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How to Make a Butter Sculpture

Don’t laugh—butter sculpture is a true art form that originated in Tibet in the 7th century. It is now one of the highlights of many American harvest fairs.


  • Step 1: Find a cool room Find a cool room in which to work so your butter doesn’t melt as you sculpt.
  • TIP: Today, Tibetan monks create their works of art in rooms kept at 32° F.
  • Step 2: Pick a subject Pick a subject. Let your mind run wild. Butter sculptors have created everything from The Last Supper to Elvis Presley.
  • Step 3: Soak the butter Soak the butter in very cold water in order to remove impurities and give the butter an extra- smooth texture. The amount of butter you soak depends on how large you’d like your sculpture to be.
  • Step 4: Build the frame Build a frame to hold your base in place. Traditionally, bamboo sticks were fashioned into the framework, but you can use wood and/or metal.
  • Step 5: Dip hands in ice Before you start sculpting, dip your hands in ice water. Your hands must be kept practically numb, or your body heat will melt your creation.
  • Step 6: Knead the butter Knead the butter into a paste that’s free of air bubbles.
  • TIP: Add food coloring to the paste, or parts of the paste, if you like.
  • Step 7: Butter the base Load the butter onto the base, and begin shaping it with your hands.
  • Step 8: Fine-tune your design Fine-tune your design with tallow tools. Use modeling tools for smoothing and contouring large surfaces, and sculpting tools for intricate detail.
  • TIP: Many household items, like shoe horns and manicure instruments, can be turned into sculpting tools, so use your imagination.
  • Step 9: Keep it cool Once you’ve completed your masterpiece, store it somewhere it won’t melt before the big reveal.
  • FACT: In December 2004, a 1,000-lb. butter sculpture of an ice skating cow was unveiled in Manhattan as part of an American dairy campaign to boost baking during the holidays.

You Will Need

  • Butter
  • A cool room
  • Ice water
  • Materials for the framework
  • Sculpting tools
  • Food coloring

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