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Cane Sugar vs Granulated Sugar for Baking: Which One is Better?

Cane Sugar vs Granulated Sugar for Baking: Which One is Better?

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It’s easy to think you can switch between sugar cane and granulated sugar when baking and not tell the difference. So, you just grab that bag at the store without giving it too much thought.

I mean, sugar is sugar, right? Well, not quite. 

Besides their color, sugars vary in taste, texture, and how they react with some ingredients. These differences can affect how your baked goods turn out.

Choosing the right sugar for baking can be tricky, so I figured I’d help by comparing the two options: cane sugar vs. granulated sugar.

What Is Cane Sugar?

Bowl Of Cane Sugar

Cane sugar is simply sugar made from sugarcane, a sucrose-rich tropical grass. It comes from pressing the juice out of the bamboo-like stalks and crystallizing it into those familiar golden-brown grains.

It’s slightly less processed than other sugars, and more molasses is left in the crystals during refining. That’s why the end product retains some natural color and boasts a unique taste that’s burnt, bitter, sweet, and fruity all at the same time.

When Should You Use Cane Sugar When Baking?

Cane sugar is ideal for baking cookies and pralines. In cookies and other recipes using baking soda, cane sugar, which is acidic, reacts with baking soda to produce carbon dioxide.

It speeds up gluten formation and helps set the dough faster. Cookies puff up and stay soft and thick because of this gas. 

Also, cane sugar is denser and doesn’t trap as much air during creaming, making cookies spread more and rise less. With less moisture escaping through air pockets, cookies become soft and chewy.

What Is Granulated Sugar?

Spoonful Of Granulated Sugar

Unlike cane sugar, which comes straight from sugarcane, granulated sugar can be made from sugarcane or sugar beets. It goes through a thorough refining process to achieve that pure, clear appearance.

Granulated sugar is odorless and has smaller, fairly opaque granules. Its sweetness is less intense than cane sugar, mostly because it doesn’t contain molasses.

The best thing about its neutral flavor is how incredibly versatile it is in baking. Just follow the recommended amount, and you won’t have to stress about changing the taste of your recipe.

Still, you can caramelize granulated sugar if you want something layered and bittersweet.

When Should You Use Granulated Sugar When Baking?

Granulated sugar is perfect for cakes, creamy fillings, and those delicate desserts where you want that smooth, white finish without the chunkiness of cane sugar.

Plus, granulated sugar doesn’t behave like cane sugar in cookie recipes. Cookies made with it are usually thinner, denser, and crisper unless you stop them from browning too much.

What Is the Difference Between Cane Sugar and Granulated Sugar?

Even though they come from the same sugarcane family, telling their tastes apart in recipes where both work well can be challenging.

They might taste more alike or different depending on the amount of sugar in the mix.

Cane sugar has a distinct taste from granulated sugar, especially the white one. It’s not necessarily sweeter, but it’s more impactful in flavor.

Which One Works Better in Baking and Pastry?

Adding Sugar To An Apple Pie

Cane sugar and granulated sugar would be fantastic choices for baking and pastry. Consider these factors when choosing the best sugar to use for specific recipes:

1 – Flavor

As we’ve touched on before, flavor is a primary factor when choosing between the two sugars.

Anyone with a sweet tooth would love the extra kick of molasses in cane sugar. But if you’re not looking for any particular taste, granulated sugar is perfect for any recipe.

2 – Simplicity

Granulated sugar melts easily since it goes through heavy refining, removing molasses and impurities from the final product. Molasses itself is a thick, dark syrup often used as a sweetener.

This quality of granulated sugar makes it easier to work with regardless of the flavor you’re aiming for.

3 – Color and Aesthetics

Stick with white granulated sugar if your recipe needs a particular color or texture, like meringue or whipped cream.

Can You Use Cane Sugar Instead of Granulated Sugar in Baking?

The short and simple answer is yes. You can swap one for the other if you’re not after the unique cane sugar taste in the final dish.

However, granulated sugar won’t replicate what cane sugar does in recipes like cookies, where those chemical reactions matter.

So, what will happen if you substitute granulated sugar for cane sugar?

Well, granulated sugar won’t react with baking soda. Your dough will spread out more, resulting in thin, crisp cookies that are a tad too sweet.

Which Sugar Is Healthier for People on a Diet?

Some companies market cane sugar as a healthier choice over white sugar, but the truth is, they’re pretty much the same in terms of chemistry and nutrition.

In terms of calories, both break down into glucose and fructose in your bloodstream.

What Are Healthier Substitutes for Cane Sugar and Granulated Sugar?

Spoonful Of Stevia Extract
Stevia Extract

If you’re watching your blood sugar levels, the following sweeteners have low to zero calories:

  • Monk fruit extract
  • Stevia
  • Splenda
  • Honey and date paste (not suitable for all recipes, but can work for baking)

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Cane Sugar Healthier Than Granulated Sugar?

It depends on what you define as healthy.

Some think cane sugar is a better option because it’s less processed. But when you break it down, they’re similar nutrition-wise. Both are added sugars, which are linked to obesity and type-2 diabetes.

The key here is moderation and choosing what fits best into your diet.

Which Sugar Is Better for Baking: Sugar Cane or Granulated Sugar?

Either sugar is great for baking, but it all comes down to what you’re baking. Sugar cane gives a caramel-like sweetness, perfect for ginger, chocolate chip, and brown sugar cookies.

Meanwhile, granulated sugar works best for cakes and other delicate recipes.

How Do I Substitute Cane Sugar for Granulated Sugar?

You can easily swap one for the other—no math needed! If a recipe calls for one cup of granulated sugar, toss in one cup of cane sugar instead.

Final Thoughts

There you have it—a quick guide that covers all the differences between cane sugar and granulated sugar for baking.

Granulated sugar’s neutral taste makes it a go-to in many recipes. On the other hand, cane sugar is ideal if you’re after a more flavorful but not necessarily sweeter option.

At the end of the day, it’s your taste buds that will make the final call.

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