Clever and useful tips for your kitchen.
I often get asked how long should you beat butter and sugar when creaming it. There is no actual time that you need to aim for as there are a few variables that can affect how long it will take, including how soft your butter is, the proportion of butter to sugar, and the type of sugar you are using.
The best thing to watch out for is for how the mixture transforms as it is beaten. The more you beat it the paler in colour and lighter in texture it will become, but it will get to a point that it won’t change any more and this is the stage that you will know you have creamed it ‘enough’. If you are unsure of what you are looking for it is a good idea to take a small sample of the mixture at intervals as you beat and it will soon become clear.
This image shows a creamed butter and sugar mixture at five stages (from bottom to top): the first one is just combined, with the following samples taken at intervals of beating every 1-2 minutes. The final two samples (at the top), with no difference between them, indicate that the mixture has been creamed enough.
So remember, when creaming, it isn’t a matter of time, just a matter of transformation.read less
Ever wondered what would happen to the appearance of a cake if you reduce (or forget to add) the sugar? The white chocolate and almond cupcakes on the right have no added sugar (by mistake!) while those on the left have the normal amount of sugar.
Sugar is often only associated with sweetness (and calories) but it is also responsible for affecting many other characteristics of a cake, including how it looks. There are three ways in which a reduced amount of sugar can affect the appearance (all of which you can clearly see in this pic):
- Sugar promotes both the Maillard reaction (the reaction between proteins and sugar) and caramelisation which are both responsible for browning. This is why the cupcakes with more sugar have a darker, thicker crust.
- When sugar is heated during baking it dissolves and adds extra liquid to a mixture. This makes the batter thinner and more prone to spreading, which in turn, helps them to rise with a smoother surface. You’ll notice the cupcakes with less sugar haven’t spread as much and have retained a more definite shape.
- Sugar helps cake rise to their full potential by raising the coagulation temperature of the eggs, giving the mixture more time to rise and expand before the cake structure sets. This explains why the cupcakes with more sugar have filled the paper cases and those with less haven’t.