Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Cream the Butter and Sugar


These are my five favourite words in the English language (apart perhaps from “let me take the children” or “you go and lie down”). All my favourite recipes start with these words. I love the action of putting sugar and room temperature butter into a mixing bowl and taking a fork to them. I could use my mixer, but there is something inexplicably satisfying in doing it myself. My kids are getting pretty good at the action too, which does remove some of the fun for me, because then I have to do something dull like sieve the flour or line the tin. I want to be creaming the butter and sugar, kids. You do the boring bits.

I had a bake-a-thon this weekend. First of all, it was raining on Friday and there was a gang of hungry children rattling around the house. I love baking on a Friday; filling the house with good smells before the weekend starts. I made Bindi’s Tangy Yogurt and Oatmeal Muffins. This recipe does not involve any creaming of butter and sugar, but they are so good and packed with such wholesome ingredients that they have the same psychological effect. I love watching the children eat them and all the while I’m thinking “you’re eating oatmeal, oatmeal and plain white yogurt, and you don’t even know it”. It gives good smug. Bindi suggests putting banana in them. On Friday I did plain chocolate chips.

Then on Saturday we were invited to a very South African event – a braai and a rugby match on TV. I was asked to bring a salad but because my salad recipe did not start with my favourite words, I also spontaneously made a batch of shortbread to take, which we ate with fresh strawberries. Shortbread contains no yogurt and no oatmeal, but it does contain a ton of butter, which you cream along with a ton of sugar. I used the recipe from Cook with Jamie, which he describes as the “best shortbread in the world”. Jamie recommends using some lemon or orange zest for extra zing, but I scraped out a vanilla pod instead and made vanilla shortbread. It was delicious.

Today we were also invited out for lunch and I promised to bring dessert, because I knew that would mean I could cream the butter and sugar again. This time I had some “help” and we made our family’s favourite cake – V’s Lemon Tea Loaf. Although V is American, this is actually a British lemon drizzle cake, but a superior version thereof. When the cake is hot from the oven, you spear holes in it with a piece of dried spaghetti (I love that part too) and then pour over a sticky syrup of lemon juice and water. When you eat it, it’s moist, sticky, soft and delicious. We had it with fresh raspberries and cream. I felt both were extraneous. The cake speaks for itself. It requires no back-up.

Having been deprived of creaming the butter and sugar by my kitchen assistants (who sweetly offered to wash up afterwards), I took the chance while they were out of the kitchen to make some biscuits from How to be a Domestic Goddess. There was absolutely no need to take anything more along to our lunch, but because the helpers had deprived me of my chance to cream the butter and sugar, I was forced to get my fix. I chose what she calls “Granny Boyd’s Biscuits”, which contain all of four ingredients – butter, sugar, flour and cocoa. I was able to quietly and meditatively cream the butter and sugar all alone in my kitchen. The biscuits turned out well. As Nigella says, they are dark and smoky and would go nicely with vanilla ice-cream.

So. All that sugar making you feel sick yet? Me too. Let me leave you on a lighter note, with the salad I took to the braai. It’s one I’ve been looking at for a while in Nigella’s Forever Summer and I at last got to make it. The main salad ingredients are feta and watermelon, which you chop into large chunks. You slice a red onion very finely and let it seep in lime juice. Then you pour the onion and its juices over the feta and watermelon, adding chopped fresh mint, flat leaf parsley leaves (not chopped), black olives and some olive oil. It’s scarily delicious and looks beautiful. Eating it on a rainy Saturday afternoon with a winter rugby scene on the TV and wet German hills outside made me think of Greece. I believe they have sugar there too.

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

19 thoughts on “Cream the Butter and Sugar

  1. Hi Charlotte, shortbread is one of my most favorite things. You have certainly inspired me to get out Jamie’s recipe and have a bash. Could you post your lemon cake recipe please? and you obviously didn’t have time to take photos of your cooking, busy, busy!

    ps. I’m thrilled that the muffin recipe is still going down well, and you’re quire right they have enough flavour to carry just choc chips. Did you notice Kate has made them with blueberry and pecan, and Stephanie in Chicago with apple topped with cinnamon crumble!

  2. Mmmm, I’m so hungry now!

    I use How To Be A Domestic Goddess all the time too. This weekend I finally made the rosebud madeleines and they were lovely. I must say, they probably needed to be rosier, and I can see using almond extract instead of rosewater. They were so sweet looking on the plate though.

    One of my favourite things to make in the book doesn’t require creaming butter and sugar–it’s the coconut macaroons. They make me happier than a pig in the sunshine.

  3. That feta and watermelon salad sounds amazing! I will have to try making it next (Australian) summer.

  4. I have the exact opposite reaction to those five words and I think they’re the reason that I run from baking. However, on Friday afternoon I was in the mood for following recipes exactly to the letter; I was even prepared for a little creaming of the butter and sugar action (and I was mentally composing a post which will now never see the light about why I hate baking so much). My apartment smelt wonderful and the resultant biscuits and brownies were worth the extra effort.

    But the watermelon and feta salad is far more my cooking style, I think. It does sound wonderful.

  5. Ahh, now that is interesting. I find, like Kerryn, I have a negative reaction to those words.. I just have visions of trying to pierce a hard lump of butter with an inadequate wooden spoon while sugar shoots round the kitchen..

  6. You cream the butter and sugar and then I’ll do the eggs and the flour!

    I usually find that the butter is slightly too hard for it to be a meditative exercise, so am very happy to delegate the task (except in summer when I too love creaming butter and sugar!). I’ve just started handing over the entire process to the older two, so they get to make a whole batch of their chosen biscuits by themselves, with just a little help deciphering the recipe.

    I don’t have Domestic Goddess – love the sound of those chocolate biscuits though. I’m looking for the definitive chocolate biscuit recipe that uses cocoa rather than real chocolate. If I keep real chocolate in the store cupboard I always manage to eat it – so cocoa is the standby for baking.

    Lemon drizzle cake is one of our family favourites too. My son has it as his take to school birthday cake, as he has the de rigeur chocolate birthday cake in the afternoon for his home party.

  7. The salad sounds wonderful! I am always looking for interesting salad recipes 🙂

  8. Mmmm…I’m going to try the cookies and salad!

  9. I love those 5 words too – very satisfying part of the baking process. Also love “How to be a domestic godess”.

    Other favourite 5 word phrases – how about “tell me all about it”, or “would you like a cuppa?”

  10. Oh, I’ve been dying to make that watermelon salad! Love that cookbook!

    Yesterday I made sugar cutout cookies and two types of cupcakes for my son’s birthday party. Count me in with the “cream butter and sugar” crowd!

  11. Baking (a.k.a. cream the butter and sugar) is absolutely one of my favorite pastimes. Reading this makes me wants to try something new with lemon… V’s lemon tea loaf recipe would be fabulous. However, I am doing a cleanse/detox right now and this post is killing me – I now officially want to shove large amounts of sugar down my throat. I had to stop reading, go to my fridge and pull out the last of the fruit salad just to get through the rest of your sugar coated words. Just 6 more days until I am free to bake, only 6 more days…

  12. I am crying right now with desire – I’ve been on the road for four days and have six more to go and have not been eating nice meals at all – I think my soul is suffering. I think tomorrow night I might find some lovely zagat-rated restaurant and treat myself to something beyond my per diem.

  13. How about “Let me take the children so you can cream the butter and sugar and then you can go and lie down and eat it!” I now feel the need to explore some pound cake recipes, though we have horrible muggy summer weather right now which does not inspire baking.

  14. I’ve just scoffed the last of my first batch of those muffins, delicious. Chocolate biscuits next on the list…this time I’d better let the children eat more than I do, rather than the other way round.

  15. Charlotte! Mmmm…I made the muffins last night and they are delicious! Thanks for the recipe. I’m making the salad tonight. :o)

  16. Charlotte, are you South African? I am!

    Found you through Bindi’s blog.

    You can cream the butter and suger (I’m lazy and use a beater because that is one of my least favourite things to do) and I’ll do the rest 😉

  17. Creaming butter and sugar is one of the best stress-relieving activities I’ve ever come across, so wonderfully therapeutic. I made some choc and orange biscuits over the weekend, which were rather tasty, even if they were oddly shaped (I don’t do aesthetics), and enjoyed the creaming.

    When I do shortbread, I always use some cornflour, as it seems to give it a dreamy texture. Mincemeat in shortbread works quite well if you tire of mince pies during the Christmas season.

  18. Happy to come to your site..full of good stuff.

  19. Pingback: When I Was 35 « Charlotte's Web

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