Why do we add sugar in baking?
The main reason is taste. Sugar tastes deliciously sweet and in turn it makes cakes and desserts absolutely irresistible!
When creamed with butter, sugar helps to bring air into the mixture, which makes the sponge light. In frostings, this action also helps to combine icing sugar with butter to make an airy and fluffy mixture.
Sugar holds onto water molecules, which is very useful for making batters. It also helps the sponge to brown (this is called the Maillard reaction) and adds chewiness to the edge of a brownie and crispness to the top of a meringue when it is baked. It can add gooeyness in pie fillings and make sticky glazes and drizzles.
Sugar also feeds and activates yeast when added to sweet doughs and helps the bread to rise by allowing fermentation. It also works with the gluten strands to help keep them nice and soft and to make the loaf tender.
It’s an excellent stabiliser and helps your baked goods to last longer too, so that is why a cake will keep well without spoiling and cookies still taste perfect several days later.
When sugar is heated, it sets at various levels of softness and can provide the structure to make runny caramels, firm fudges and hard candies, as well as wobbly jellies and jams.
Can I substitute different types of sugar in a baking recipe?
Different sugars have different properties when baked, so it’s important to use the correct sugar stated in the recipe. It could change the texture, colour and final flavour of your bakes if you substitute.
Baking is an exact science, so you may change the results if you swap around ingredients.
Can I substitute sugar for a sugar-free alternative when baking?
If you wish to use a sugar substitute for dietary reasons, it is possible to substitute sugar in a baking recipe.
Simply substitute with a sugar-free alternative as instructed on the packet. Do check that the product you’ve chosen to substitute with is suitable for baking.
For some sweet inspiration, bake from our bestselling cookbooks here.