Sugar 101 : Decoding various baking sugars

Have you felt daunted by the raw sugar mentioned in a recipe? Wondered what is the difference between castor sugar and icing sugar? Or whether brown sugar is what should use when the recipe calls for it or the demerara sugar will work? I know when I started baking these were the things that bothered me so much specially in India where atleast at that time half the things weren't even available. So here is a post that will help you solve sugar issues. Listing down broadly what are the sugars used in baking and how.

Sugar 101 : Decoding various baking sugars

White Granulated Sugar

This is your over the counter everyday sugar. Globally, this is the most widely used sugar in baking however I feel back home in India the granules are way too big for baking and remains as granules even after baking. It also cuts into the air we build while baking so I personally avoid using it unless I can get hold of fine sugar in India (parry's has some) or if I have to I give it a teeny whiz in the mixie

Caster Sugar

Caster sugar is essentially superfine sugar and is perfect for the bakes which need whipping of eggs and sugar etc. In India, this is what I recommended for baking

Icing Sugar

Known by many names - icing sugar/confectioner sugar they all essentially represent super fine powered sugar which has been mixed with a small amount of cornstrach which helps the sugar in not caking. As the name suggests, this one is mainly used in icings and decorating purposes.

Brown Sugar

This actually is a larger umbrella of sugars but when it comes to India we don't get many. There is muscovado, light brown, dark brown. Muscovado is essentially a sugar from which the molasses hasn't been removed and hence is much less processed than your normal sugar so one can say it is healthier in a way. Light and dark brown sugars are however normal sugars in which molasses has been re-added so they are serving more the purpose of deep caramel color rather than anything else. In India (apart from at fancy imported shops) you get Trust brown sugar and it works very well in all brown sugar recipes.

Demerara Sugar

Demerara Sugar internationally is unrefined cane sugar with mild molasses flavour to it intact. It is beautiful to bake with and in your coffee or tea, however buy it only if you are getting the imported versions because the ones that you get locally are essentially normal sugar with caramel added to it. If a recipe asks for it and you don't have the imported version, just use the brown sugar. Demerara sugar & Muscovado sugar and others that contain molasses before the processing are also knowns as raw sugars.

Raw Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar as the name suggests, is made from the flowers of coconut palm instead of sugarcane, it is said to be much more healthier than the cane sugar because of its lower GI index, originally from Thailand it is said to be popular in parts of Kerala too traditionally. These days it is easily available in most organic stores and I frequently replace it with brown or normal sugar.


Our good old jaggery and how we under estimate it, I always find that at most of the places a recipe asks for raw or brown sugar, powdered jaggery works and probably works even better because of the nuttier flavour. So don't hesitate to use jaggery in your bakes just make sure it is powdered well (note : it won't work in cases where you have to incorporate a lot of air with eggs like meringues and sponges)


Well we all know what honey is, extracted from honey bees it is found in abundance in India and used in many cake and cookie recipes as an alternative & healthier sweetener


Molasses or black treacle is a by product of the process of making sugar from sugarcane and it's so strange that inspite of the fact that India produces so much sugar, we don't get molasses commercially. It is extensively used in baking specially while baking breads and xmas goodies. More often than not honey works as a replacement or liquid jaggery but the best replacement I find is 3:1 mix of either honey or liquid jaggery and orange marmalade, works like wonders.

Pic credit - Free-stock-photos

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