Weekly Tip: Sugar Basics

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” ~ La Rochefoucauld

Sugar 101

This week is all about sugar, that crystal that is prevalent in our food.  At one point in history, this crystal was so scarce it was called “white gold.”

Most of us love sugary baked goods; and many think that sugar only provides sweetness.  However, sugar does a lot more work when baking.

  • Sugar combined with fat, makes cakes tender and moist.
  • Sugar helps cookies to brown; and the coarse granules in granulated white sugar helps to keep them from spreading too much.
  • Sugar add moistness.

Baking is a science that is all about the proper ratios and a formula of ingredients.  This is why following a recipe is much more important when baking rather than cooking.

An understanding of the most common sugars used in baking will help you be a confident baker.

Sugars used in baking

Sugars differ by the size of the sugar crystal and by color.  A darker color indicates that molasses was added during the refining process. Large sugar crystals add more air to a batter during the creaming process.  Smaller crystals melt easier.

Granulated white sugar is the most commonly used sugar in recipes.  It has medium sized crystals. Large sugar crystals, such as pearlized sugar, are used for decorative purposes.

Superfine sugar is granulated sugar that has very fine granules.  The fine granules melt quickly which make it the best choice for meringues. You can make superfine sugar by processing granulated sugar in a blender.

Confectioners (powdered) sugar is granulated sugar that has been ground into a powder.  Cornstarch is added to prevent the formation of lumps.  It is used in frostings, candies, meringues and cookies.


Brown sugar is refined white sugar with molasses added.  The color ranges from light to dark depending on the amount of molasses. Brown sugar adds a caramel/butterscotch flavor to baked goods.

Measuring Sugar:  Remove lumps before you measure.

Granulated and confectioners sugar should be spooned into the measuring cup and then leveled off with a flat edge.

Brown sugar should be packed tightly into the measuring cup and then leveled off.  It is packed enough if it holds its shape when turned out the measuring cup.

Happy Baking!!

Patricia Rio
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