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Room Temperature vs Cold Ingredients

· Kitchen Science,Posted by Kirsten

Last week, the Kitchen Science question posed by Jen from Calgary was "What is the difference between cupcakes and icing made with room temperature ingredients vs ingredients straight out of the fridge ?"


Step 1 Find a cake recipe and divide it in half (an excellent and practical use of fractions) so that you have half of the ingredients at room temperature and put the rest back in the fridge. We did this a few hours before we started baking. We used the Golden Layer Cake recipe from "The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book" but you could do this with any recipe you have.

Step 2 Preheat your oven to the temperature in your recipe. Set up two muffin tins with cupcake wrappers. Mix the butter and sugar together.

Right away we noticed a difference: the cold ingredients were lumpier and didn't blend as well together. In the photo below, the metal bowl on the left had the cold ingredients, the red bowl on the right had the room temperature ingredients.

Step 3 Add the eggs, vanilla (and any other wet ingredients your recipe calls for).

The cold ingredients (on the left) stayed lumpier and less blended.

Step 4 Sift your dry ingredients in a separate bowl (because as we know from a previous experiment, it makes a difference!) and mix them in with the wet ingredients.

We noticed the room temperature ingredients continued to blend better and had a smoother consistency. The cold ones remained lumpier and seemed a bit more wet.

Step 5 Using different cupcake wrappers (we used solid colours for our room temperature ingredients and polka dots for our cold ones) fill your muffin tins approximately 2/3 full. An ice cream scoop is perfect for this job.

This photo was taken just as we popped the cupcakes in the oven. You can see that they look like very different batters (top is cold, bottom is room temp).

Step 6 Bake the cupcakes according to your recipe. As you can see below, the room temperature ones rose more than the ones made with cold ingredients.

Step 6 Cool on racks. The room temperature ones maintained their height while the cold temperature ones fell a bit during the cooling process.


We chose to use this lemon cream cheese icing. As for the cake, we had set half of the ingredients out earlier to come to room temperature. We blended all the ingredients together.

The icing on the left was made with room temperature ingredients and we noticed it was lighter in colour, fluffier and smoother - it felt like proper icing. The icing made with cold ingredients (on the left) was stickier, a little more yellow and felt more wet.

When we frosted the cupcakes, our plan had been to frost cold ingredient icing on cold ingredient cupcakes but we got mixed up (even with our different cupcake wrappers!). So instead you can see on the left are the room temperature cupcakes (bigger/puffier) with cold icing (runnier/shinier) compared with cold ingredient cupcakes (flatter/denser) with room temperature icing (fluffier).

All options tasted great although we all agreed that we preferred the texture of the room temperature products better. So all this to say, if you have the time and remember to bring ingredients out, it will improve the texture but if you don't, your cupcakes and icing will still be tasty!

If you want to delve into the actual science behind this, here is a great article explaining it.

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