100 Techniques

Technique #37: Reverse-Cream for Velvety Cakes

When you need a sturdy yet tender cake, use this method. 

Published Sept. 25, 2023.

This is Technique #37 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master. 

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Reverse creaming may sound like an old- fashioned baking term that you don’t see very often in cookbooks these days, but it’s a fundamental technique to master if you want to turn out sturdy yet tender cakes with a fine crumb.

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Creaming versus Reverse Creaming

Creaming is the more commonly used technique for mixing cake batter (you’re likely familiar with it even if you don’t realize it), and while both approaches can produce a delicious cake, there are distinct differences between the cakes' rise and structure.

Cakes mixed by creaming have a domed top and a fluffier, open crumb, while cakes made using the reverse-creaming method are flat in appearance and sturdier in texture, with an ultrafine crumb with few air pockets.

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Creaming involves beating softened butter and sugar in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Then you mix in the eggs, followed by liquid and dry ingredients. As soon as the flour is added, gluten starts to form, creating the structure that makes for an airy cake.

This order of mixing makes the butter malleable, which allows other ingredients to blend in easily. And the tiny sugar crystals act like extra beaters, incorporating air. These tiny air pockets expand during baking, giving the cake lots of lift and an open crumb.

Reverse Creaming: What It Is and When to Use It

Sometimes you want a more velvety cake with very fine air pockets. That's where reverse creaming comes in.

We turn to reverse creaming in the following situations:

  • when making coffee cake because we don’t want the streusel crumbs to sink
  • when we want to turn out an evenly stacked layer cake
  • when we’re making filled cupcakes

For the reverse-creaming method, you start by combining all of the dry ingredients—including the sugar—and then you incorporate the softened butter. Last, you add eggs and any other liquid.

With this approach, the butter coats the flour particles, creating a barrier that slows down gluten development. Gluten won’t start to form until the flour comes into contact with the water from the egg whites, so coating the flour particles with butter before the eggs are added inhibits gluten development, making for less rise and fewer air bubbles.

Just as important, since the butter isn’t beaten with sugar, less air is incorporated, which also translates to less rise and a flatter cake rather than a domed one—a boon for streusel-topped cakes and decorated layer cakes.

even layer of cake using reverse creamingimproper reverse creaming yields a domed layer

Left to right: An even, fine-crumbed layer of cake resulting from proper execution of the reverse creaming method; A domed layer of cake with tunneling, the result of improper reverse creaming.

Step by Step: How to Reverse Cream

Now that you know what reverse-creaming is, here are the key steps for using it in your next baked good.

Step 1: Cut and Soften Butter

Cut butter into 1⁄2-inch cubes and allow to soften.

Step 2: Combine Fats and Dry Ingredients

Add softened butter and any other fats to dry ingredients and mix on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened and mixture is pebbly or sandy. Increase speed and beat until batter comes together.

Step 3: Add in Liquids

Mix in liquid ingredients in stages on medium-low speed, scraping down bowl between each addition.

Step 4: Beat Batter Until Fluffy

Beat batter until light and fluffy and no lumps remain.

Step 5: Bake

Thicker, less aerated cake batter will have sturdier, tighter crumb and flatter top when baked.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Want to test out your newfound knowledge of reverse-creaming? Try it with any of these recipes.


Lemon Layer Cake

We carefully deconstructed this blue-ribbon recipe to create a light and lemony dessert.
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Classic White Layer Cake with Raspberry Almond Filling

For a white cake with perfect, fine-grained texture, don't beat the egg whites prior to mixing.
Get the Recipe

Coconut Layer Cake

A triumvirate of coconut products puts maximum coconut flavor in this classic, tender cake.
Get the Recipe

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Brown Sugar–Pecan Streusel

Forget about ersatz convenience-store cake. We set out to explore the secrets of the real thing: a dense, tender cake with rich streusel topping.
Get the Recipe

New York-Style Crumb Cake

We wanted to bring this New York classic home—but not from the supermarket.
Get the Recipe

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