Home Baking Association
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Ask The Experts...

Ask the Experts...About Baking with Sugar

Q: What does sugar do in baking? Could I just use less and use artificial sweeteners?

Dear Baker: Beyond being a sweetener and flavor enhancer, sugar (and the amount called for in standard baked goods) plays a critical role in the science of baking. Some of its most critical functions are:

  • Interacts with starch and protein during baking for the structure of products.
  • Acts as a tenderizer by absorbing water, inhibiting gluten development (so cookies, cakes, quick breads aren't tough), and delaying starch gelatinization (setting).
  • Incorporates air into batters and dough (creaming) for light textures and crumb.
  • Caramelizes (browns) under heat to provide cooked and baked foods with pleasing color and aroma.
  • Speeds the growth of yeast by providing nourishment.
  • Stabilizes beaten egg foams (meringue).
  • Makes simple syrups and invert sugars used in frostings and fillings.

Home baking will get its best results with sugar - granulated, brown, confectioners', and coarse. Substituting artificial sweeteners is a complex science and not all sweeteners available for home use are appropriate for baking.

(See glossary for sugar definitions.)

Also, visit: www.sugar.org.