Icing sugar, also known as powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar, is made by finely grinding granulated sugar until it is a very fine powder. In commercial icing sugar, a small amount of anticaking agent, such as maize starch or tricalcium phosphate (E341), is also added to absorb moisture and help the grains stay separate and free-flowing, rather than sticking together in clumps.
The anticaking agent used will depend on which country you live in and what’s allowed under the laws governing the sale of food. Icing sugar comes either very white or with a light caramel colour – this version is made from unrefined sugar.
How to make icing sugar
If you have run out of icing sugar or can’t find any to buy, you can make your own by whizzing granulated or caster sugar in a food processor, powerful blender, standard blender, coffee or spice grinder, or more laboriously, in a mortar and pestle.
How fine you can get your sugar will depend on the efficiency of your equipment. A powerful blender will give a much better outcome than an ordinary one. It will also depend on what type of sugar you start with. Granulated sugar will give you a more even grind, but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to make quite as fine a powder as commercial sugar, so don’t expect it to be as smooth if you use it in icing, for example.
Easy icing sugar method
- Put the granulated or caster sugar into a grinder (remember if you use unrefined or golden sugar you will get a pale brown icing sugar) and whizz it in bursts until it looks like powder. If it doesn’t seem to be grinding well, make sure you have the right amount of sugar in the appliance – some don’t work as well with small amounts, while others can have the opposite problem.
- You can sift everything through a fine sieve if you want to regrind any coarser sugar that still remains. Keep grinding and sifting until the sugar is as fine as you want, or as far as your grinder will take it.
- If you are not planning on using all your icing sugar at once, store it in an airtight container and stir in a little cornflour.
Top 5 icing sugar recipes
1. Easy buttercream icing
2. Raspberry iced mousse
3. Lightest ever meringues
4. Lemon drizzle slices
5. Iced blueberry & lime cheesecake
Found this guide useful? Read even more expert cooking advice…
What are your favourite uses for icing sugar? Leave a comment below…