Here’s What Room Temperature Butter Really Means

Butter is the fine line between recipe success and recipe failure.

sticks of unsalted butter

Did you know that the temperature and consistency of butter will MAKE or BREAK your recipe? This means that recipe success or recipe failure is literally in the hands of your butter. And I’m not exaggerating.

But the good news is that you can control this!

Whenever I work through recipe failures with bakers like you, I always ask about the butter. Most baking and dessert recipes begin with room temperature butter. This does not mean very soft butter. In fact, room temperature butter is supposed to be cool to the touch.

And this is where some recipes are doomed from the very beginning.

Vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting and star sprinkles

These are my Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream.

Why is Room Temperature Butter Important?

“Butter softened to room temperature” is not listed just for fun. Recipe authors aren’t trying to make your life difficult when calling for room temperature ingredients. In fact, there’s legitimate science involved.

Most baking recipes begin with creaming butter and sugar together. Butter, a solid fat, is capable of holding air and the creaming process is when butter traps that air. While baking, that trapped air expands from the heat and produces a fluffy baked good. Not only this, room temperature ingredients bond together very easily since they’re warmer, creating a seamless and evenly textured batter. A smooth batter with trapped air = a uniformly textured and proper tasting baked good. Cold ingredients do not emulsify together. Period. This results in clumpy frosting, chunky cheesecake, dense cake, flat breads, and oily muffins.

In other words, complete recipe failures.

It’s literally my #1 baking rule: if a recipe calls for room temperature butter, use room temperature butter. It’s *that* important.

stick of room temperature butter

Room Temperature Butter is Colder than You Think

Room temperature butter is cool to the touch and about 65°F (18°C), which might be colder than your kitchen. If your cakes are dense, you’re probably softening the butter too much. And butter that’s too warm causes cookies to overspread. But guess what? You have complete control to prevent these problems.

Room temperature butter is a must for red velvet cake.

slice of red velvet cake on a white plate

How to Bring Butter to Room Temperature

Sit out: Allow the butter to sit out on the counter for about 1-2 hours before beginning your recipe. The amount of time depends on the weather and how cool you keep your kitchen.

Test it: To test the butter, poke it with your finger. Your finger should make an indent without sinking or sliding down into the butter. The butter should not be shiny or greasy. It will be cool to touch, not warm.

  • Sometimes our schedules don’t allow 1-2 hours for softening butter prior to beginning a recipe. Don’t take a shortcut and microwave the butter because it will not heat evenly. Even the slightest bit of melted butter means less aeration in your baked good. And, after reading above, you know that’s a big problem! But guess what? I have a foolproof trick for softening butter quickly. Works like a charm.

Sometimes It’s OK to Skip the Fuss

Don’t have time to waste on room temperature butter? Here are several recipes calling for melted OR cold butter:

And Always Remember

If a recipe calls for room temperature butter, make sure all other ingredients are room temperature as well. This includes eggs, milk, and sour cream. When cold ingredients touch creamed butter, the butter will cool down and solidify again. And, as you read above, this sabotages the recipe. Place eggs in warm water for 10 minutes and/or microwave dairy ingredients (not butter!) for about 10 seconds prior to using.

Almond cinnamon cupcake batter in a glass bowl

More Tips to Make YOU a Better Baker

Q: What do you think about room temperature butter? I hope this has been helpful to you. Now get your bake on this weekend!


  1. Oh thank you so much for sharing this, I didn’t know that the butter also had to be cool to the touch, or that if a recipe needed room temperature ingredients it meant the other ingredients like eggs etc should also be room temperature too. So much learning from one post!

    Emily | Snippets of Emily’s Life xx

  2. Dear Sally,

    I living in a tropical country..Indonesia. i only need 30 minutes for get the room temp butter
    But since you said, “It will be cool to touch, not warm”. Is it can be apply in tropical country ?

    Thank you Sally.

    1. Hi Fonny! It may not take an hour for the butter to be perfectly softened in your kitchen. Use the finger test or take the temperature 65°F (18°C).

      1. Hi Sally. I live in a tropical country ans new to baking. To get butter at room temperature is less than an hour here and the outer layer normally already too soft compare to the core/inside of the butter (people usually sell butter in 250g pack around 1 cup in this country). May i know if there is any accurate way of gauging the temperature of the butter so that i can bake my cookies consistently.

    2. I live in a desert, with similar problems. I found that cutting my butter into tablespoons (or whatever is convenient in your country, TBS are marked in the US) allows it to come to room temp more quickly and evenly.

  3. 65 degrees, genius! I always leave butter out to get it to “room temperature”, but good to know there is an actual metric for when room termerature is reached. According to this post, I have sometimes left butter out too long. Baking is definitely a science. I weigh all my large quantity dry ingredients out in metric and will now be temping my butter as well.

  4. Thank you so much – this article was super helpful and provided the ‘reason’ for some runny cookies.

    1. You’re very welcome!

  5. I’ve learned so much on this tutorial! I did have a question when it comes to wanting to do brown butter for recipes that typically just call for regular room temperature butter. Is it possible to make the brown butter, throw in the fridge to let it chill, then sit it back out to get to room temperature, or is there another way to make it work?

    1. Yes yes yes! I actually do this in a couple recipes: Brown Butter Pound Cake and Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

      Depending on the recipe, sometimes you will need to add additional liquid such as a Tablespoon or 2 of milk.

  6. Mary Casperson says:

    I have learned so much Sally from all of the things you have talked about ie. mentioning all the other ingredients and not just the butter (unsalted have learned and bought some as well. I copy on paper to learn my recipes and you are so good at explaining things – thank you so much… Question i’m looking for tsp and tbl spoons on up the line that actually fit in what am trying to get them in – like long ones of yrs ago that fit in baking soda box etc..

    1. Hi Mary – Look for measuring spoons labeled as for “spice jars” I have ones by a company called “RSVP Endurance” that are quite good. Long handles, accurate measure, and narrow shape to fit in spice jars.
      Good luck!

      1. Also check out Zulay Kitchen magnetic measuring spoon set (available on Amazon, Target, and directly from Zulay Kitchen website). They are double ended spoons, one being rounded the other long and narrow to fit into the jars. The bottoms of each spoon are also slightly flattened so they don’t roll around on the counter. Being magnetic, they stay together keeping your drawer neater and making the desired measurement easy to find.

  7. Hi Sally,
    Thanks for this article. Very informative! I already knew about baking with unsalted butter but not the 65 degree room temperature fact. So, I just made two batches of chocolate chip cookies and thought I had the butter temp correct. My first batch spread and the dough was a bit sticky. I really thought the second batch had warmer butter because it was shiny, but the dough was not sticky and the cookies were thicker and more dense. Any idea what might have caused the difference?

    1. Hi Beth Ann! So glad this was helpful for you. The only thing I can think of is that the 2nd batch had a longer period of time to absorb more of the butter, meaning the cookies didn’t spread as much.

  8. Hi Sally,

    Thank you for the helpful tips. I do have one question. I took butter out to softened but i didn’t use it so i put it back in the fridge after three hours. is it ok to bring the same butter to room temperature again tomorrow to bake a cake and will this change the outcome of the cake?

    1. The butter should still be just fine, Nati!

  9. After baking for decades, this is the most helpful article I have ever read. I am about to make sour cream apple muffins for friends. Eggs and sour cream are now on the counter to warm to room temp. Thanks so much.

  10. I learn SO MUCH from you! Thank you.

  11. When softening butter, I tend to leave it on the counter but not as long as I should for softer cookies. Would it be better to slice it for better results?

    1. Yes you can slice the sticks of butter to soften it a bit faster. If you forget to take your butter out you can also use my trick to quickly soften butter!

      1. Thank you I will try it the next time I make cookies.

  12. I have been trying for years to recreate a sprinkle ice cream cookie sandwich and have always struck out because the cookie would be too dry. Well I finally did it with this recipe! I double the recipe and made two pans of the cookie. Let them cool and popped them in the freezer for a couple of hours just so the cookie was cold and wouldn’t melt my ice cream. Then spread softened vanilla ice cream on one and popped the other cookie layer out of the pan and put it on top. I wrapped it in plastic to tighten all the layers up and put it back in the freezer again it was perfect!
    I did this for Valentine’s Day and used red and pink sprinkles. When I cut the squares I rolled them around in more sprinkles they stuck to the ice cream on the sides. They were a huge hit an

  13. Thank yo so much for the article on room temperature and softening butter. A tremendous help ! I have two suggestions that would also be helpful to me and maybe others. My really big problem is “cream butter and sugar together” I have no idea how to do this. I have read and watched videos and I just don’t seem to get it right. The sugar never dissolves completely–is that ok? My second problem is high altitude adjustments. I am at 3500 feet–not really a great difference, but it is within the range where it is suggested you start to make these adjustments. Do you have any reference as to what adjustments to make for cake and cookies? Thank you

    1. Hi Anne! Creamed butter and sugar will look different depending on the recipe. Some recipes call for a lot of sugar and only a little butter and therefore, the mixture will be a bit grainy. Regardless, though, creamed butter and sugar will always have sugar granules. You aren’t cooking the two together, so don’t expect it to be smooth of granules– just smooth without any large lumps. I don’t have any experience baking at high altitude, but I know some readers have found this chart helpful:

    2. Hi Sally, fantastic post, thank you. Recently my cupcakes haven’t been as light and fluffy as normal and thankfully I think I’ve found the answer after reading your post. I never realized room temp actually had a temperature, I just knew to leave it out of the fridge for a couple of hours, obviously a couple of hours in winter is different than a couple of hours in this climate!!! My butter has been aay too soft!! Can I just check the temperature the eggs should be? Does it matter if they’re to warm aswell?
      Sorry for the long post xx

      1. I’m so glad you found this helpful, Julie! The eggs need to be room temperature but they aren’t quite as exact as the butter. You obviously don’t want them warm enough to cook them 🙂 You might also enjoy reading the post Room Temperature Ingredients Make a Difference which explains not just butter, but all ingredients!

  14. Jopai Magante says:

    I have been following your recipes and posts and I’m really learning from you! I’m getting good in baking because of you!

    1. Thankyou for replying so quickly . I’ll definitely be read your post on the temperature of the other ingredients aswell x

    2. Jonathan Magnes says:

      What about using a butter crock, then it will always stay at room temperature. I suppose you’d have to cool it a bit before usage then, if it’s not stored at 18°C. I might just get a scale with thermometer included.

  15. Sally,
    My question is about creaming the butter and sugar. I had a home ec teacher “back in the day” who used to make us continue creaming until the butter and sugar were super whipped with peaks. Is this necessary for the best product, or do you simply have to cream just enough until the butter is completely mixed with the sugar?

    1. Hi Marcia, thank you so much for asking. Unless a recipe specifically calls for the butter and sugar to be whipped into peaks, it’s not necessary. Simply cream the two together until light in color, creamy, and a bit fluffy looking. Usually a recipe will specify an amount of time, such as 2 minutes on medium-high speed.

  16. This may be a silly question, but should I use room temp cream in your white frosting recipe??

    1. Hi Sue, I like to use room temperature liquids in frosting. I find the frosting is less likely to appear curdled (which happens when you mix cold and room temperature liquids).

  17. Christopher J Wells says:

    I use a tall thick coffee mug. Stand a stick of butter on its end. I use an electric kettle that gets the water very hot. Pour the hot water into the mug. Let the mug sit for a min to let the water heat it. Then pour the water out and place the mug upside down over the butter. in about 5 min you have room temp butter, if the butter is frozen it may take heating the mug up again 3 times. I find I get a more even fast butter softening that the steam in the microwave.

  18. I mixed up cookie dough with butter that is way too soft. I baked five cookies snd they spread out paper thin. If I chill dough overnight will this correct issue?

    1. It will help, but adding a little extra flour would be beneficial too. See if you can beat in 2-3 extra Tablespoons of flour before chilling the dough overnight.

  19. thank you thank you thank you
    I have been trying to make spritz cookies without success I live in Florida and keep my home between 76 and 78 degrees I have turned on my air conditioning and put my butter back in the fridge. Will use my probe thermometer to make sure both the butter and the dough is at the right temp

  20. Hi Sally, I wanted to ask if its suitable to use margarine instead of butter? btw love your recipes! I’m still relatively new at baking and trying to learn as much as I could so your tips and tricks have helped a lot 🙂

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lara, If a recipe calls for butter we strongly recommend using real butter and not margarine. They are made of different ingredients (fat vs oil) so will yield different results.

  21. When I need baking guidance, I always check here or King Arthur Flour sites first. Almost 9 years ago, I started my baking journey as gluten free. Now having found a reduced gluten (weak) flour and using regular recipes – baking is such a “walk in the park.” From gooey, unforgiving batters that turned into sand granules three days later, to sticky, manageable dough’s. Nirvana!

    I believe that if one is addicted – like you – that one – like you – knows all the rules but is forever learning! I love the science behind why things work and baking is no exception.

    Happy 2021. XO

  22. Thanks, Sally for always explaining the game-changing details. I have taken up baking after 72 years without so much as lifting a mixing bowl and your site is a great support system. I always go there first not just for recipes but for tips that make the difference between an adequate bake and a great one. I’ve recommended SBA to friends who, like me, only came to baking because of the pandemic and are now loving it!

  23. Amanda Williams says:

    Hi sally, whenver a recipe calls for beating butter with a whisk, all the butter gets stuck INSIDE the whisk and it’s SO annoying. Seriously. I’ve heard that using really soft butter can change the problem. But then I got really confused when you said in this post that the butter shouldn’t be too soft. Could you clarify this? Thanks!

    1. I always had this problem too, when mixing by hand! I find that it’s much easier if you use a wooden spoon. There’s a couple of videos on Youtube about it, I think. If you search for “how to cream butter and sugar by hand”

      If you’re talking about using a mixer, well you just have to be patient, I guess? Haha

  24. Excellent explanation. Thank you so much.

  25. I have recently started making spritz cookies using my mom’s tried and true recipe.
    I have made 4 batches so far and they taste great. However, my big question is about room temperature, soft butter.
    For the first batch, I used your method for softening the butter. I didn’t think it got terribly soft, and maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be when adding the sugar. Not too soft and not too warm. However, the dough stuck very well to the cookie sheet using the cookie press.
    For the other 3 batches, I slightly softened the butter in the microwave. To me, it was the perfect softness and seemed to mix well with the sugar. However, the dough had a really hard time sticking to the pan when coming out of the press.
    Any thoughts on the different butter softening methods and the dough sticking to the pan?
    Thanks –

    1. Hi Julie, you really want butter that is cool to the touch. It sounds like the 1st round of butter was ideal since the cookie dough was sticking to the pan (and not the press). It sounds like the cookie dough after that was simply too soft– and that’s why it was sticking to the cookie press. I hope this helps!

  26. Katherine E Heistand says:

    Hi Sally,
    I just moved into our motor home which has a microwave/convection oven. When making these cookies, should I reduce the temp to 325 and lessen the cooking time by a few minutes?
    Thanks so much,

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Katherine! Yes, the general rule is to lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees F if using convection heat. And the bake time may still be shorter so check your baked goods a few minutes early.

      1. Katie Heistand says:

        Thanks so much for the advice. I love to cook/bake and want to continue even though having only a microwave/convection can be challenging. Smaller batches and finding the right heat is the ticket

  27. Becki Jameson says:

    I leave my ingredients out overnight so I can bake as soon as possible in the morning. However, during winter, the butter never seems to soften, despite being out 8+ hours. I do cover milk in its measuring cup with tightly stretched plastic wrap. I keep the butter wrapped. But, I measure the temp. at 68F for the butter, yet the finger press test shows it’s still unyielding. Is it because of less humidity in winter? Seems perfect at 72F in my proofing box, which has a water tray for humidity.

    1. Less humidity and drier air account for this, yes. Do you recipes turn out appropriately when making them with the 72F butter? You may want to try the 68F butter even if it doesn’t feel and look right with the finger test.

  28. If I use a darker loaf pan [i don’t have a light one] should I lower the temperature by 25 degrees? Will it burn the bottom of my banana bread?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Anna, If your pan is very dark you can try lowering your oven by 25 degrees F. Just be sure to use a toothpick to check for doneness. A toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf will come out clean when the bread is done.

  29. I usually leave my butter in the cupboard from when I buy it because I like to spontaneously bake very frequently, all my stuff turns out well I think but after reading this I’m questioning my ways. Do you think this is an issue?

    Also thank you so much you’ve turned me into a baker! I love your website and since I found it I’ve been baking all the time, I used to bake sometimes but thought I hated it compared to just cooking, I’m a 19 year old guy and now I picture myself baking frequently for my whole life! I’m in love and you’ve changed my whole opinion of baking and your thorough guidance has allowed me to perfect cookies and experiment with anything under the sun! Keep up the amazing work.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Justin, thanks so much for your thoughtful note! We’re happy to hear you’ve been enjoying all our recipes and baking tips. You can use your best judgement regarding storage of your butter, but we recommend keeping it in the fridge until you’re ready to use, then bringing it to room temperature before baking.

  30. Hi Sally

    I love you recipes and I have tried your Black Forest cake recipe it’s delicious.I also tried the vanilla cake recipe but it was not soft and was Dry.I’m in Uk can you please help me which butter in need to use

    Thank you

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Fran! Any standard unsalted butter should be perfect for our vanilla cake. Here’s some more tips for preventing a dry or dense cake as well!

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