Ingredient temperature plays an important role in developing proper structure in many baked goods. Using room-temperature eggs, fat, and liquid is, “the key in achieving a nice, velvety batter.” This is especially true when it comes to butter.
When you beat room-temperature butter with sugar until the mixture becomes light and fluffy—this is called the creaming method—the sugar is able to perforate the butter and create tiny pockets of air. You’ll simultaneously get an even texture and more volume.
* Room temperature is generally around 70 degrees F.
Butter straight from the fridge will be stiff and difficult to beat. You will end up with fragments in your dough. Even in recipes that call for cold butter, like pie dough, it's possible for the butter to be too cold.
When butter is too soft, it won’t hold air, and your cakes and cookies will come out flat. “If warm or melted butter is used instead of room-temperature butter, none of that air will be incorporated."
When you’re making a cake with the creaming method, adding cold eggs or milk can curdle the batter. It will make the batter firm, leaving you with a lumpy texture. “Curdled cake batters tend to rise poorly, so the finished cake will be rather dense."
1. Ingredient fluidity – This is primarily a factor with butter since its level of plasticity changes greatly within a relatively narrow temperature range. If you stick butter in your batter straight from the fridge it will not distribute in your batter as well as room temperature butter and in turn will not properly coat flour proteins or allow for intake of air pockets during the beating process.
2. Emulsification – Both butter and egg yolks play an important role in the emulsification (joining of fats and liquids) of batter ingredients. Cold butter, as noted above, doesn’t distribute well enough to emulsify properly and, as with all chemical processes, emulsification (via butter or eggs) occurs slower and less thoroughly in a chilled setting.
3. Dissolving of ingredients – Sugar dissolves in varying degrees within a batter based on the temperature of the liquid ingredients. Too cold and it will dissolve very little, too warm and it will dissolve too much.
- cold ingredients lead to a coarse and heavy textured cake.
- room temperature ingredients allow for a fine texture and light mouthfeel.
- warm ingredients cause the cake to be more coarse in texture but retain the light feel.