Here’s Why Your Homemade Cake Is Never Light and Airy

To bake a homemade cake that's light and fluffy, you might have to plan ahead. Here's what to do!

There’s nothing worse than meticulously following a classic cake recipe only to end up with a so-so cake. You did everything right: You weighed the ingredients like the pros do, and you certainly added everything in the right order. So what went wrong? Why doesn’t your homemade cake look more like a restaurant-quality dessert?

It all comes down to how you cream the butter, eggs and sugar. But having “room temperature butter” isn’t the only important factor in the equation.

What is Creaming?

Creaming is the magical step that creates a light and airy homemade cake. It describes the process of incorporating air into your batter, which (in conjunction with baking soda or baking powder) helps the cake leaven and rise.

Your recipe probably starts by beating the room temperature butter and sugar together. It’s really important that the butter is at the correct temperature (if you forgot to pull it out ahead of time, we have a quick-and-easy shortcut). Too cold and you won’t produce enough air bubbles. Too warm and the melted butter won’t bind with the sugar. Somewhere between 68°F and 70°F is just right.

Next, you’ll add the eggs (one at a time) to the creamed butter and sugar. This helps stabilize the buttery mixture, essentially creating an elastic structure that traps all those air bubbles inside. But, if the eggs are cold, the magical creation simply falls flat.

So… What Happens If You Add Cold Eggs?

Okay, so it’s NOT the end of the world if the eggs are cold. Instead of creating a light and fluffy cake, you’ll have an okay cake that lacks a heavenly chew. It’ll still taste good, but it won’t taste great.

You see, when you add cold eggs to your creamed butter, one of two things will happen. The first is pretty obvious when it happens: The eggs separate when they hit the warm, creamed butter. Instead of looking creamy, the mixture will look, well, curdled. You don’t have to throw away the batter because it will fix itself when it cooks, but your cake will probably collapse as it bakes.

The second thing that can happen is much less dramatic: The batter will fail to emulsify. Ideally, the fat from the egg yolks will perfectly bind with the fat in the butter. That’s why you want to add your room temperature eggs one at a time. Again, it won’t ruin the cake, but it will look like a wet mess and it won’t rise beautifully and perfectly when it hits the oven.

To save yourself the trouble, plan ahead and pull out your butter AND eggs ahead of time and let them come to room temperature. It’s safe to leave butter on the counter!

Test Your New Creaming Method

Now that you know how to cream like a pro, it’s time to give it a go. Try whipping up some of Grandma’s best cakes, including pound cake, upside-down cakes, cupcakes and more.

The Best Cakes from Grandma's Kitchen
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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.