Soften Butter Quickly with this Trick

Soften butter quickly with this trick. If you forget to let your butter come to room temperature ahead of time, use this quick and easy method.

softened butter cut into 10 pieces

If you find yourself baking more these days, take the time to review this helpful post. I’m so excited to republish it because understanding this crucial concept is key in your baking’s success.

Butter is the starting point for an immense amount of baked goods, so it’s important to have it prepped as the recipe suggests. But guess what? We’re all human and we forget to bring butter to room temperature first or we just don’t have the time. We make up for it by trying to heat it in the microwave, but it always ends up slightly melted. At this point, butter and sugar can’t cream properly leading to cookies over-spreading, dense cakes, overflowing cupcakes, and flat muffins.

Let me help.

Soften Butter Quickly with This Trick

Let’s dive into this a little further.

Why Softened Butter?

First, let’s discuss why you actually need softened butter for your recipe. I actually have an in-depth post about room temperature butter if you’d like to read further.

Most recipes calling for butter call for room temperature/softened butter. And there’s legitimate science involved for this particular consistency. 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.

  • It’s literally #1 in my top 10 baking tips: if a recipe calls for room temperature butter, use room temperature butter. It can’t properly cream with sugar otherwise.

creamed butter and powdered sugar

Room Temperature Butter is Colder than You Think

Room temperature butter is cool to the touch and about 65°F (18°C). This might be colder than your kitchen. When you press it, your finger will make an indent. Your finger won’t sink down into the butter, nor will your finger slide all around. To get that perfect consistency and temperature, leave butter out on the counter for around 1 hour prior to beginning your recipe.

a stick of softened butter

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.

How to Soften Butter Quickly

The best way to soften butter for a recipe is to set it out on the counter for about 1-2 hours. The amount of time depends on the weather and how cool you keep your kitchen. But we forget and/or we just don’t have time.

There’s a billion tricks to softening butter quickly, but the following is what works best for me. Here’s what you need:

  • water
  • butter, sliced into small pieces
  • microwave

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

glass measuring cup filled with water

Step 2: Microwave it for 2 minutes until extremely hot. Meanwhile, place butter in a heatproof bowl or on a plate.

glass liquid measuring cup filled with hot water

Step 3: Remove water from the microwave. Place butter inside. Quickly close microwave. (Our microwave is one of those models in the kitchen island. I love it!) Remove water from the microwave.

Step 4: The radiant heat will soften the butter in about 10 minutes.

glass bowl with butter inside on an opened drawer microwave

Keep This 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. Spread it out so the pieces of butter can warm up quickly and evenly.

More Tips to Make YOU a Better Baker

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glass bowl with pieces of butter inside

How to Soften Butter Quickly

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: softened butter
  • Category: Baking
  • Method: Microwave
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Soften butter quickly with this super easy trick.


Ingredients

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

Instructions

  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 minutes until very hot. Meanwhile, place pieces of butter into a heatproof bowl or on a plate.
  3. Very carefully remove water from microwave. Place butter in the microwave. Immediately close the microwave door to trap hot air inside.
  4. The radiant heat will soften the butter in about 10 minutes.

Notes

  1. The more butter your recipe calls for, the larger the bowl or plate (holding the butter) should be. Spread the pieces of butter out so they can warm up quickly and evenly. Thinner pieces will soften faster.

Keywords: 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 now know, this sabotages your recipe. Place eggs in warm water for 10 minutes and/or microwave dairy ingredients (not butter!) for about 10 seconds prior to using. Now go make perfect sugar cookies!

decorated sugar cookies

62 Comments

  1. 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! 

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. What a great tip. It works for me every time. Thanks for posting this, Sally!

  6. Thank you, I can’t wait to try this! I had no idea that the different forms were for specific reasons. And thanks for explaining how the creaming and the baking powder help create the texture. 

  7. Hippie2MARS says:

    I find the quickest way for me is to shred or grate the cold or frozen butter. I put mine through my salad shooter, and it works perfectly!

    1. What a wonderful tip! Thank you for sharing.

  8. Thank you for the tip, Sally. I came home from working the 3-11 shift and wanted to make lemon bars but need soften butter. I searched online and found your tip. Worked great. Lemon bars done. Goodnight!

  9. what if someone doesn’t have a microwave?

    1. You can just leave the butter out at room temperature for about an hour to soften it!

  10. Will this method work without cutting the butter into cubes? Will it soften okay with the butter in its whole state?

    1. Hi Nika! I don’t recommend keeping the butter whole, definitely cut into slices or cubes.

  11. I occasionally grate my butter to soften it quickly – but that’s mostly for toast, etc. It’s definitely more to clean up, and I wouldn’t be sure how much I left behind on the grater if I needed the butter for baking. In that case, exact measurements are more critical. Bottom line: this is a great technique. Thanks.

  12. Thank you so much for this! I am so grateful to have found it after reading your post on Room Temperature Butter! I recently moved to a reallt cold country and found that nomatter how long I leave my butter out it’s still too cold to cooperate and not pliable. Then shortcuts to make it soft but not too soft were not giving me the baked results I wanted. Been searching for an answer to work around this and finally found it!

    1. I’m so glad that you found it helpful!

  13. I softened butter by creaming it in the KitchenAid BEFORE adding the sugar and then creaming the two together. It’s always seemed to work for me but since no-one has suggested this method I’m beginning to doubt my own results. Are there any reasons why this isn’t a good idea?

    1. I believe that would soften the butter that way but it might still be cool and not at room temperature.

  14. Many thanks for this extremely quick reply, which is very useful. I’ll probably still go on creaming the butter first on those occasions I forget to take it out of the fridge in advance of baking (sadly, most of the time) but I’ll be much more careful to check that it is at room temperature before adding the sugar. Thank you too for your great recipes and for giving many of your ingredients in UK grams as well as cup measurements. This has been really helpful, although we are still having to cope with the frustration of not being able to buy solid cream cheese or graham crackers here!

  15. Awesome tip!! Just tried it out this morning while in a rush, and it worked great! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  16. Hi,
    Thanks for this quick method. It worked nicely for a batch of cookies. I had to do it twice but I had 2 sticks of butter to soften.

    Kathy

    1. You are welcome, Kathy!

    2. Holy cow a…HOW simple is THAT!! I live in Alaska so our “room temp” kitchen is CHILLIER than most. I bake A LOT of cupcakes and this will be a LIFESAVER in the organizational list of THANGS that need to be done ahead!
      THANK you soooo much and also from a GREAT fan,
      ❤️
      Annette

  17. How interesting. I always thought room temperature meant warm enough so it was really soft. But no! It should be slightly firm. Who knew! Maybe this is also why my cakes kept coming out a little dense.
    Thanks for the great – & easy – suggestion on how to change chilled butter into room temperature butter. Great idea & now I can’t wait to try it & see if I finally get a soft light cake.

  18. Thank you so much Sally, this is a great tip!!!! Greetings from Chile!!

  19. Hi Sally,

    Can you share how does perfect creamed butter and sugar look like and the steps? There are so many different schools of thoughts!

    1. This is a wonderful idea for a future Baking Tips post. Thank you so much for the inspiration and idea. You’re right, it can differ between bakers (and even recipes!).

  20. thanks for sharing. It’s a good reminder.

  21. Excellent tip! Thank you!

  22. Cheryl Saunderson says:

    I also read a long time ago to fill a tall drinking glass with the hottest water you can. Let the glass get really hot. Pour out the water and invert it over the stick of butter, which is standing on end. The heat of the glass softens the butter.

    1. Yes! Such a great tip!

  23. Hi sally, thanks so much for this tip to soften butter if you forget to leave out. This helps me so much. I enjoy all your recipes. Hope you are feeling well including the soon to be little one and everyone else.

  24. Thank you for this! Will come in handy for all those random cravings 🙂

  25. Susan M Torres says:

    Sally, great tip for room temp butter and other ingredients. I just made your scones, blueberry! In this re recipe everything had to be very cold! Your tips in the recipe are great. I kept the dry ingredients in the refrigerator while making the liquid ingredients. I got a little worried when I poured the dough onto my counter. It was difficult to get the dough to form a ball. I kept trying and realized it was because all the ingredients were very cold and/or frozen. Finally worked out well and the scones are a hugh hit.

    Thank you!

  26. Very helpful, thank you, Sally! I was just wondering, in your Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Muffins, can I replace the applesauce with vegetable oil or melted butter? Thanks!

    1. 3/4 cup of melted butter or oil would be too much in my Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Muffins. Instead, try using 1/2 cup of applesauce and 1/4 cup of either.

  27. That is a really neat tip Sally! I’m thinking it would also work for heating a bread roll or almost any food you want heated up a bit without drying out.

  28. I’ve also read that using a cheese grater and grating you’re butter makes it almost instantly room temp. Have you tried this?

    1. I personally haven’t, but maybe other readers have and can chime in!

  29. Wow, a tip that everyone can use! I didn’t realize until now that I over soften my butter most of the time. Sally, you never disappoint! Thank you!⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  30. Sounds good, but here’s a different tip that Trisha Yearwood shared on her tv show. Microwave at 40° power for 10 seconds. Keep your eye on it, & add at 10 second intervals as needed. I’ve ALWAYS had success w/this technique.

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