Butter contributes to product flavor, mouthfeel, texture and shelf life of baked goods.


What is Butter?

Butter is a dairy product made by churning either fresh fermented cream or milk. It consists of butterfat, milk proteins, and water. This product is solid at room temperature. However, it melts at higher temperatures.

Butter contributes desirable flavor and texture to food and bakery products. It is essentially a water in oil emulsion. It’s sold in the pasteurized form in the United Sates. Commercially, it’s available in the following forms:

  • Sweet cream
  • Unsalted
  • Salted
  • Clarified (Ghee)


Butter is as old as Western civilization. In fact, it’s consumption dates back to ancient Rome. Originally, it was obtained from sheep, goat or buffalo milk. Later, the increased popularity of cow milk paved the way for development of this product from cow’s milk.1

The finished product consists of 80% fat and is made from cream. The remaining 20% is water combined with milk solids.


A variety of baked goods such as cakes, pastries, cookies, breads and biscuits utilize this ingredient to provide the following functions:

The texture and flavor of butter are influenced by the source of milk milk source (sheep, goat, cattle), stage of lactation, season of the year, processing, storage conditions and starter culture, amount other things.1

The uniqueness of butter flavor and texture makes it very challenging to be mimicked. Its mouthfeel is determined by the ratio of crystalline (solid) to noncrystalline (liquid) components at a given temperature. The desirable mouthfeel of butter is due to the “melt in the mouth” phenomenon which takes place at relatively low temperature, 38 °C (100 °F). Butter has the ability to interfere with gluten development. So, this makes it key to baked goods tenderness.


Typical composition:2

Component Amount
Energy 74 KCalg
Total lipid/fat 78.57 g
Carbohydrate 0 g
Protein 0 g
Sodium (Na) 643 mg
Vitamin A 2857 IU
Fatty acids (saturated) 50 g
Cholesterol 214 mg

Despite its high caloric value, butter contains beneficial fatty acids, butyrates. These may help in reducing intestinal inflammation.


In baked products, butter imparts flakiness. Mainly, it’s used in laminated doughs including croissants, danish and puff pastries. Flakiness is caused by butter melting and release of trapped leavening CO2 bubbles. The higher the butter solid content, the higher the baked product volume. The mixing process is beneficial to enhancing the flaky texture of baked goods.

In cookies, cakes, breads and icings, solid butter is typically added at room temperature. Then, it’s mixed with sugar until creamed and/or a uniform batter is formed.

Due to its potential allergenicity, it can be replaced with vegetable oils and shortenings in some applications.

FDA Regulation

Dairy-based butter was defined by the FDA as early as 1906 (21CFR21).3 It’s composition is described in 21CFR101.6.4


  1. The history of butter. http://www.butterjournal.com/butter-history. Accessed Nov 25. 2019.
  2. Butter. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/442117/nutrients. Accessed Nov 25. 2019. Accessed Nov 26, 2019.
  3. FDA, chapter 9, subchapter II-Definitions, Sec. 321a-Butter . https://www.govinfo.gov/app/details/USCODE-2011-title21/USCODE-2011-title21-chap9-subchapII-sec321a.
  4. “CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21CFR101.6”. Accessdata. Fda. gov. April 01. 2019. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=101.67. Accessed Nov 25. 2019.

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