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In my cakes, I prefer to use unrefined sugars, such as golden caster sugar and granulated sugar as they have more flavour, but do experiment with different types of sugars and sweeteners now available. The only time I would use white caster sugar is for meringues as it makes them really white.
1. Caster Sugar
Most commonly used in cake making, especially for whisked sponges, creamed mixtures and meringues, as its small, regular grains ensure that it blends smoothly, giving an even texture. You can make vanilla sugar by adding two or three vanilla pods to a jar of caster sugar. Leave for two weeks to allow the vanilla to infuse. You can refill the jar as you use the sugar.
2. Granulated Sugar
Granulated sugar has a coarser texture than caster sugar and is best used in melting and rubbed-in methods. If used in a creamed mixture it will give a slightly gritty texture and speckled appearance and will reduce the volume of the cake.
3. Icing Sugar
Not generally used in cake mixtures as it will create a hard crust and reduce the volume of the cake, but it is essential in making Meringue Cuite. It’s most frequently used to make glacé icing and dust cooked bakes before serving.
4. Muscovado Sugar
Made from raw cane sugar, the colour and flavour vary with the molasses content. Light muscovado sugar can be used to make many cakes as it creams well. Use it for brown sugar meringues, using half-light muscovado and half caster sugar. Dark muscovado sugar can be overpowering but works well in gingerbreads and rich fruit cakes. To prevent muscovado sugar from going damp, put a sheet of kitchen paper in the bag or jar and seal.
5. Demerara Sugar
This is traditionally unrefined, but it has a lower molasses content than muscovado sugar. It is best suited to cakes made with the melting method to dissolve its large crystals and to be sprinkled on top of cakes or added to cheesecake bases for extra crunch.
6. Nibbed Sugar
‘Nibbed’ is an old-fashioned term meaning coarsely chopped. Nibs are the rough-shaped ‘shavings’ formed when sugar cubes are cut. I use it to top cakes before baking, but you can use crushed sugar cubes instead as nibbed sugar is difficult to get hold of.
7. Golden Syrup, Black Treacle And Honey
Light, sweet golden syrup and darker, strong black treacle, which has added molasses, are both made from crystallized refined sugar. Nature’s equivalent, honey, is the oldest sweetener in the world. Use clear or runny honey in recipes as it dissolves more quickly.
8. Malt Sugar
Malt sugar is made from powdered malt that has been reduced into a syrup. Malt sugar is added to bread to add a sweet flavour and to aid the action of carbon dioxide.
9. Condensed Milk
Condensed milk that has had half the water content removed and sugar added, sold in cans. I have used condensed milk as a sweetener in some recipes to give a fudgy flavour. When heated with butter and muscovado sugar it turns to a thick caramel, used in Millionaires’ Shortbread.
Whenever you start with a recipe make sure you read it completely and always keep an eye on what kind of sugar is mentioned. Different types of sugars would give you a different type of end result.
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