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Powdered sugar and fine sugar: all the differences

Yes, powdered sugar and impalpable sugar are technically not the same thing: there are very specific differences between them and we list them all.

Let’s split a hair into three again today: to be precise, the words “powdered sugar” are not enough and the recipes should be more precise. I will talk about the difference between powdered sugar and impalpable sugarwhich abroad are called respectively Granulated sugar And icing sugar.

They are not opposite products, but these two differences on the cross still make them different and for different uses from each other… even if they both start from simple and reduced ground sugar in powder or almost.


cherry meringue

Visually, icing sugar (or “icing”) and impalpable sugar are quite similar, but touching them you immediately perceive a difference: icing sugar is very fine but not very dry, impalpable sugar almost looks like talc. And there is a very specific reason that is about to be revealed.

Is there anything other than sugar?

icing sugar on cookies

Powdered sugar is nothing but powdered sugar by patient grinding, until it is very fine and light. Impalpable sugar becomes impalpable in the form of talcum powder because it has added starch – usually corn starch. In other parts of the world, some brands do not use corn starch but wheat, potato or tapioca starch.

Do they have different flavors? There are those who swear they perceive the hint of starch and a tougher consistency that melts less in the mouth, and those who feel no difference.

Intended use

icing sugar cookies

The reason why one type of ground sugar is pure or with added starches is very simple: the first must be served “raw”, to complete a dessert or to decorate it, while the second type can also be used in a pastry. bake. Indeed, that is precisely the purpose of the starch: to prevent the sugar from melting during baking and compromising the growth or structure of the cake.

Both can be used in desserts with a spoon, although the technically impalpable sugar would be more suitable if the dessert was based on creams and a little more: it would help to thicken them.


icing sugar dessert

Theoretically, fine sugar has no added flavors. As for icing sugar, it is very often enriched with vanilla flavoring and is found with the mention “vanilla icing sugar”: an element to take into account depending on the recipe you are about to prepare.

The question of names in Italy

Granulated sugar

We have seen how in English these two sugars have a very precise distinction (one, I repeat, is called Granulated sugar and the other, the one with starch, icing sugar), in Italy it is rare to find impalpable sugar next to icing sugar or vanilla icing sugar. Indeed, often there is not even such a distinction upstream because the starch is often added with the aim of not making the product moist. The solution is to always read the ingredients, which must show the presence or absence of starch – which is very important, especially if you want to prepare grain-free desserts such as panna cotta or chocolate mousse (cornstarch always comes from corn, which is a cereal).

Home made

caster sugar

Frosting and fine sugars can be made at home if you have a spice grinder – phenomenal for this purpose. Grind intermittently and several times without stirring, so as not to overheat the blades and the sugar. To obtain the fine sugar, grind as much as possible and finally add a small percentage of cornstarch.

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