Tips and techniques

Sugar: your guide to every type on the shelf

Knowing the type of sugar to use in your cooking, and which you can easily switch out, will make your weekend bakes a breeze.
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Not all sugars are created equal, and different types can produce profoundly different results when you bake. Let’s break it down:


Used for everyday baking and sweetening, white sugar is made of uniform crystals giving it a regular texture and consistency. It can also be switched out for regular brown sugar if you prefer a chewy choc-chip cookie or a light caramel taste.


A superfine white sugar (with small crystals) which dissolves easily, caster sugar is perfect for making meringues, jellies, puddings and other baking. It can also be used to sprinkle over fruit or baked products.

types of sugar


Icing sugar, or powdered sugar, is a 100 per cent natural sugar in a powdered form. It is often used in cakes, shortbreads, icings, cream fillings and fondant or anywhere a soft, finished texture is required. It is also available as icing sugar mixture, which contains starch, usually from tapioca, to help prevent lumps forming.


Used in both sweet and savoury recipes due to its lovely caramel flavour, brown sugar is a soft, fine granulated sugar. It contains a concentration of natural syrups giving it its soft natural caramel colour and aroma. Notoriously hard to soften, brown sugar is also available as dark brown sugar, which contains natural molasses syrup.


A natural granulated sugar which is golden in colour and tastes a little like honey, raw sugar is usually used as a sweetener for coffee. You can also find it in recipes for biscuits and cakes made with wholemeal flours and other less processed ingredients. It is also available as raw caster sugar, but these varieties cannot be used as a substitute for white sugar, unless stated by the recipe.


A small grained sugar, rich golden in colour with a subtle molasses flavour, golden demerara sugar is another type of raw sugar, and can be used in its place when baking. It’s also perfect for sweetening coffee.


Made from the sap of the sugar palm tree, you can find palm sugar sold in hard cakes. Usually light brown in colour, it’s mostly used in Asian food and usually grated to measure. It can be substituted with brown sugar and makes a great syrup to drizzle over pears or pineapple wedges.


Made from the sap of cut flower buds from the coconut palm, coconut sugar is often confused with palm sugar. It is subtly sweet with a caramel flavour and comes in crystal, granule block or liquid form. It has a lower GI than other sugars and can be used in coffee, tea, baking and cooking.


This sugar is an unrefined sugar with a unique caramel flavour, fine grain and gorgeous golden colour. It’s made by evaporating the water from the organic sugar cane juice. Sometimes called panela sugar, it can be substituted for regular sugar in drinks and baking.

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