Powdered sugar, also known as confectioners' sugar or icing sugar, is a staple ingredient in many dessert recipes. From frosting cakes to making cookies, powdered sugar adds sweetness and texture to baked goods. However, since it's a dry ingredient, measuring powdered sugar accurately is key for recipes to turn out right.
Understanding how to properly measure powdered sugar can make all the difference in your baking success. Follow along as we explain everything you need to know about how to measure powdered sugar correctly every time.
What is Powdered Sugar?
Powdered sugar, sometimes called confectioners' sugar or icing sugar, is regular granulated sugar that has been ground into a fine powder. A small amount of cornstarch is also added to the sugar, which helps prevent caking and clumping.
The fineness of powdered sugar enables it to dissolve quickly into batters and frostings. This gives baked goods a smooth texture and adds sweetness without grittiness. Powdered sugar is about 3 times as sweet as granulated sugar by volume due to how finely it's ground.
Common uses for powdered sugar include:
- Frosting and icing - Powdered sugar creates smooth, creamy frostings and icings for cakes, cupcakes and cookies.
- Dusting desserts - A light sprinkling of powdered sugar over pastries adds sweetness and elegance. Common desserts dusted with powdered sugar include donuts, scones and French macarons.
- Whipped cream - Whipping heavy cream with powdered sugar makes lightly sweetened whipped cream.
- Fudge - Powdered sugar gives fudge its smooth, creamy texture.
- Candies - Powdered sugar is used to make candy recipes like marshmallows, nougat and divinity.
Powdered sugar is a sweet baking staple that adds flavor and beneficial properties to all kinds of recipes!
How to Measure Powdered Sugar
When a recipe calls for powdered sugar, it's imperative to measure it correctly so your baked goods come out as intended. Here are tips on the best way to measure powdered sugar:
Use a Dry Measuring Cup
Always use a dry measuring cup, not a liquid measuring cup, to measure powdered sugar. Dry measuring cups come in standard sizes like 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup and 1 cup.
Be sure your measuring cups are level, not heaping. Leveling off ingredients precisely is crucial in baking.
Spoon and Level
The best way to measure powdered sugar is the spoon and level method:
- Use a spoon to lightly scoop the powdered sugar into a dry measuring cup.
- Heap the powdered sugar above the top of the cup.
- Then take the straight edge of a knife or spatula and sweep it across the top of the cup to level off the excess sugar.
When using the spoon and level method, do not pack down the powdered sugar at all. Packing would compress it and you'd end up with too much.
Key Takeaway: Always use the spoon and level method to accurately measure powdered sugar. Do not scoop directly from the container or pack the sugar into the cup.
Sift Before Measuring
Some recipes may instruct you to sift the powdered sugar before measuring. Sifting aerates the sugar so it takes up more volume when you measure it.
To sift, you can use a small sieve or mesh strainer. Or a whisk also works to break up any clumps.
When sifting before measuring:
- Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl or onto a sheet of parchment paper.
- Break up any remaining clumps by pressing them through the strainer or whisking again.
- Spoon the sifted powdered sugar into your measuring cup and level off.
Sifting guarantees your powdered sugar will be light and lump-free for the recipe.
Check for Clumps
Always check powdered sugar for clumps before measuring. If you find hardened clumps, sift or press the sugar through a fine mesh strainer before measuring to break them up.
Clumps in powdered sugar can lead to gritty frosting or baked goods. A quick sift or stir takes care of them.
Use a Scale for Precision
While measuring cups work fine, you can get the most precise powdered sugar measurements by using a digital kitchen scale. Scales measure in grams rather than cup volumes.
To use a scale:
- Place your mixing bowl on the scale and press the "Tare" or "Zero" button to reset it to 0 grams.
- Spoon in powdered sugar, sifting if called for in the recipe, until the exact weight in grams is shown.
Kitchen scales provide foolproof accuracy. Look for a scale that measures at least up to 5 kg in 1 gram increments.
Measuring Tips for Different Sugar Types
The proper technique for measuring powdered sugar differs from granulated white sugar or brown sugar. Here's a quick guide to correctly measuring various sugar types:
- Powdered sugar - Spoon and level method. Do not pack. Sift if specified.
- Granulated white sugar - Spoon and level method. You can lightly pack it, but don't have to.
- Brown sugar - Pack tightly into the measuring cup and level off.
Always double check your recipe for any specific instructions on the sugar it calls for. Accurate measuring is key for each variety.
Common Powdered Sugar Substitutes
If you're out of powdered sugar, don't worry - you have options. Here are a few common household ingredients that work well as powdered sugar substitutes:
- Granulated white sugar + cornstarch - Process 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a blender or food processor until powdered. Works great!
- Granulated white sugar - Use a little less granulated sugar than powdered sugar called for (about 1 1/4 cups granulated for every 1 cup powdered sugar). May give a slight crunch.
- All-purpose flour - Replace up to 1 cup powdered sugar with 1 cup flour. Works for cookies or cakes but not frosting.
- Cornstarch - Pure cornstarch can replace up to 1/4 of the powdered sugar in a recipe. Use less liquid to compensate.
- Coconut sugar - Grind coconut sugar into a powder. Substitute 1:1 for powdered sugar. May add coconut flavor.
In a pinch, these handy pantry items can save the day when you're out of powdered sugar! Be sure to make any adjustments the recipe may require.
FAQs About Measuring Powdered Sugar
How many cups of powdered sugar are in a pound?
One pound of powdered sugar equals around 4 cups. A standard 2 lb package contains about 8 cups of sugar.
Can I use liquid measuring cups for powdered sugar?
No, you should not use liquid measuring cups. Dry powdered sugar must be measured using dry measuring cups specifically designed for dry ingredients.
Is powdered sugar the same as confectioners' sugar?
Yes, powdered sugar and confectioners' sugar are names for the exact same ingredient - granulated sugar ground into a fine powder with added cornstarch.
Should powdered sugar be sifted before measuring?
Only sift powdered sugar before measuring if your recipe states to do so. Otherwise, unsifted is fine. Sifting makes it lighter and fluffier in volume.
Can I pack down powdered sugar when measuring?
No, never pack powdered sugar into a measuring cup. You should only spoon it lightly and level it off. Packing makes too much.
Take your time, measure precisely, and your recipes will come out perfectly sweet every time. Once you know the proper way to measure powdered sugar, you'll get delicious results across all your baked goods. Happy baking!