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. I happen to have beaters that will warm butter as you cream and does in a pinch if you forget to take butter out ahead of time. It seems to work well and we love every one of your recipes that I’ve made so far. I made my first pie crust the other day and it was amazing!

  2. Beverly Hinton says:

    Hi Sally;
    This does not refer t the butter but to No Knead White Bread.
    When I bake it, it comes out beautifully except the bottom is very crusty and very hard to cut through. I use a small iron roasting pan to bake the bread in. Do you have a suggestion on how to prevent this?

    1. The bread could be over-baked or it could be the roasting pan you are using. Is this my artisan bread recipe? Feel free to email me if you’d like to troubleshoot!

    2. Slide a cookie sheet in on the rack beneath your baking pan. It’ll block the direct heat and not over bake the bottom of your loaf.

  3. What a great tip! I think I have over softened my butter frequently! I may never take it out ahead of time again. Your teaching is excellent thank you for the tips.

  4. Thanks for the tip sally, I am one of those who do impromptu cooking and don’t always have room temp ingredients and wondered why my cookies didn’t turn out.
    Thanks

  5. Jean Gibson says:

    Sally, This is a great tip! I made your Coconut Cake today for my husband’s birthday dinner. He absolutely loved it, and so did I. It was just perfect, delicate, moist, delicious. Thank you! I love how detailed your recipes are!

  6. Thank you for sharing this valuable tips Sally. For someone like me who doesn’t bake a lot,tips and technique like this is really helpful..

  7. GENERALMENTE ESTO ME SUCEDIÓ EN LOS MESES DE INVIERNO QUE TUVE QUE POSTERGAR MI RECETA PARA EL DÍA SIGUIENTE, CON EL FIN DE QUE LA MANTEQUILLA SUAVICE. EN LOS MESES DE VERANO ES SIN PROBLEMAS.
    GRACIAS POR TUS CONSEJOS

  8. Good to know that works too! It was perfect the first time. I learn so much from you as well! Wow great post.

  9. Hi Sally, I have been following you since before your engagement but I’ve not commented till now. I love everything you and follow closely… just quiet I guess. …. I wanted to share with you a tip for softening butter that I learned from Mary Berry. She tells us to slice butter, as you have, but then leave it in the bowl and add barely warm water. It all happens very fast… maybe 3-4 mins. Best of all it works beautifully. Maybe this would be helpful for those without microwave ovens. Like me! God’s blessings on you and yours and thanks so very much for years of beautiful baking.

  10. Elizabeth McGann says:

    I have followed this tip dozens of times, and it works 100% of time! Thank you!!

  11. Gloria Gomperts says:

    Hi Sally,
    I put butter out on my counter last night to make cookies but when I got up in this morning, I realized that after a hectic day I forgot that the
    butter was still on the counter. It was still in it’s original shape but VERY soft. So I put it back into the freezer and now I’m wondering if I can still use this butter to make cookies after I defrost & soften it properly.
    Thank you,
    Gloria

    1. It should still be ok, Gloria!

      1. Gloria Gomperts says:

        Thank you so much Sally,
        I appreciate your prompt response and also wish you the best with the arrival of your precious new bay girl!
        Gloria

  12. Sally: I have a convection/microwave oven (an expensive Kitchen Aid appliance that came with my house) that has a setting for softening butter (as opposed to melting which is separate option) which I have used for one kind of cookie I make often and it works well as my cookies do not overspread. I’ve only just discovered your website so I’m wondering if you would think this setting would work for softening butter to room temp. for your other recipes which I hope to try. I do cheat a bit — my recipe calls for 1.25 C butter (2 sticks plus a 1/2 stick) and the microwave accommodates up to 2 sticks so I tend to set it for 2 sticks only – just to be on the safe side and let the butter sit for a short time before I use it. I was so excited to find this capability but I don’t want to assume this setting would work for items beyond my cookies. What do you think?

    1. Hi Kim, If you have this setting then it should work any time you need room temperature butter! My only caution would be to make sure your butter isn’t too warm. Here’s What Room Temperature Butter Really Means.

  13. Will overly softened butter still affect the spread of my cookies if i chill the dough overnight?
    Thanks!

    1. Unfortunately, yes. Because it was too warm when creaming with the sugar(s), so it wouldn’t have properly aerated.

  14. Gloria Gomperts says:

    HI Sally! I’m wondering if you might have a good simple recipe for creamy rice pudding. There are so many out there but they are so technical and the ones that I have tried were not as good as I had hoped for. I realize that there are certain concerns to abide by but even then, the ones I tried weren’t all that wonderful and they left me feeling like something was missing ;(
    Thank Sally!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Gloria, We don’t have a recipe for rice pudding. Let us know if you find a good one!

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