There are so many types of sugar for baking and I love all of them, Its well known that I have a sweet tooth, but I don’t want my desserts to be too crazy sweet. So, I try to use just the amount of sugar a recipe needs to create a great texture and taste. It’s crucial to consider the right sugar needed for the flavor, moisture, and texture you want to achieve in a recipe.
Sugar types vary from white to shades of brown crystals, liquid sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup, and large sparkling crystals for decoration.
Let’s break down the most common types of sugar for baking that you will use.
Granulated sugar is a refined sugar derived from sugar cane. It is highly processed to where all of the natural brown molasses has been removed, which results in a pure white color. It has a larger sugar crystal in comparison to confectionary sugar, which allows it to incorporate more air into the batter.
The crystals don’t clump together like they do in confectionary sugar. Making it easy to measure and sprinkle on top of desserts.
Granulated sugar is the preferred sugar when making meringue to help slow down foaming, preventing over whipping of egg whites. It also acts as a stabilizer to the stiff peaks needed for meringue.
When heated granulated sugar develops a toffee flavor and turns tannish in color. Can we say bring on the caramel?!
Adding granulated sugar to cookie dough produces sweetness, a caramelized browner coloring, extra crispiness by absorbing some of the moisture and encourages spreading as it melts.
Confectionary sugar is also referred to as powdered sugar or icing sugar. It is made by crushing granulares sugar into a fine powder. It easily clumps and should be weighed when measured then sifted for some recipes.
Confectionary sugar dissolves instantly into liquids and is a perfect choice for making icings, buttercream frostings, or sweetening whipped cream. It also creates a lovely snow affect on the tops of baked goods for a beautiful presentation.
Sparkling sugar is made by polishing large crystals of granulated sugar.It will not dissolve in batters or dough, so ‘do not’ use it as a substitute for granulated or brown sugar.
Basically a form of edible glitter, I prefer to use it on top of pie crusts , muffins, or cookies for a fun sweet and crunchy topping.
Dark Brown Sugar
- Dark brown sugar contains about 6.5 % molasses which gives your bakes goods a richer flavor closer to caramel or toffee. If you use all brown sugar the flavor can resemble butterscotch.
- I like to use dark brown sugar for gingerbread, rich pound cakes, and chewy cookies. Not only does brown sugar add more flavor depth to cakes, it also creates more moisture in the overall crumb.
- For oatmeal, chocolate chips, pumpkin, and gingerbread cookies I always reach for dark brown sugar. It adds a soft chewy texture to cookies in comparison to crispier texture from white sugar. The acidity in the molasses reacts with baking soda to help with leavening, creating a thicker more puffier cookie.
- Brown sugar should be packed down in a measuring cup or even better just weigh it with a kitchen scale to be exact.
Light Brown Sugar
Light brown sugar contains half as much molasses as dark brown sugar. It has the same moisture and chewy benefits as its darker counterpart but lighter in flavor.
Make your own brown sugar
In a pinch and need brown sugar for a recipe. Just mix together 1 cup of granulated sugar (200 grams) with 2 tablespoons of unsulphered molasses to make rich dark brown sugar.
Coconut sugar is derived from the sap of a coconut tree. The process consists of boiling the tree sap is boiled until all of the moisture has evaporated. It is similar in flavor and texture to light brown sugar. Coconut sugar ‘does not’ taste like coconut, for all of you wondering.
Considered a more natural form of sweetener, coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than granulated sugar. It is less processed, however still a form of sugar.
You can substitute coconut sugar in any recipe using granulated sugar cup for cup with a 1:1 ratio. Just remember it is a brown sugar and will deepen the color of the recipe.
Turbinado sugar a brown sugar that is less processed and the first pressing of sugar cane. Also known as raw sugar, it is a larger grain than light and dark brown sugar with less moisture. It still retains some molasses and offers a subtle caramel flavor.
The larger crystals in turbinado sugar won’t melt in batter while baking. So, I reserve them for more of a topping on cookies or pies. The crystals give a lovely crunch and added sweetness.
I have to admit, eating honey with a spoon is a habit from childhood I will never be able to break. Even better if it has chunks of honeycomb mixed in.
Considered a natural sweetener, sourced directly from the beehive, honey adds additional moisture to a recipe. It is also a bit sweeter than granulated sugar, so I would suggest not overdoing it.
The flavors and types of honey are numerous. Depending on your region, infusions or potency the flavor profiles can be complex and really elevate a recipe. Notes of wildflowers and citrus are the most common.
Honey is often used in baking breads, cakes, muffins and pies. You can add a tablespoon or two for flavor like you would vanilla. Or use it as the main sweetener, just be sure to follow the guidelines of the recipe.
Most recipes using honey as a sweetener have been adjusted for moisture level. Make sure to check the instructions in the recipe before substituting. Honey will also cause baked goods to brown more quickly than regular granulated sugar.
Substituting Honey for Sugar
You can substitute ½ cup of honey for ½ cup of sugar called for in a recipe. But, try not to exceed 1 cup of honey in a recipe.
If you want to replace 1 cup of sugar, use ¾ cup of honey. Make sure to then decrease other liquids by 3-4 tablespoons for every 1 cup of honey added. If there are no other liquids in the recipe, add 3-4 tablespoons of flour to the mixture for every 1 cup of honey used.
Adjusting the liquid content when using honey prevents having a big gloopy mess.
Ahh maple syrup is such a wonderful sweetener and doesn’t have to be used just for topping pancakes and waffles. Thinner than honey, maple syrup is sourced from the slightly sweet sap of the sugar maple tree. The sap is then processed into the common form of maple syrup.
Maple syrup ranges from mild to robust depending on which grade you choose. The darker the syrup the more caramel the flavor. It will also create a richer color in your baked goods and sometimes cause them to brown more quickly.
Substituting Maple Syrup for Sugar
Try incorporating maple syrup in a recipe by replacing 1 cup of granulated sugar with ¾ cup of maple syrup. Make sure to reduce the liquid in the recipe by 3-4 tablespoons to prevent too much moisture. Or adding 3-4 tablespoons of flour if there are no other liquids in the mix. Just like when adding in honey, you don’t want to overdo it.
A less sweet and slightly bitter form of sugar is molasses. Mostly used when making gingerbread profiled bakes goods, molasses is slightly acidic with hints of malt.
I use unsulphered molasses when baking and do not use it for a substitute of white or brown sugar. But, add it in a recipe more for a flavoring.
Try molasses when fall baking in recipes for cookies, pumpkin bread, fruit crisps, and gingerbread cakes.
Substituting Molasses for Sugar
Use the same measuring and adjustments of the liquids/flour in as you did with honey and maple syrup. Always adding 1 tablespoon of flour for every ¼ cup of molasses used if there are no other liquids in the recipe.