The sweetest thing

We help you make sense of the variety of sugars on the market...

by: Louisa Holst | 30 Jul 2007

Most of the sugar that is widely available is produced from sugar cane. It is crushed to extract the sweet juice, which is then heated and clarified.

Once the moisture has evaporated, it is known as raw sugar. The crystals in raw sugar are coarse and covered in a brown liquid coating called molasses. The raw sugar is refined to remove the molasses.

The crystals that remain behind are refined further to produce a pure white crystal. Brown sugar is not as refined as white sugar, and a small amount of molasses is left behind.

Different types of sugar

  • White, granulated sugar – This refined white sugar is versatile and can be used to sweeten almost anything – from baking, jam and sweets to tea and coffee.

  • Castor sugar – White sugar with small crystals. It is fine and light, and ideal for baking and making desserts. It is easy to work with as the finer crystals dissolve quickly and more easily than ordinary granulated white sugar.

  • Light brown or sun-sweet sugar. This sugar is less refined than white sugar and contains some molasses. It has a distinctive flavour, and is ideal for making bread, pickles and chutney.

  • Dark, soft brown or treacle sugar – Raw, unrefined sugar with added molasses. It is heavy and moist, and has a dark colour and stronger flavour than light brown sugar. It is especially good in gingerbread, rich cakes and marinades.

  • Icing sugar – Finely powdered, white granulated sugar that has had an anti-caking ingredient (cornflour) added to it. It is mostly used to make icing with which to decorate bakes.

    It can also be used to make smooth, creamy desserts or in recipes for biscuits that require a fine crumb.

  • Palm sugar – This soft, beige sugar originates from the date palm. It has a delicate flavour and can be used in desserts and savoury dishes. It is widely used in Asian and Indian cuisine.

  • Yellow sugar – Raw sugar that has been coloured with approved food colouring. It is used for making jams, cakes, preserves and home-brewed drinks, such as ginger beer.

  • Caramel sugar – Light brown sugar that has been mixed with caramelised sugar for a caramel flavour. Used in bakes or in glazes.

  • Demerara sugar – A light brown sugar from the Caribbean.

  • Muscovado sugar – A refined, dark brown sugar where most of the molasses has been left behind. It is available as light or dark muscovado sugar, depending on the amount of molasses it contains.

  • Jam sugar – This sugar usually has larger crystals that dissolve easily, making the jam less likely to burn. Some also contain pectin to help ensure that the jam sets after cooking.

  • Sugar cubes – White granulated sugar that has been formed into cubes which dissolve as soon as they are added to tea or coffee.

  • Flavoured sugar – Larger, refined white or brown sugar crystals, with added flavourings such as coffee or strawberry. Use it for baking or as an alternative to ordinary sugar at a tea party or in after-dinner coffee.

  • Coloured sugar – Larger crystals that are coloured with approved food colourings. These sugars can be used for decorating bakes. They do not melt when baked so they give a crunchy texture and attractive appearance to the final product.

    Sugar tips

  • Always store sugar in an airtight container because it absorbs moisture very easily.

  • Different sugars have different masses and properties, so be careful if you substitute one kind for another in recipes, especially in bakes.

    - Ideas


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