Is my butter's temperature the reason for difference in my batter texture? I recently am noticing that if my butter is too soft the batter has a curdled like appearance. Looks as if it is baking up perfectly but then the last few minutes gets really browned on top. The cake is super fluffy and perfect on the inside but the top (especially with cupcakes) gets a little crisp to it. On this particular occassion I did not take my butter out the night before to bring to room temp and I was impatient so I softened on low power (20%) for 30 seconds to speed things up. Perhaps the butter was too warm?
i cut up my butter into smaller fairly uniform pieces but i use it just about right out of the frige for cake batters--eggs too
with stand mixers so prolific now and those having 'planetary' action--i had a pastry chef friend of mine convince me that the idea of room temperature ingredients is a thing of the past for a lot of applications
that planetray action means well orchestrated friction and friction of course produces heat enough to get your butter where it needs to be very efficiently--let the mixer do the work--she said to me--i think she was right
plus i am also convinced that in recent years more and more water has been added to our butter
it's about 15% water 80% fat and 5 % milk solids give or take anyhow
and yes heating your butter in the microwave can release the water, melt it too much and it can mess up your recipe
the only time i really let my butter warm up is for icing--swiss meringue bc
i'd never let it set out over night. never
i let it set out for 30-45 mins an hour or so maybe like that on a marble top to pull the chill out of it
i set the timer and flip it over halfway through and squish it afterwards to make sure it is smooshable but not softy soft melty
if i need it super fast i grate it on a sheet pan & all spread out--bam 15 minutes later--room temp butter
if memory serves--i think 66 degrees is the optimal temp for butter?
pierre herme uses artisanal butter held at 66 degrees--never higher or lower
made from special french cream etc--super fancy schmancy
shoot i just get mine from sam's or kroger and toss it in the frige
I often microwave my butter to bring to room temperature as well and I haven't had any problems. I have noticed that if the butter gets a hot spot and starts to melt a little that my batter will sometimes look a little curdled once I've added all the eggs. So I try to be careful of that.
I would say as long as the butter hasn't started to melt I don't think it's too warm. Depending on how strong your microwave is 20% power for 30 seconds might not be long enough. I usually do my butter (2 sticks) at 50% power for between 30sec-1 minute.
One year for Christmas I asked for an infrared thermometer (I think Alton Brown sometimes uses one on his shows). It comes in really handy for quickly reading the temperature of all my ingredients and my batter. You can find them on Amazon (here is the one I have). Plus it's fun to start randomly taking the temperature of things
I have huge problems with my buttercream turning out lumpy due to butter that is too hard. I keep my house at 65 degrees in the winter all day long and my butter does not soften up enough. I've left it out for a whole night and day and it is still too hard. I've found that putting it in the microwave on the defrost setting works the best, it starts the warming from the inside and every 10-15 seconds I flip the butter. It ususally only take about 40 seconds to have perfectly soft butter and no more lumps.