What Is Confectioners’ Sugar?

Confectioners’ Sugar. Powdered Sugar. Icing Sugar. 10X Sugar. Is there a difference?

December 07, 2021


Kitchen sieve filled with icing sugar lying on a wooden kitchen counter alongside a mixing bowl while baking or cooking pastries and food

Photo by: Stephen Gibson / EyeEm/Getty Images

Stephen Gibson / EyeEm/Getty Images

By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen

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

You’ve seen it called for in baking recipes. But what is it anyway? And is it any different than, say, powdered sugar? We get to the bottom of things.



Summer sponge cake with fresh sweet cherries, blueberries, almonds and sugar powder over wood rustic table, close up

Photo by: istetiana/Getty Images

istetiana/Getty Images

What Is Confectioners' Sugar?

Confectioners' sugar is regular granulated white sugar that’s pulverized to a powder so fine it’s basically sugar dust. On its own, this powder will draw water from the air and clump, so cornstarch is added to prevent this (but don’t worry, you won’t taste it). If you pop plain powdered sugar into your mouth, it will feel dry and then melt away on your tongue, leaving a sweet flavor.

What Is Powdered Sugar?

Powdered sugar is just another name for confectioners’ sugar. The name “powdered sugar” is based off of its physical, powder-like appearance; the name “confectioners’ sugar” is based on how it’s used (by candy makers). And to make things even more confusing, confectioners’ sugar has two other names.

In Great Britain and the countries that are members of the commonwealth, confectioners’ sugar is called icing sugar because one of its main uses is for making icing and frosting.

It also goes by 10X sugar. For granulated sugar to become pulverized to the point where is becomes confectioners’, it is milled multiple times. Some say the 10 refers to the number of times it is milled. Some say 10 refers to the size of the sifting screen it passes through to be just the right size powder.



Powder Sugar on top to German Vanillekipferl

Photo by: Anna Mardo/Getty Images

Anna Mardo/Getty Images

When to Use Confectioners’ Sugar

You should use confectioners’ sugar when you want a sugar that will dissolve immediately and never be grainy, no matter what it’s going into. The most popular recipes where that is important are: American Buttercream, Royal Icing and Whipped Cream. In buttercream frosting, the sugar blends perfectly with the butter, smooth as silk. In royal icing, it dissolves into the egg white; in whipped cream, it dissolves in the cream.

How to Use Confectioners’ Sugar

To measure confectioners’ sugar, spoon it into a dry measuring cup and then level it off with the back of a knife.

When a recipe calls for dusting with powdered sugar, place it in a very fine strainer and shake it over the cake or cookies that need the dusting. Alternatively, you can put it in a container like a cinnamon-sugar shaker for easy dusting. Just make sure you dust a dessert with powdered sugar right before serving otherwise it’ll absorb moisture and disappear (remember, powdered sugar attracts moisture).

What Is a Substitute for Confectioners’ Sugar?

There isn’t a packaged product you can buy as substitute for confectioners’ sugar. The very best option is to make your own, and we have an article, How to Make Confectioners’ Sugar, that goes into detail on what you need and how to make a confectioners’ sugar substitute. The ingredients are on the box of confectioners’ sugar – granulated sugar and cornstarch.

Recipes with Confectioners' Sugar 

FNK CHOCOLATE CRINKLE COOKIES Food Network Kitchen Food Network Allpurpose Flour, Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Fine Salt, Bittersweet Chocolate, Unsalted Butter, Light Brown Sugar, Eggs, Confectioners’ Sugar

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

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

Presenting: quite possibly the single best use of confectioners’ sugar ever created. The flavor, the visual, the childhood memories: all are here in a cookie.

The best part about making cinnamon rolls at home? The smell of the baking of course, which makes putting as much confectioners’ sugar glaze on them as you want the second-best thing.

Yellow cake and chocolate frosting is the iconic American birthday cake, and this recipe for cupcakes makes it super approachable. Melt chocolate, add confectioners’ sugar and butter and beat with a mixer. That’s pretty much it.



Photo by: Andrew Purcell

Andrew Purcell

Don’t wait for a holiday to make this cookie recipe. They’re perfect for any occasion, like a Tuesday.

Homemade Funnel Cakes

Photo by: Teri Lyn Fisher

Teri Lyn Fisher

If you can’t go to the fair, bring the fair to you with Homemade Funnel Cakes. Don’t forget the dusting with confectioners’ sugar.

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