How to Make Confectioners’ Sugar

If you run out of confectioners’ sugar you can make your own. Here’s how.

December 10, 2021

Photo by: /Getty Images

/Getty Images

By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen

Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.

You go to the cabinet, positive that there’s a box of confectioners’ sugar there because you need to frost the cupcakes you made. Nope, it’s not there. Plan B – make your own. Do you have sugar? Do you have cornstarch or potato starch? You’re in luck. confectioners’ sugar is just five minutes away.

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1208345608

Lemon bread coated with sugar sweet icing and sprinkled with lemon peel. Cake with citrus, poppy, traditional american cuisine. Whole loaf. White background, side view, close up, vertical

Photo by: NataBene/Getty Images

NataBene/Getty Images

How to Make Confectioners’ Sugar

Confectioners’ sugar, now often labeled as powdered sugar, is used for so many things: frosting, glazes, dusting cakes and cookies and making royal icing. If you want more info, we’ve done a deep dive in our What Is Confectioners’ Sugar article. It’s a good idea to always have it on hand, but if you run out mid-recipe, you can make your own in a few quick steps. These steps will yield 1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar.

  1. Measure 1 cup of granulated sugar into a blender. A blender is the best option for making the powdered sugar: the blade spins so much faster than that in a food processor, and the shape of the container keeps the sugar in almost constant contact with the sugar. You can make confectioners’ sugar in a food processor if you don’t have a blender, but it will take longer, and it won’t be as pulverized as the blender version.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. The cornstarch is there to keep it from clumping if moisture gets into the container.
  3. Put the lid on the blender and slowly bring the power to high. Blend it for 30 to 45 seconds to pulverize the sugar.

How to Make Royal Icing

Royal Icing is an icing that becomes hard when it dries. It’s used to decorate cookies when you want an icing that will stay where you put it and not get smushed when stacked. It’s the glue that holds gingerbread houses together but can be thinned to completely coat a cookie. Here’s our recipe for Royal Icing, which makes 2 cups.

Ingredients

  • 1 1-pound box confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder (available in the baking aisle)
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • Assorted food coloring

Instructions

  1. Sift the confectioners' sugar and meringue powder into a large bowl. Add the water and beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until soft glossy peaks form. Divide among bowls and tint with food coloring, if desired.
  2. Transfer the icing to resealable plastic bags; snip off the corners. Pipe on the cookies.

How to Make Icing and Glaze with Confectioners’ Sugar

Icings and glazes are pretty much the same thing: confectioners’ sugar mixed with a liquid (like water, cream, milk, non-dairy milk or lemon juice). Icings and glazes are used for drizzling over cookies, cakes and doughnuts. Royal icing is simply one type.

They will keep for a day or so in the fridge but be sure to use plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out. For the best results, press the plastic directly on the icing to prevent a skin from forming on the surface. Here’s our recipe for Basic Glaze Icing.

Ingredients

  • 3 (1 pound boxes) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • Food coloring, as desired (see suggested colors below)

Instructions

  1. Put the sugar in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on the lowest speed, slowly add the water, the corn syrup and vanilla extract. When the sugar is sufficiently moistened (it won't fly out of the mixer), raise the speed to high, and beat for 2 minutes until completely smooth and glossy.
  2. Divide and color, as desired. Store at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the icing, to prevent forming a skin.
  3. For cupcakes: Dip the surface of the cupcakes into the icing, allowing excess to drip into bowl. Clean any excess from the sides. Alternately, use a knife or a spreader to apply. Whisk as needed to keep icing glossy and smooth while using.

Recipes with Confectioners’ Sugar

Almond Snowball Cookies

Photo by: Teri Lyn Fisher

Teri Lyn Fisher

Here, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. To make these cookies really snowy, follow the directions to roll them in confectioners’ sugar twice, then dust them again when you’re serving them.

Cinnabon

Cinnabon

Cinnamon Pastry with Frosty in a Square Beige Dish

If you’ve ever been to a big mall, you’ve smelled these cinnamon buns. Yes, our recipe developer recreated them in our test kitchen. Use as much glaze as you’d like.

Smahed Sugar Cookies

Photo by: Teri Lyn Fisher

Teri Lyn Fisher

Make these cuter-than-cute cookies with kids: they’ll love the smashing and then drizzling of confectioners’ sugar glaze.

VANILLA AMERICAN BUTTERCREAM, Food Network Kitchen, Unsalted Butter, Confectioners’ Sugar, Vanilla Extract, Milk

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Confectioners’ sugar, butter, vanilla and a pinch of salt are all you need to make this American classic: Vanilla Buttercream. Use a few teaspoons of milk if you need to thin it.

Citrus Crinkle Cut Cookies

Citrus zest and food coloring gel bring flavor and vibrance to these cookies. The cookies are completely coated with confectioners’ sugar before going into the oven.

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