When it comes to baking, there is often sugar involved in the recipes that we all know and love. It is the thing that makes our biscuits and cakes sweet and moreish. You will have noticed that there are many different types of sugar, and the differences between them can be both interesting and confusing. Here I take a look at the common sugars that you will find in recipes on this site and in cookbooks that you use in the kitchen.
This is the sugar that are likely to be most familiar with. It is multipurpose sugar and is used in processed foods as well as home baking. It is highly refined sugar and has a sweet taste and crunchy texture. It is widely available and will work in most recipes that you encounter. It is also the sugar that we put into our tea and coffee. It is sometimes referred to as ‘table sugar’ due to its presence and popularity in households and cafes.
Finer than granulated sugar, caster sugar is often found in bakes and cakes that require a slightly smoother finish, or where weight is a consideration (meringues, for example). It dissolves more quickly than granulated sugar. It offers a very similar taste to granulated sugar, but can be used when you don’t want to risk the ‘gritty’ texture that granulated sugar can produce in more fine baking.
Opposite to caster sugar, pearl sugar is coarse and hard. It doesn’t melt or dissolve like caster and granulated sugar. It is used in some pastries and cookies that are popular in Scandinavia.
This is also sometimes known as confectioners’ sugar, and if you have ever used it, you will know that it is so fine that it often creates of bit of a ‘dust storm’ in the kitchen. It is very sweet and is most often used to make icing and glazes for cakes, bun and biscuits. It is also used in some sweeties recipes. Icing sugar can also be used in cake baking and works well in banana cake.
Made from the cane of the sugar crop, this sugar is far less processed than granulated sugar. The grains are often much larger than those found in granulated sugar, and it also costs more to buy and produce. This sugar tends to produce a smoother and more refined taste than granulated sugar. However, unless you are looking for a specific finish to a cake, it can be substituted with the more common granulated sugar if you find yourself without it.
This type of sugar undergoes even less processing than cane sugar. It is a raw sugar that retains its natural colour and texture. Some people prefer it in coffee due over granulated sugar. It is a purer form of sugar and often costs more than granulated and caster sugar. It does have a slightly superior taste, I feel.
Popular in rich brownies and fruit cakes, this type of sugar is rich and dark. The molasses is not removed from muscovado sugar, and this gives it a rich and sweet taste. This sugar is not only popular in rich cakes, but also in savory cooking. It is often used in spicey stews and also when caramelizing onions or tomatoes.