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I'm baking a cake using a cake mix and extra ingredients. It calls for 5 tbsp of butter, but I'm not sure which to use, salted or unsalted. What difference would it make??

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Generally, you'll want to use unsalted. The amount of salt in salted butter can vary, so most recipes call for unsalted, and then have you add the exact amount of salt. Cake mixes have salt in them, so this would still apply.

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Spot on Martha. – BaffledCook Jan 1 '11 at 16:38
Exactly, Martha. +1 Also, unsalted butter tends to be fresher butter. Salted butter keeps longer. Salted butter can last two to three times longer refrigerated. – zacechola Jan 2 '11 at 19:35
In fact, use unsalted butter for all cooking. This allows you to adjust your seasoning in a much more precise manner, and will prevent unwanted effects (for example, salt inside a hamburger or any other ground meat will cause the proteins to tighten and toughen). – daniel Jan 3 '11 at 23:20
Baking recipes that don't specify type of butter should be assumed to mean "unsalted", much like the egg size is assumed to be large. – Allison Jan 30 '11 at 13:41

Agree and +1 to Martha's answer, unsalted is generally preferred for baking.

Just wanted to add that if you only have salted butter and the recipe calls for unsalted then I would say don't worry too much. It's OK to use salted instead.

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Depending on brand of butter (and sometimes even batch), there can be around 3/4 to a full teaspoon of salt per stick of butter. So, if you'd like to reduce any other salt in the recipe, feel free. That said, I once accidentally used salted butter in a cookie recipe and didn't reduce, but the extra salt was a fantastic surprise. – zacechola Jan 2 '11 at 19:38
Exception: if the recipe does not call for any salt, then you really must use unsalted butter, because the difference between "no salt" and "some salt" is much greater than the difference between "some salt" and "some more salt". – Marti Feb 17 '14 at 21:54

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