The Rubbing-in Method

The Rubbing in Method

Learn everything there is to know about baking cakes, cookies, breads and pastry dough using the rubbing-in method

The Rubbing in Method

We’ve talked about the creaming method and the muffin method and now it’s time for another important mixing methodthe rubbing-in method.

What is the Rubbing-in Method?

The rubbing-in method is the process of rubbing fat (butter, lard, margarine) into flour with your finger tips. Alternatively, the fat can also be ‘cut’ into the flour with two knives, a pastry cutter or even a food processor and can thus also be called the “cutting-in method”.

The rubbing-in method can be used to make cakes, scones, pastries, cookies and some breads.

It has 3 main steps:

1. Cut fat into small pieces and prepare dry ingredients

2. Rub or cut the fat into the the dry ingredients until fine crumbs form

3. Add liquid and/or rest of the ingredients to make a wet dough

4. Bake!

…and it’s as easy as that!

The Secrets of The Rubbing-in Method

Although this method is super easy, there are a few tricks that are helpful to know when using it, so that you can produce the best baked goods as possible:

  1. Use a freezing cold fat

    When using the rubbing-in method to make scones and pastries the fat and liquid needs to be cold. If using butter, freeze it and then grate it into the flour before rubbing it in.Why?When cold butter is rubbed into the flour, it creates flaky pockets of flavour (which soft, room temperature butter can’t do). Once the cold butter and liquid (e.g milk) hits the oven, the water in the butter and cold liquid begins evaporating. This creates moisture, and also helps the dough to rise, creating a tender and light crumb.
  2. Use your finger tips only 

    When rubbing the butter in to the flour/dry mixture, try not to use your whole hand to do so. The palm of your hand is warmer than your finger tips and will soften the butter. If it’s a really hot day, you might be better off getting out the food processor to do the job for you.

  3. Aerate the mixture 

    Try keep your finger tips above the mixture when rubbing the butter in to create more air.

Your guide to the rubbing-in method

Why is the Rubbing-In Method used?

If you made three cakes with the same ingredients, but used different mixing methods to make it, you would get three different textured cakes.

Unlike the creaming method and the muffin method, the rubbing-in method coats the flour proteins in a layer of fat. This means that it is harder for water to get through, resulting in less gluten – which means a finer and more tender crumb. I particularly like using the rubbing-method for a flaky pie crust or shortbread base where not much air is needed as a leavener. For baked goods that need air, I normally use the creaming method.

The Rubbing in Method

Side note: Although most recipes will require the butter and flour to be rubbed together until fine crumbs form, some recipes will only need the two to be rubbed together until some crumbs are formed and the rest is ‘lumpy’. Joy The Baker’s Buttermilk Pie Crust is an example of this. 

You’ve probably used the rubbing-method lots before without even realising it.

Here’s a few WSB’s recipes that use this method (in case you feel like giving it another go):

Sticky Lemon Bars

sticky lemon bars

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread

Chocolate Shortbread

Mini Lemon Curd Tarts

Mini lemon curd tarts


7 thoughts on “The Rubbing-in Method

  1. Hello Sarah, your post is really helpful. I’m a newbie to baking but I LOVE cake and I’m really focused on texture (not just taste). I’ve been trying my hand at plain vanilla cupcakes for a little while now but I’m yet to achieve my desired texture. Anyways, I bought a baking book and in it the author recommends the rubbing in method for making cupcakes – vanilla. I’m yet to try this as I thought that the rubbing in method was only for pastry. I can of course try this method and get an answer for myself but I am also interested to know what you think about using the rubbing in method for cupcakes. Have you ever tried it? Thank you, Akos

    1. Hi Akosua,

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m so glad this post is helpful for you. Being focused and having a love for baking are about the only two things you need to bake! You’ll be great 🙂

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