Sugar in cake making
Sugar sweetens cake batters and helps to brown the outside of a cake as it caramelises during baking. It also keeps the texture of the crumb tender. And it helps keep a cake edible for longer.
Caster sugar – also called superfine granulated. This is finer than standard granulated sugar and is used in baking because it is easier to cream with butter or mix with other ingredients.
Demerara – these hard, light-brown crystals with a mild caramel flavour get their name from Demerara in Guyana. They are especially good for forming a crunchy topping on baking.
Granulated sugar – another way to describe regular white sugar (the sort you serve with a cup of tea). It’s used in syrups because it produces a clearer result than caster sugar, which can produce a cloudy syrup.
Icing sugar – also known as confectioner’s sugar, this is smooth, fine and powdery. Starch is often added to it to keep it lump-free.
Soft brown sugar – soft sugar with a sweet caramel flavour.
Muscovado – a raw sugar with a strong taste of molasses that adds plenty of flavour to rich fruitcakes, boiled fruit cakes and other dried fruit baking. It is also good in chutneys and pickles where a dark colour is welcome (if you want light coloured or clear pickles, use white sugar). Pass it through a coarse sieve before using.
Palm sugar – made from the sap extracted from young palms, boiled down to a syrup and dehydrated into discs. It has an intense, sweet caramel-like flavour and is often used in fudge. Grate or chop before use. Store in an airtight container.
Coconut sugar – made from the sap harvested from coconut palm flowers. It’s then boiled up to evaporate the watery content. Unlike stevia, which I do not use, the taste is initially sweet and caramelly, then it becomes complex, slightly bitter only to finish pleasantly sweet.