Normally when I plan to bake a cake I plan ahead. In these cases, When I plan ahead I place wrapped butter and whole eggs and measured milk, (if necessary) on the kitchen counter overnight so that they come to room temperature and are ready to use in the morning.
There are times when a last-minute cake or a batch of late-night cookise, or a compound butter is needed to serve with breakfast. This is when I wondered how to soften butter quickly in the best, easiest and most convenient fashion. The four following ways work perfectly. You pick!
1. THE OLD-SCHOOL WAY
Useful for any recipe in which the softened butter is added gradually.
Cut a stick of cold butter into 1/2 tablespoon slices (or smaller—the smaller, the faster). Place the slices in a single layer on a plate while you assemble and measure whatever other ingredients you need for your recipe. By the time you get everything together—unless you live inside an arctic front—the butter should be soft enough to continue.
2. THE FUN WAY
Great for getting it done quickly and for working out any pent-up frustration.
Place a stick of butter in a zip-top bag. Using a rolling pin or the back of a heavy mixing spoon, beat the butter until it’s a flat disc or whatever shape your butter decides it wants to be. The thinner you pound the butter, the quicker the butter will reach room temp.
3. THE HANDS-OFF WAY
Anyone who just, you know, doesn’t have time to deal with this right now, okay?
Cut a stick of cold butter into pieces and put the pieces in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium-low. After 2 to 3 minutes, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat for another 2 to 3 minutes. The butter should be soft enough to proceed now and it’s already in the mixer!
4. THE IN-SHAPE WAY
For those times you need soft butter, but you want it still in stick-form.
Place a stick of butter in a zip-top bag. Seal the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Place the bag into a dish of tepid water so that the butter is completely submerged. (It will float, but that’s okay.) You may use water that’s a little warmer than room temperature, but be careful to not go too hot, otherwise the outside of the butter will melt while leaving the interior icy cold. Depending on the heat of your water, the butter should be ready in about 5 to 7 minutes.