Addictive Recipes from a Self-Taught Baker

Soften Butter Quickly with this Trick

Soften butter quickly with this super easy trick! on sallysbakingaddiction.com

It’s Halloween weekend, so I know you’re baking treats for all the festivities. Tomorrow is our celebration day where we’ll head on over to our friend’s house for a celebration. The pups, obviously in their costumes, are joining.

Here’s what I’m making:

I’ll be running around all day today and tomorrow– and I’m sure you will be too. Not only this, we’ve all got a million and one things to do this holiday season. Baking treats is a priority, of course– and we always try to prep as much as possible by reserving enough time for all the holiday goodies we’ll churn out of our kitchens. But guess what? We’re human. And we’ll forget to lay out our butter ahead of time. It’s still in the fridge, hard as a rock. So aggravating! We’ll make up for it by trying to heat it in the microwave, but it always ends up slightly melted. Then our butter and sugar never cream properly and our cookies spread everywhere. It’s a disaster.

Sound familiar? Let me help. It’s the return of baking basics!

Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Why Softened Butter?

First, let’s discuss why you actually need softened butter for your recipe.

Baking recipes calling for softened butter (aka like 99%!) typically have you creaming said butter with sugar. This step is crucial. Let’s revisit why: if butter is at its magic room temperature, the sugar effectively aerates the butter during that creaming process. It cuts into the soft butter pieces, whipping air into the base of your recipe. Then the baking powder and/or soda helps expand those little air pockets the creaming process created and your finished baked good is light, tender, and fluffy. Just as it should be because you followed the rules with the MAGIC that is room temperature butter. 🙂

If the butter is too soft and slightly melted, it can’t form those air bubbles. Rather, sugar simply dissolves. On the other hand– if the butter is too cold, it’s not pliable enough to cream and blend. Melted, softened, and cold butter cannot be used interchangeably in recipes as they all perform differently. It is critical you follow the recipe and start with the correct form of butter. While we’re at it, make sure it’s salted or unsalted as the recipe states!

For most baked goods, nothing beats softened butter– and the best way to always have it on hand is to just lay it out on the counter ahead of time. But we forget. No offense butter, but you’re not a priority in my day.

Soften butter quickly with this super easy trick! on sallysbakingaddiction.com

How to Soften Butter Quickly

There’s a billion tricks to softening butter quickly, but the following works like a charm each time. And it couldn’t be easier. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. water
  2. butter, sliced into small pieces
  3. microwave

Step 1: Pour 2 cups of water into a microwave-safe cup or bowl. I always use a liquid measuring cup.

Soften butter quickly with this super easy trick! on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Step 2: Microwave it for 2 – 3 minutes until boiling.

Soften butter quickly with this super easy trick! on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Step 3: Place butter into a heat-proof bowl or plate and into the microwave. (Our microwave is one of those models in the kitchen island. The microwave drawer so cool and sorta kinda futuristic looking!)

Soften butter quickly with this super easy trick! on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Step 4: Close the microwave to trap hot air inside. Butter will soften in 10 minutes.

Then you can use it in your recipe.

Soften butter quickly with this super easy trick! on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Keep in Mind

The more butter your recipe calls for, the larger the bowl or plate (holding the butter) should be. In other words, you don’t want a huge pile of butter in a small bowl. You want it slightly spread out so all the pieces can warm up quickly and evenly.

There ya go!

How to Soften Butter Quickly

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • butter (sliced into pieces)1

 

Directions:

  1. Pour 2 cups of water into a microwave-safe cup or bowl. I always use a liquid measuring cup.
  2. Microwave it for 2 - 3 minutes until boiling. Remove water from microwave.
  3. Place butter pieces into a heat-proof bowl or plate, then place into the microwave.
  4. Close the microwave to trap hot air inside. Butter will soften in 10 minutes.

Recipe Notes:

  1. The more butter your recipe calls for, the larger the bowl or plate (holding the butter) should be. You don't want a huge pile of butter in a small bowl. You want it spread out so all the pieces of butter can warm up quickly and evenly. Thinner pieces will soften faster.

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And there we have it! Perfectly softened butter, the base for millions of recipes. Including ♥  the best frosting ever ♥ 

How to make homemade rainbow chip frosting on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Further reading:

79 comments

  1. What a handy tip! I have a ‘soften butter’ button on my microwave but this tip is perfect for any time I need to soften butter for baking when I’m not at home.

  2. I’m definitely going to try this. I’ve always been unsuccessful when softening butter in the microwave. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Sally, you saved me this morning with this tip! I’ve got two loaves of pumpkin bread in the oven right now (the house smells great, of course). I needed to make them in a hurry this morning to bring to someone this afternoon, so I didn’t have time to soften the butter. Your method worked perfectly. Thanks! 

  4. This may not work for a couple months of the year, but here’s my go-to Texas tip:

    Put your still-wrapped butter on a plate and set it on a surface in your garage. It’s always warm/humid and won’t take near as long as sitting it out in the kitchen!

  5. I Love your cookie recipes and the research you have put into them!  Many of the recipes make only 2-3 dozen.  Do you have equally good results when you double the recipes??

    • For cookie recipes– typically yes. It’s rare when you can’t successfully double a cookie recipe. I usually always do!

  6. OH, I like this tip! Last Christmas I looked online for a tip and it said to put the butter in a giant ziplock bag and beat it with a rolling pin until soft. It worked but this is much less violent! lol

    I know I haven’t commented in forever – crazy life lately – but I do read diligently and you are still my favorite chef! 🙂 I am already making BIG plans for the cookie-a-thon this holiday season!

    Hope you are well! xo Christine

  7. This is so great to know! I always forget to put butter out ahead of time!

  8. Oh my goodness!!! Brilliant!! I just might actually start baking more! I am not good at planning ahead so that means very little baking because that softened butter step requires a little planning. Thank you!!

  9. Thank you so much for this tip. Will be using it soon.

  10. So – is the boiling water kept in the microwave when the butter is put in?

  11. A quicker way I use. Is to put the microwave on 30% (low) and put the butter in 20 sec at a time. If you put it on 100% (high) it melt, but 30% works a charm.

  12. I have a tip I got from the great Mary Berry (of “Great British Bake-off” fame), which will work if you don’t have access to a microwave (or even if you do). Cut your butter into 1cm/1/2″ cubes and put into a bowl. Cover the butter with warm (Mary says “about as warm as a baby’s bath”) water and leave for 10 minutes – put a timer on. Drain the water at the end of 10 minutes and the cubes of butter are soft enough for anything you want to do with them. If it’s good enough for the Queen of British Baking it’s good enough for me.

  13. Well… It didn’t work for me, but I am now placing the glass bowl with the cut up butter on the stove for about five minutes, as the oven is preheated…and we will see. Of course, to be fair my butter was frozen. I boiled  the water for a bit more time then was recommended, closed the door quickly shoved the butter in the glass bowl in to the microwave, and it’s still cold and hard. ☹️

  14. If only she had said to take the water out of the microwave and leave the butter in by itself, as others asked about. What a blunder. I went to the Pioneer Woman instructions which were so much simpler. Luckily, I had another cube of butter.

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