panic, because our simple steps will have you creaming cake mixtures with confidence in no time at all.
The main purpose of creaming a mixture is to introduce air. It’s at this first stage in the cake making process that you begin combining your ingredients that the vital air which gives a light and tasty sponge is added.
First of all, you add the butter and sugar into your mixing bowl as per your recipe. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using caster sugar, light muscovado sugar or a mixture of the two, the creaming process is exactly the same. You’re blending the first two ingredients together to make sure they’re really well mixed before your eggs get beaten into the mixture.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when creaming the butter and sugar together is not making sure their butter is softened properly. Make sure your butter is soft and squidges between your fingers and you’ll have no problem combining it with the sugar. If your butter is too hard, you’ll find it difficult to mix with the sugar and will likely even have little lumps of butter in your mixture that prevent it from baking properly when it goes in the oven. A sign of ingredients that didn’t mix properly is crystallisation around the edge of your cake.
The next pitfall is making sure you blend the ingredients fully. It’s nearly impossible to over-mix the sugar and butter when creaming. A good 5 minutes with the mixer will ensure your butter is well combined with your sugar and ready for the egg to be beaten in to. Remember to also scrape down the sides of your bowl to ensure any mixture that splashes up the sides gets thoroughly combined too!
I always use a hand-held electric mixer, as I find it does a brilliant job of blending the ingredients together. Also, compared to a standard mixer, you can see the ingredients as they mix so you know they’re getting combined evenly. With practice, you’ll notice the colour of the ingredients get paler and the mixture becomes lighter and fluffy, similar to whipped cream – hence the name ‘creaming’!
Once your 5 minutes of creaming are up, you’re ready to continue with your recipe and add in your eggs, followed by flour and any additional items such as cocoa powder, raising agents, liquids to help the mixture combine or fruit. Then it’s just a case of dishing it into your tins and waiting patiently by your oven as the delicious taste of baking cakes fill your home.