The Nitty-Gritty Secrets of Sugar


From muscovado to pearl, sugar goes way beyond granulated. But most of them start in the same place: with cane or beet sugar. Molasses, a natural byproduct of the sugar refinement process, is either refined out of the product entirely (for white sugars), removed partially (for raw brown sugars), or removed and added back in later (for conventional brown sugar).


Refined white sugar, typically derived from sugar cane or sugar beets, that has had all molasses content removed.


Just what it sounds like: granulated sugar turned into a powder. Sometimes pastry chefs call it 10x, referring to the fineness of the powder. It’s also known as confectioners’ sugar, which is what we call for in our recipes.

Brown Sugar

Brown sugar gets its color and deep, rich flavor thanks to molasses, typically added to white sugar after the refinement process. Light brown sugar has less molasses; dark brown sugar has more.


Unlike brown sugar, muscovado sugar is not fully refined and retains all or part of its molasses content. The result is a brown to very dark brown sugar that can have a shiny, almost wet appearance. It is excellent in gingerbread.

Turbinado and Demerara 

These so-called raw sugars are relatively unrefined, much like muscovado, but they have more molasses content removed. With large grains and a light amber color, they add pleasant crunch when sprinkled over cookies or muffins.

Superfine and Caster Sugar

Very finely ground granulated sugar that’s not yet powdered. Often used in applications where sugar needs to dissolve in cooler liquids, like in cocktails or meringues.

Sanding Sugar

Sugar with large, coarse crystals used for decoration; what Christmas cookie dreams are made of. It’s also called sparkling sugar.

Pearl Sugar

Also known as nib sugar, pearl sugar consists of large bits of refined white sugar that don’t melt during baking, providing fantastic sugary crunch. It’s often associated with Belgium, as it’s a necessary ingredient in the famed Liège waffles, and Sweden, where a slightly smaller grain of pearl sugar is sprinkled on everything from cardamom rolls to Christmas cookies.


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