There are many reasons that powdered sugar should always be in your kitchen: it can be used to make candies like buttermelts, buckeyes, and marshmallows (hence its other common name: confectioner’s sugar); it can whipped with butter or shortening into a delectable buttercream; it can be used to sweeten and stabilize whipped cream; and — my personal favorite use — it can be sifted over less-than-perfect looking desserts to cover up any accidents. Everything looks fancier with a little dusting of powdered sugar, and no one will ever be the wiser!
But, as it goes with many staples in the baker’s pantry, you often don’t realize you’re out of powdered sugar until the moment you need it. So, outside of putting on pants and running to the store, is there anything you can do when such a crisis arises? There sure is!
What is Powdered Sugar?
Any chef or baker will tell you that in professional kitchens, it is never referred to as either powdered or confectioner’s sugar — it is called “10x.” That sounds like an odd, sterile, slightly Elon Musk-y name, but it’s simply shorthand meaning “ten times.”
And what does that mean, exactly? It means that the sugar was processed ten times, ground over and over again until the tiny sugar crystals are pulverized so finely that they become a light, fluffy powder. Once sugar is ground that finely, it becomes far more prone to clumping, since sugar loves water and will stop at nothing to suck it up from all of its surroundings, including thin air (think about how brown sugar turns rock hard when it’s exposed to humidity). To prevent this, manufacturers process the sugar with a bit of a cornstarch, which absorbs any ambient moisture the sugar may come in contact with.
What is Powdered Sugar?
Powdered sugar is just finely ground sugar that has been milled into powder.
How to Make Powdered Sugar at Home
Now that you know how powdered sugar is made, you’ve probably figured out how to make your own: grind the sugar yourself. It doesn’t take any sort of fancy equipment: all you need is a food processor or blender, and you’re good! Here’s two options:
If you’re making a small amount of sugar to use in a pinch:
Put granulated sugar in a food processor or blender, turn it on, and let it do it’s thing. This is going to take a few minutes, so be patient. Scrape down the sides and bottom every so often to make sure there’s nothing sticking.
If you’d like to make a big batch of powdered sugar to keep in your pantry:
Do the same exact thing as above, but add two teaspoons of cornstarch for every one cup sugar. It's that simple!
Now that you know making powdered sugar is this simple, try experimenting with other sugars. Brown, turbinado sugar, coconut sugar… they can all be powdered if you give them enough time.