Is confectioners’ sugar and powdered sugar the same?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is confectioners’ sugar and powdered sugar the same?” and will discuss what is powdered sugar?

Is confectioners’ sugar and powdered sugar the same?

Yes, confectioners’ sugar and powdered sugar are the same. Powdered sugar, confectioners’ sugar, icing sugar, and 10X (a measurement of particle size) are all the same thing.

What is powdered sugar?

Granulated white sugar that has been finely ground into a powder is known as powdered sugar. Powdered sugar has an almost chalky texture compared to granulated sugar’s sandy feel. A little quantity of cornstarch is also added to commercial powdered sugar, which functions as an “anti-caking agent,” preventing huge clumps of sugar from collapsing. 

Powdered sugar is generally available in three degrees of fineness (6X, 10X, and 12X; the higher the number, the finer the product, as the number indicates the number of times that the sugar has been processed). Confectioners sugar is fine powdered sugar, and fondant and icing sugar are the finest. A study on the particle dimensions of different types of sugar showed that while refined sugar shows particles from approximately 100 to 1,000 micrometers, powdered sugar has 100% of particles with sizes under 200 micrometers and Gaussian asymmetric particle size distribution (1).

What’s the big deal if powdered sugar is so similar to granulated sugar? The question is, “When is it necessary and when can you say, “Who cares!” and simply use the ordinary stuff?”

Uses of powdered sugar

When it comes to baked items, powdered sugar performs a significantly different function than normal sugar.

When you use powdered sugar, the texture of what you’re preparing will be affected in the first place. When preparing cookies, cakes, and pastries, you’re likely acquainted with the idea of combining butter and sugar. When granulated sugar is pounded with butter, it forms millions of tiny air pockets that result in light and airy doughs.

 Because of the finer structure of powdered sugar, when whipped with butter in the same way, the finer sugar is unable to form those same air pockets, leaving you with a denser and more crumbly cookie texture. So, if you’re looking for an ultra-tender and crumbly shortbread, check for recipes that ask for powdered sugar in your ingredients list. If you want a more crunchy cookie (think chocolate chip), you’ve already figured out where to go.

The rate and extent of dissolution of sugar in a dough during mixing, lay time, and baking depend on both the sugar type and crystal particle size. Cookies made with ultrafine sugar resulted in greater lateral expansion, collapse, and surface crack than did cookies made with regular refined sugar due to more rapid dissolution of its smaller sized particles. Sugars are plasticizers of the biopolymers of wheat flour. When particles are smaller, there is a rapid solubilization during baking, leading to a faster decreasing of the dough viscosity, which results in cookies with decreased height and greater diameters (2).

Powdered sugar, in contrast to granulated sugar, dissolves quickly and readily at room temperature without the need for any agitation. This makes it ideal for a wide range of applications, including glazes, buttercreams, frostings, icings, and mousses, all of which need a smooth, grain-free texture.

Particle sizes have also been noted as an important parameter of fat crystal network’s hardness in many confectionery products, such as chocolate products. Most sugar particle sizes in confectionery products are usually smaller than 50 μm (powdered sugar). The fat crystal network is more dense and homogenous for blends with the smallest sugar particles compared to blends with large particles. This is most likely due to the effects of particle size on the crystallization kinetic; smaller particles promote faster crystallization most likely due to a seeding effect accelerating the nucleation (3).

Powdered sugar and a tiny quantity of liquid are the basic ingredients in many of our favorite royal icings and glaze recipes. Other times it’s a cup of hot water with a few drops of lemon juice or a cup of strong coffee or tea. Adding cornstarch, one of the two main elements in powdered sugar, aids in the creation of a thick, lustrous, pourable glaze when you combine these two ingredients. Ever created the cornstarch-and-water mixture from the Oobleck game? The Glaze was conceived by a genius who put all those juvenile scientific experiments to good use.

Fudge and Buckeyes are two examples of no-bake candy that benefit from using powdered sugar, and you’ll also find it in certain meringue recipes, where the cornstarch helps solidify the meringue.

How to make powdered sugar?

If you don’t have any powdered sugar on hand, can you create your own at home? YES, that’s correct!

Granulated sugar and cornstarch are the two items you’ll need to manufacture your own powdered sugar at home. One cup of granulated sugar to one spoonful of cornstarch is the perfect ratio. In a high-powered food processor or spice grinder, combine the two and blitz until the mixture is finely ground. This might take several minutes, depending on the strength of your equipment, but the final result should be a fine powder.

For big volumes of powder, I don’t advocate using a spice grinder since it may become messy, and in most cases when you’ll need many cups, it’s better to buy a box from the grocery store. You’ll save yourself a trip to the store if you just need a few teaspoons for sprinkling on top of brownies (yet another fantastic application for this powdered substance).

Is it possible to use powdered sugar for granulated sugar?

Generally speaking, no. Make sure you use powdered sugar in recipes that call for it (like cookie dough) or you run the risk of receiving a final product that falls short of your expectations. The best way to acquire good results when replacing is to do it by weight rather than volume, rather than volume. (Powdered sugar weighs 113 grams per cup, but granulated sugar weighs 200 grams per cup.)

Since not only the type of sweetener (sucrose, fructose, honey, syrup), but also the particle size of the ingredients (not only sugar) are important for the dough development, any change in the ingredient list should affect the final texture and overall flavor of the resulting recipe (3). 

“There’s one more!” Sweetened whipped cream may be made without powdered sugar. I don’t know about you, but my mother insisted on beating her cream with powdered sugar before adding it to the mixture. It didn’t occur to me to question her, since she is, after all, my mother, and moms are always right! Since then, I’ve grown up, developed my critical thinking skills, and understood that granulated sugar works just as well as powdered sugar when whipping cream. Granulated sugar will dissolve completely in the cream if you use Whip It Good, and will sweeten it just as effectively as powder. 

Other FAQs about Sugar that you may be interested in.

How to melt brown sugar on the stove?

How to Make Sugar Glass without Corn Syrup

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is confectioners’ sugar and powdered sugar the same?” and discussed what is powdered sugar?

References

  1. Santos, Luana Cristina dos, Rodrigo Condotta, and Maria do Carmo Ferreira. Flow properties of coarse and fine sugar powders. J Food Process Eng, 2018, 41, e12648. 
  2. Kalic, Marina, et al. Impact of different sugar and cocoa powder particle sizes on crystallization of fat used for the production of confectionery products: Particle size distribution influences fat crystallization. J Food Proc Preserv, 2018, 42, e13848.  
  3. Kweon, Meera, et al. Exploration of sugar functionality in sugar‐snap and wire‐cut cookie baking: Implications for potential sucrose replacement or reduction. Cereal chem, 2009, 86, 2009, 425-433.