And how can you fix it if it is?
Softened Butter
Credit: Meredith

Anyone who likes to bake has surely seen the ingredient "softened butter" or "room temperature butter" in instructions. In most baking recipes, softened butter is necessary so that creaming the butter with sugar will be easy.

Creaming your softened butter is important, especially when making baked goods like cookies and cakes, because it adds air to your dough or batter. This allows baked goods to expand or rise when in the oven, which creates a light and fluffy texture. Creaming a stick of hard, cold butter is nearly impossible.

But sometimes, a good thing can be too good. Here, find out if over softened butter can be fixed and what to do if your stick is just too squishy.

What Is Softened Butter, Exactly?

Straight out of the refrigerator, butter will be cold and hard. Temperature-wise, chilled butter is about 35 degrees F. So if a recipe calls for softened butter, you won't want to use it until it's at room temperature, which is about 65 to 70 degrees F.

To achieve softened butter, your best bet is to let it sit out at room temperature. Depending on your kitchen's temperature the softening time can vary, but it typically takes butter 30 minutes to an hour to soften properly.

If you don't have that kind of time, there are quicker ways to soften butter that don't involve throwing it in the microwave, where your butter can become a melted mess. You can cut it into cubes, pound it out, or grate it. 

To test that your butter is ready to use, simply press your finger into the top of the stick. If it's cool to the touch and your finger leaves an indent, but doesn't slip straight through, it's ready to go.

If your finger sinks into the butter, comes out covered in butter, or the butter is obviously melted, unfortunately, your butter is over-softened.

Can Butter Be Too Soft?

Yes, it is possible to soften butter too much. And if you do, you shouldn't leave it in its squishy state.

Butter can become too soft if you use the microwave to soften it — the burst of heat can quickly push the stick past the point of "soft" and into melted territory. In addition, it can become too soft if you simply leave it sitting out too long.

You'll know that your butter is overly softened if you touch it and it's warm or your finger sinks or slides into the butter. Additionally, if there is any melting at all, it is too soft.

You can also use an instant-read thermometer to get an accurate temperature reading, and if the stick is warmer than 65 degrees F, it could be too soft — though you could get away with a few degrees warmer.

If used in baking recipes, overly softened butter will create frothy air bubbles that will eventually collapse. When the air bubbles collapse, you'll be left with a greasy batter that will bake into heavy, dense, and flat baked goods. Basically, it's not worth using.

How to Save Over-Softened Butter

If your butter is just a little too soft or even partially melted, it can still be salvaged for a recipe. Simply place the over-softened butter into a bowl with a few ice cubes and stir. Your butter will quickly begin to cool and solidify to a soft texture. Once it's back to a usable soft texture, just remove the ice cubes and your butter is good to go.

Keep in mind, this method will not work for butter that is completely melted. If you have a bowl of liquid butter, you're better off saving that for later and using a new stick for your baking.