Something about ‘The Creaming Method’
For those unaware of the vocabularly, the 'Creaming Method' refers to the initial stage of making most cakes, cookies, muffins etc, where the butter and sugar are mixed to a specific consistency before the addition of other ingredients.
There are copious amounts of opinions and beliefs when it comes to using the Beater or the Whisk for the Creaming stage of baking. I too, am going to share my two cents, why not right? I'm a firm believer that if you have found a way, a method that provides near perfect results, then you should roll with it. The "conventional" way is not necessarily the best way. As such, I firmly believe, after having thoroughly tested both tools, that the Beater is your friend for Creaming. I wont complicate things; a Whisk is used to aerate a mixture, a Beater is used to mix a mixture. In this case, we don't want to so much as fluff up the mixture as we do mix the ingredients together to create a smooth and light result.
Do not even attempt to use other kitchen gadgets such as a hand held mixer or food processor - they wont get the job done to a high quality level, and at 'Something about Cake', 'Quality' is our favourite word.
Moving on to the ingredients themselves, specifically the butter (fat) as is the star of this particular show. It is absolutely imperative, and a tip I cannot stress enough, that the butter be at room temperature. This means it should not even have the slightest chill from the fridge nor should it be at the point of liquid melting. I swear guys, this tip is as simple as it sounds but it the most important point in finishing with a perfectly creamed batter. Lots of recipes say to cut the butter up in cubes, I'm never this fussy, a few rough chunks to ensure an easier distribution is perfectly fine.
The next tip I have is regarding the speed of your mixer. There is a perfect medium when it comes to the speed you should beat at, basically its not too fast and not too slow. If you laughed at that, thinking well that doesn't help much - all I can say is, you know your mixer better than I do, you'll need to find a speed that is not "slow" to the point the mixture doesn't begin to come together instantly and not too "fast" to the point you're stressing the ingredients out. For those of you whom have a KitchenAid, speed 4 is perfect.
What actually is happening when you beat the butter and sugar together is that the sugar granules are cutting tiny holes into the butter - this incorporates air and causes the butter to soften and increase in volume.
So how do you achieve the perfect Creamed Mixture?
With the advent of the more powerful mixers around today, gone are the days of having to whip the butter and sugar mixture on high speed for several minutes to achieve high quality results. Speaking generally (of course it will depend on the quantities of butter and sugar you're working with) after you've been beating the mixture for 3-4 minutes you’ll notice the batter change drastically in colour and texture. At this point, you may need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides if any batter looks to be stuck, but if not, do not disturb the mixture. Give it another minute or so of mixing and you should be ready to switch the mixer off. A perfectly creamed mix will be moist and light in colour and texture. The sugar should be nearly fully dissolved so you barely feel any grit when you rub it between your fingers.
The way to identify if you've Under-creamed your mixture is if it has a wet sand or damp cornmeal feel.
If you've Over-creamed, your mix will have the feel of oil and sugar on your fingers, much like a facial scrub/exfoliate.
Happy baking, creating and eating.