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"When a recipe says to cream fat and sugar until fluffy, how long does that take?"

"When a recipe says to cream fat and sugar until fluffy, how long does that take? I'm never sure if I've done it long enough or what the mixture should look like. Granulated sugar never really gets 'fluffy'. I know this can affect the results of the final product (in this case, a cake) and would appreciate knowing 'once and for all' the correct answer."

 

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This is a great question! Creaming is an extremely important step that ultimately has a big effect on the texture of a cake. As you cream, you are beating together fat and sugar with an electric mixer, or a wooden spoon and some muscle power. The jagged edges of the sugar crystals drag in air, lightening the butter in both color and texture. Begin by beating the fat (room temperature) well and then gradually add the sugar until the mixture does get light and fluffy. The length of time this takes depends on temperature of the ingredients and the power of the mixer—anywhere from 2 minutes to 3 or 4 minutes. Some recipes specify even longer periods of beating.
As a cake bakes, carbon dioxide released from leavens like baking powder and baking soda, gravitates to the air spaces created by creaming. As the batter heats, the honeycomb network of bubbles expands, making your cake rise and its texture light and tender.

It's interesting that carbon dioxide does not create its own resting places—it only gravitates to air pockets you have created through beating. So a well-creamed cake will be tender, with an even texture and good height. Happy cake making!

 

 

 

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