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How to Use Any Kind of Sugar in Any Recipe

Updated on December 5, 2012
A "Baking Is Art" Graphic
A "Baking Is Art" Graphic | Source

When the Right Sugar isn't in Your Baking Pantry

On occasion, the correct sugar may be absent from the pantry shelves, so a substitution may be in order. What do you do when you don't have the right sugary ingredients? In order to have the same great results and delicious baked snacks, knowing what sugars can be used in place of another can resolve the problem all together.

You will find many helpful sugar substitutions and comparable sweetening components to help you follow through with your baking goals. Don't let a missing bag of brown sugar stop you from creating that sweet molasses flavored treat you had your heart set on. Simply use the easy to follow sugar substitutions listed here and continue baking your favorite sugary treats without a hitch!

10 Questions to Help You Make the Correct Sugar Ingredient Substitutions

By reading the answers to these 10 sugar questions, you will never come up short when it comes to having the right sugar for the recipes you crave.

1. What is super fine sugar?

  • Super fine sugar is a finely ground granulated sugar that is designed to dissolve very quickly in liquids. In England, (and sometimes in American recipes) it is referred to as castor sugar. Although used more often in beverages like iced tea and lemonade, super fine sugar does have some baking applications. It is regularly used in the making of meringue and frosting recipes. A cake or cookie recipe that demands particularly fine- grained textures is sure to call for super fine sugar.

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2. What makes confectioner's sugar different from regular white sugar?

  • Confectioner's sugar is very finely ground white sugar that has a small amount of cornstarch added to it to prevent clumping (familiar to the home baker as powdered sugar ). You will more frequently find it sifted over baked goods right before serving. You can also mix it together with water, milk, and flavoring extracts to make very sweet and smooth icing. Because it is combined with cornstarch, confectioner's sugar is used instead of granulated sugar in cookie recipes that call for an extremely tender texture. It brings a similar effect as when using cake flour instead of all-purpose flour; lowering the overall protein content of the dough, making for a very soft and fine crumb cookie.

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3. What is brown sugar? And What is the difference between brown and light brown sugar?

  • In the process of refining regular sugar the by-product molasses is created. Originally, brown sugar was partially refined sugar. The molasses that remained in the sugar gave it a brown color, gave it flavor, and kept the sugar product moist. Today, brown sugar is made by adding the molasses back in to refined white sugar. This allows the manufacturer to control the exact amount of molasses, offering a very consistent brown sugar product. Light brown sugar has just about 3.5% molasses, while dark brown sugar has about 6.5% molasses added.

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4. Should I throw away the rock hard box of brown sugar I opened months ago?

  • As with white sugar, brown sugar doesn't go bad, but it can get so hard it seems impossible to use. If your brown sugar ends up hard and dried out, there are a few ways to remedy the problem and get it back to its softer side. If time is not an issue, put the brown sugar in an airtight container with a slice of apple overnight. The apple slice will shed its moisture into the sugar and return the rock hard mass to a moist brown sugar texture. But, if time is not on your side and you require a quick fix, place the sugar in a microwave-safe bowl and cover it with a very damp paper towel and then plastic wrap over that. Microwave on high between 30 seconds and 1 minute. Make sure you don't melt the brown sugar. Fluff with a fork, use this rejuvenated brown sugar immediately.

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Sugar is the Cure! | Source

5. Can I substitute brown sugar for white sugar in recipes and vice versa?

  • Yep. You can absolutely use an equal amount of brown sugar for some or all of the white sugar in any baking recipe. Depending on how much sugar is required for the recipe, the molasses flavor of the brown sugar may come through. White sugar works in any recipe that calls for brown sugar, however you may find the results to be flat or slightly bland. If you are out of brown sugar but have white sugar and molasses around, you can proceed with confidence. To make brown sugar, add a tablespoon of molasses for every cup of white sugar. For light brown sugar, add 1½ teaspoons of molasses for every cup of white sugar.

Below you will find a handy baking pan volume guide. Consult the guide for a pan substitution and approximate metric equivalent. Make certain the pan you want to use is the same volume as the pan required for your recipe.


6" x 2" round 
4 cups
8" x 1½"  round
4 cups 
8" x 4" x 2½ loaf 
4 cups 
8" x 2" round
6 cups
9" x 1½" round
6 cups
7½" x 3" bunt pan
6 cups
8" x 8" x 1½" square
6 cups
11" x 7" x 2" rectangle
6 cups
8½" x 4½" x 2" loaf
6 cups
9" x 2" round
8 cups
8" x 8" x 2" square
8 cups
9" x 9" x 1" square
8 cups
9" x 5" x 3" loaf
8 cups
8" x 2½" heart-shaped
8 cups
9" x 3" bundt pan
9 cups
8" x 3" tube pan
9 cups
9" x 2½" springform
10 cups
9" x 9" x 2" square
10 cups
10½" x 15½" x 1" jelly-roll
10 cups
10" x 2" round
11 cups
10" x 3½" bunt pan
12 cups
9" x 3" tube pan
12 cups
9" x 3" springform
12 cups
10" x 2½" springform
12 cups
12½" x 17½" x 1" jelly-roll
12 cups
13" x 9" x 2" rectangle
14 cups

6. What's the difference between raw sugar, turbinado sugar, and brown sugar?

  • Turbinado sugar (occasionally called "sugar in the raw") offers a beautiful golden color and a molasses flavor kind of like that of light brown sugar, but brown sugar has a great deal more moisture than turbinado sugar, which is quite dry like white sugar. This difference is due to the way the two are processed. In the making of brown sugar, cane juice is completely processed into white sugar, and then molasses is added back in to moisten, add color, and build flavor in the end product.

In the making of white sugar, the cane juice is filtered, crystallized, and then washed to remove the molasses. Turbinado sugar is processed like white sugar, however some of the molasses is allowed to stay on the crystals, which get spun in a centrifuge. Another type of sugar called demerara, more popular in England, has many of the same characteristics as the turbinado sugar. Muscovado sugar, also loved in England, has a very pronounced molasses flavor. Any of these sugars can be substituted for white or brown sugar. If you do use these sugars in place of white sugar be aware of the flavor differences and remember that the turbinado sugar won't add moisture to your baked goods like brown sugar will.

7. Which type of molasses (light, dark, or blackstrap) is best for my baking recipes?

  • Like light and dark brown sugar, light and dark molasses can be used interchangeably, with some flavor variance. Unless directed to use it specifically, avoid blackstrap molasses in your recipes. Blackstrap has a very bitter taste that can ruin most baked goods.

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8. Can I use honey instead of sugar in baking? Is it a more healthful choice?

  • When thinking of how we get honey compared to how sugar is processed (a hive in a field of flowers compared to a polluting smokestack next door to a smoldering burned sugar cane field), honey is, very much like sugar; a simple carbohydrate, lacking almost any additional nutritional value. Honey is said to be a little sweeter than sugar, and of course honey has more moisture content. If you decide to exchange honey for sugar, you need to take the moisture variable into account. The best conversion is, use 7/8 cup of honey for every cup of sugar, reducing the liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons for every 7/8 cup of honey you use. If you switch this around and have to use sugar instead of honey, use 1¼ cups of sugar for every cup of honey, be sure to add an extra ¼ cup of liquid to the recipe to make up for the absence of the liquid in sugar compared to the liquid in honey.

9. What makes light and dark corn syrup different?

  • Light corn syrup is clear and is flavored with vanilla and salt. Dark corn syrup is flavored with molasses which adds caramel color and flavor. These can be used interchangeably in recipes. A molasses flavor will be present when using the dark corn syrup.

10. Can I use maple syrup instead of sugar when baking?

  • You can use maple syrup instead of sugar, but be aware that it is less sweet than sugar, so you will have to use more to sweeten your treats. To get a mild maple flavor into your baked goods, substitute 1½ cups of maple syrup for every cup of white sugar, reducing the liquid by 1½ cups.

Comments for Baking Guide - 10 answers to your sugar questions...

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  • profile image

    Heather 5 years ago

    Thank you! was just checking I could swap muscovado sugar for light brown sugar to make a delicious ginger beer. In case you want to make it: fresh ginger, lemons, sugar and water. Blitz then decanter. Dilute to taste with sparkling water or lemonade! delicious! works very well with light brown sugar which is why I looked on this site in the first place - so thank you!

  • Julie DeNeen profile image

    Blurter of Indiscretions 5 years ago from Clinton CT

    I need to bookmark this hub. Really great information for bakers!

  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

    felicia~ Sure you can use brown sugar in iced tea! It adds a little bit of richness to the flavor due to the molasses base. It is higher in moisture content, so it may even dissolve a little better and more quickly than regular white granulated sugar. Sounds like you have a yummy liquid refreshment in the works! Thanks for the great question!



  • profile image

    felicia 6 years ago

    Can i use brown sugar to make iced tea?

  • Hendrika profile image

    Hendrika 6 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

    Thanks for the info. I regularly have trouble with sugar in South Africa as I do not know what the equivalent is, but now I have a better idea.

  • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

    Susan Haze 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

    I didn't know I could substitute brown for white sugar or honey for sugar. Thanks. for the information