Sometimes I get a whim and want to bake something right away and I don't always have butter sitting out at room temperture. I have tried to soften the butter in the microwave and that doesn't always work properly. Any suggestions to speed up the process so that it is still solid and doesn't risk becoming melted? Thank you!
Unfortunately if you try to soften a block of butter in a microwave the outside will always start to melt before the inside has softened. The easiest way to soften butter quickly for a cake is to measure the quantity of butter needed then cut it into thin slices - approximately 1-2mm/1/16-1/8 inch thick. Spread the slices of butter out in a single layer on a large plate (or more, depending on the size of plate and quantity of butter) and leave in a warm place for 10-15 minutes. The kitchen counter should be fine unless your kitchen is very cold. The butter should soften enough to enable you to cream it easily - if you press your finger onto the butter it should leave a slight indentation. You can microwave the butter for a couple of seconds if it is still very firm, but do this carefully as the butter does melt easily.
Your eggs should also be at room temperature so if they have also been stored in the fridge then you should immerse them in a bowl of warm water for 20 minutes to make them less chilly.