How to Make Powdered Sugar
How to Make Powdered or Confectioner´s Sugar
If you have a high-powered blender, you can make your own powdered or confectioners´ sugar at home. In Peru, powdered sugar is expensive and low quality. I can make better and less expensive frosting by blending my own powdered sugar. Another advantage of homemade powdered sugar is the health benefits. I often use azúcar rubio, a less processed alternative to white sugar, which is more akin to the raw turbinado sugar sold in the United States. And if you have corn allergies, commercially made powdered sugar is out of the question because of the cornstarch it contains.
I´ve found if I try to blend too much sugar at once, the powdered sugar retains its gritty texture. Instead, use my method which is explained below. I´ve also included information on healthier alternatives to white sugar and cornstarch, which gives powdered sugar a smoother texture.
Homemade Powdered Sugar
- 1 cup brown or white sugar, see information below for alternatives
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch, see information below for alternatives
- Place sugar and cornstarch in a blender container. Cover the lid with a tea towel.
- Blend on high for a minute or two, depending on the blender being used. After turning off the blender, firmly tap the lid several times.
- Once the sugar has settled into the bottom of the container, remove the lid and taste the sugar with your fingertip. If the sugar is still too gritty, repeat the above process.
- Use powdered sugar to dust cakes or as an ingredient in buttercream frosting.
Alternatives to Cornstarch
Cornstarch is added to powdered sugar to keep it from clumping up. It also serves as a thickener when making frosting. But you may have reservations about using cornstarch. After all, most corn is now genetically modified and cornstarch is highly processed. Or you may have a corn allergy.
Another alternative is arrowroot powder, which isn´t processed as much as cornstarch. The tuberous root of the plant is washed, peeled and grated. The starch is then water extracted, much like it was in ancient times. Arrowroot can be used 1:1 as a substitute for cornstarch in most recipes. Other alternatives to cornstarch are potato starch or tapioca flour or starch.
Alternatives to White Sugar
As mentioned at the top of this page, less refined sugars can also be used to make powdered sugar. When used in frosting they produce a richer, more interesting topping for homemade cakes.
In Peru we use azúcar rubio, which is very similar to turbinado sugar as it is marketed in the States. This less refined sugar has a mild caramel flavor, although the molasses flavor isn´t as prominent as it is in brown sugar. You can substitute turbinado sugar for white sugar in this powdered sugar recipe. Another delicious option is maple sugar. Of course, powdered sugar made from maple sugar will have a mild and delicious maple flavor.
A Low Glycemic Sugar
I just recently learned about the benefits of organic coconut palm sugar. Not only is it delicious (it has a deep caramel flavor similar to brown sugar), but it is unrefined and low on the glycemic index. That means you won´t suffer the same "crash" you get from eating refined sugars. Coconut palm sugar is made from fresh coconut tree sap and contains B vitamins and minerals, making it highly nutritious.
This is another type of sugar that can be successfully powdered in a blender. However, this sugar isn´t just for frosting. Coconut palm sugar can replace brown sugar 1:1 in any recipe. Of course, it is still sugar and should be enjoyed in moderation.
Maple or Molasses Buttercream Frosting
Molasses-frosted gingerbread cake is hard to beat! Maple frosting is a delicious choice for carrot or pumpkin cake.
1. Make the powdered sugar:
- 4 cups maple sugar (for maple frosting) or turbinado sugar (for molasses frosting)
- 4 tablespoons corn starch
Place one cup each of sugar and cornstarch in a blender container. Cover lid with a tea towel and blend at least 2 minutes, or until sugar is completely powdered. Taste the sugar and if it´s still grainy, blend a little longer. Empty blender container and repeat with the remaining portions of sugar and cornstarch. Yield: 4 cups powdered sugar
2. Make the frosting:
- 4 cups homemade powdered sugar
- 14 ounces butter, room temperature
- 1 tsp. maple extract if using maple powdered sugar OR 1 tablespoon black strap molasses if using turbinado sugar
- Place butter in a deep mixing bowl. Using a stand or hand mixer, whip on high until butter and cream cheese is light and fluffy.
- Add maple extract (or molasses) and powdered sugar, one cupful at a time, until frosting is thick and smooth.
- Yield: Frosting for 1 two layer cake.