It is so quick and easy to make powdered sugar you might just wonder why you ever bothered buying processed bags in the first place. I have to admit that until I was asked about writing this topic, I had never given a single thought as to how confectioner’s sugar was made.
There are only two common ingredients required to make powdered sugar: granulated sugar and cornstarch. Yep, that’s it. You can use just about any raw or processed sugar to make confectioner’s sugar, but granulated is the most common.
Some folks skip adding the tiny bit of cornstarch called for in the recipe if they are going to use the homemade powdered sugar immediately in a recipe. The cornstarch somewhat helps to thicken the confectioner’s sugar and increase its longevity by acting as a natural drying agent.
After playing around with several recipes, I have decided to always toss in the cornstarch because of the consistency it creates makes it more (or exactly) like what we are used to buying at the supermarket.
Best Types of Sugars to Powder
- Granulated Sugar
- Coconut Sugar – a less refined sugar with a lower glycemic index
- Brown Sugar
- Turbinado Sugar
- Sanding Sugar
- Muscovado Sugar
Powdered Sugar Uses
- To make a buttercream icing for cakes and cupcakes.
- To make fondant icing, a thicker icing for cakes, cupcakes, and decorations for baked goods. Fondant icing can be rolled with a decorative pin, cut with a cookie cutter, or pushed inside of a chocolate mold to make a work of art of 3D edible decorations.
- To color and adorn treats and edible figures made out of marshmallows.
- To make snowball style sweet treats and cookies for Christmas time parties.
- To sprinkle on top of homemade beignets. I now make my from scratch New Orleans treat in the air fryer, and they are fabulous.
- As a dusting on top of nearly any type of dessert, especially on donuts, muffins, cookies, and cakes. Mix in a little bit of cinnamon and you will add even more sweet and delicious flavor as a light topping on the dessert dish.
How to Make Powdered Sugar
- Blender, food processor, or the time and patience to beat rapidly by hand with a mixing spoon for an extended period of time.
- Mixing spoon
- Storage container
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
In the photo below, granulated sugar is on screen left, homemade powdered sugar is in the middle and store-bought powdered sugar is featured at screen right.
How to Make Colored Powdered Sugar
Coloring homemade powdered sugar is just as simple and easy as adding some fun hues to the store-bought stuff. My grandkiddos love when I dust marshmallow treats with a colored powdered sugar to match the holiday or birthday theme.
- Powdered Gelatin – The gelatin that is available at all grocery stores at a nominal price adds not only color, but a little hint of flavor to the powdered sugar. If you are adding water to it to make a sweet glaze, the gelatin color will brighten slightly. To color powdered sugar this way, mix 1 cup of the sugar with half a packet of the gelatin and whisk – then use as planned for the recipe.
- Powdered Food Coloring – This is also commonly referred to as “petal dust.” It is more expensive than gelatin, but comes in a vast array of shaded. It is sold in only higher end or large supermarkets, and is most often found either online or in the cake decorating section of a craft store. It takes only minutes to make when following the short dry mixing instructions on the label. Typically you mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with ½ a teaspoon of petal dust.
- Liquid Food Coloring – Mix together 1 cup of powdered sugar with ½ to 1 teaspoon of liquid food coloring. You want to start with the lowest amount of liquid food coloring possible to avoid the powdered sugar from becoming too liquid (unless you are making a glaze) or gummy. Stir as you squirt in the liquid food coloring, and give the mixture a few moments to dry before deciding you need to add more squirts to achieve the desired color shade.
Hints and Tips
Always sift or pound out any clumps in the sugar before putting it into the blend. While a quality blender or food processor will be able to chop through the clumps for you, it could cause the cornstarch not to be combined with the sugar properly and decrease longevity.
The bowl at screen left is homemade powdered sugar and the bowl shown at screen right is filled with manufactured powdered sugar.
The more refined the base sugar you are using, the more fluffy the homemade powdered sugar will become. You can even make brown powdered sugar.
I am not exactly sure any recipe calls for such a sweet treat, but I imagine some clever baker will definitely find a tantalizing use for it.