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In this post, you will learn how to measure ingredients for baking. From flour to sugar, to peanut butter and more!
Note: The video is a sneak preview to my Ultimate Baking Bootcamp online classUltimate Baking Bootcamp online class!
So the last thing I would call myself is a perfectionist- except when it comes to my baking. Then I’m all business folks. I also realize that’s one of the major reasons people tend to shy away from baking. All that measuring! Because measure wrong and you really are just playing a scary game of kitchen roulette. And nobody wants that. Am I right?
So let’s get down to business and learn how to measure…everything yo.
Let’s first talk tools.
Dry Measuring Cups– Measuring cups are used to measure as you guessed it your DRY items. Here is what I measure with my dry measuring cups:
- Sugar (granulated, brown, and confectioners)
- Peanut butter, Nutella, jam
- Various mix-ins (i.e. chocolate chips)
- Greek yogurt/sour cream
- Honey, maple syrup, molasses, agave
The typical set is either heavy duty plastic or metal and ranges in size from 1/4 cup to 1 cup. However I do not recommend using plastic cups. Metal measuring cups best! Plastic tends to retain grease and residue over time. And the measurements tend to rub off over time as well leaving you clueless as to which one is which!
The idea behind these cups is for you to fill them to the brim and level off, which we will talk more about later.
Now I have an obscene amount of measuring cups. Probably at least five sets floating around my kitchen. And I just bought these awesome metal ones. I think having at least two sets on hand just makes life easier. That way you have two of every measurement when you are working through a recipe.
Liquid Measuring Cup- Your liquid measuring cup is like a pitcher but with a ruler on the side- measuring either cups, ounces, and metric (aka milliliters). And you guessed it, I have more than one in my kitchen.
I have a 2-cup and a couple 1-cup sizes. I like having the larger one when I need it. Liquid measuring cups are as you guessed- measuring your liquids!
Again I don’t recommend using plastic!
Liquids you may measure:
- Whipping cream
- Basically whatever liquid your recipe calls for.
To measure correctly: Get down eye level with your liquid measuring cup. Measuring by looking down on your liquid could result in measuring more or less than you really intend for. By getting down eye level, you can ensure you are right at the line of where you need to be and not over (or under).
Measuring Spoons– Your measuring spoons are for your small amounts of ingredients. For when you need to measure your vanilla extract, spices such as cinnamon, your baking powder and baking soda- you want to use your measuring spoons.
They usually come in 1/8 teaspoon up to a 1 Tablespoon. Shocking, I own many sets of these. Ok maybe not shocking.
Kitchen Scale- Do you really need one of these? Yes, I truly believe you do. I use my kitchen scale for
certain recipes all recipes now. A kitchen scale takes out the guesswork on if you measured correctly.
There is no wondering whether you have the correct amount of flour in that cupcake recipe anymore and wondering how they will turn out. The less guesswork you have when baking the better chance you will end up with a successful dessert that has everyone clamoring to you to get the recipe.
How To Measure Ingredients
How To Measure Flour
First up, and most important to me out of all the ingredients. Measuring this wrong, and you could end up with a cake that falls apart, cookies that are too tough- possibilities are endless. So how do you measure flour accurately? The best way is to use a kitchen scale as it’s very easy to measure the wrong amount using a kitchen scale. But if you want to use measuring cups then remember this:
Scoop and level.
Repeat after me scoop and level! You may have heard that before but thought what the heck does that mean? Or what do I scoop with people?! I hear ya. Scoop with a spoon. Not your measuring cup.
By scooping with a spoon into your measuring cup, you ensure that you do not over measure your flour.
Do not pack the flour down as you scoop either or you will end up with way too much flour. Do not tap the side of the cup either, which can cause the flour to settle into the measuring cup and causing you to over measure. And way too much flour results in tough dense baked goods. No bueno, folks. Then with a knife, just level off the top. I have been known to level off with my finger in a pinch too. 🙂
I use this method for no matter what kind of flour I am using for a recipe- whether it’s all purpose, cake, bread, and even gluten free flour.
So spoon and level. Got it? Good…moving on.
How To Measure Oats
So when it comes to measuring oats, I use the same method as I use to measure flour. Say it with me now- scoop and level!
I do this for either old fashioned oats or quick oats. I generally use old-fashioned oats in my recipes, because I like texture. Quick oats tend to be a bit powdery. To make your quick oats- simply place your old fashioned oats into you can place the amount you need in a food processor and pulse a few times. Voila! Insta- quick oats!
Quick note: I also love to toast my oats before using them in a recipe. Toasting gives them a nice brown color, crisper texture, and enhances their flavor. Just simply toast in a skillet over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring to avoid burning, until golden brown.
How To Measure Baking Soda and Baking Powder
These are always two key ingredients in any baked good not made with yeast. These two ingredients help to make your baked good rise, and also help tenderize.
So clearly being super important means we should probably make sure we measure them correctly. For these two, just use your correct measuring spoon (i.e. teaspoon, tablespoon, whatever it calls for) and scoop and level off using the inside edge of the can.
You can also level off with your finger or knife again, like you did with the flour. But these two have containers with built in levelers to make your life way easier. You got to love that.
Quick note: You always want to make sure you are using fresh baking soda and baking powder. These ingredients do not last forever, and since their job is to create bubbles and all sort of fun baking science chemical reactions it’s important that you have use fresh. They react to temperature and other ingredients, so it’s important to know if the chemicals will still react. How do you know if your baking powder and baking soda are still good to use?
To test your baking soda: In a 1/2 cup of hot water, add a 1/4 teaspoon of vinegar (baking soda needs a vinegar to react). Add in a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. If it bubbles it’s good to go. If not, toss it out!
To test your baking powder: In a 1/2 cup of hot water, add a 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Baking powder reacts to temperature, so no acid is not needed. If it bubbles, it’s good to go. If it doesn’t, throw it out!
For more about the difference between the two read this post: Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda
Sugar (white granulated)
So all sugar is NOT created equally. White sugar (we’re talking granulated here, not the powdered kind) is by far the easiest to measure I think. Just simply scoop with your measuring cup until it’s more than full and then simply level off with a knife (or again your finger in a pinch!). That’s all there is to it. Easy peasy.
Ok brown sugar is a little different. Because of the molasses that is added to your brown sugar, you have to pack this down into your measuring cup in order to get the accurate amount. You don’t want a loose scoop of brown sugar, but a nice packed down scoop. Did you know you can even make your own brown sugar in a pinch? I rarely buy brown sugar anymore and just always keep some molasses on hand. To keep it soft- add a tortilla to your brown sugar (#nocrumbs) I love that tip.
To sift or not to sift? That is the question. If you want to avoid lumps, then you want to sift your powdered sugar. Sifting is like wearing spanx. Gets all the lumps out 😉 Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t. Just like spanx ain’t made for everyday but for those special occasions. I like to keep mine in a big ol’ tub so for me giving it a few good stirs works well. And sometimes it depends on the confectioner sugar brand I buy- if it seems lumpy that sift people sift. Do you really want to go to all that trouble to making perfect frosted vanilla cupcakes to have lumpy bumpy frosting. I didn’t think so.
I measure powdered sugar the same way I measure my flour. The spoon and level method!
If the recipe says-
1 cup confectioners, sifted –> measure 1 cup THEN sift
1 cup sifted confectioners sugar –> sift THEN measure 1 cup
Cocoa powder like powdered sugar can be lumpy as well. If a recipe calls for sifting, then definitely sift. Just like your powdered sugar, lumps can just be unpleasant- especially if you are using it in your frosting! And to measure it you guessed it- spoon and level.
Liquid Ingredients (oil, milk, cream, water)
For these liquid ingredients I use my liquid measuring cup. You want to pour your liquid in, but then get down eye level to ensure you are the correct amount. Measuring by looking from above could mean you have more or less than you really want! So eye level people!
Sort of Liquid Ingredients (yogurt, sour cream, applesauce)
Even though these might be treated as a liquid ingredient in your recipe measure them like they are a dry ingredient. Measure them in your measuring cup. Just simply you use a spoon and scoop into your cup and then level off. These ingredients are too thick to use your liquid measuring cup and get an accurate amount.
Sticky Stuff (Honey, Maple Syrup, Agave Syrup, Peanut Butter, Nutella)
I always measure any sticky ingredient in a measuring cup. To help out with this sticky mess, you want to spray the measuring cup with any non-stick cooking spray. This helps to for the sticky stuff to just sliiiiiide right out and join the party. No fuss, no mess. That way you aren’t struggling to get into the measuring cup AND out of the measuring cup.
Small Stuff (vanilla extract, cinnamon, other spices)
For this you want your measuring spoons. You could also use your measuring spoon for any ingredient that is called for wherever you need a teaspoon or tablespoon of something.
Quick tip: 3 teaspoons equals 1 tablespoon 😉
I know what you’re saying. Isn’t shortening a sticky item? Um sort of. Shortening can be a real pain to measure. Now you could use a measuring cup if you want. I always found that trying to clean that darn cup out after was near impossible.
Another method- water displacement. Whoa is my science nerdiness coming out now! Yes water displacement. Fill a measuring cup to 1-cup let’s say. Then drop in your shortening until the water level rises the amount you need.
You could buy the pre-measured sticks as well. They just cost you a bit more. So if convenience is your thing, go for it. Me personally? I would rather save my dough for really good vanilla or more sprinkles. Always more sprinkles 😉 With this method just be careful- if your shortening has water on it after, as for some recipes even a little bit of water could mess it up- so if need be dab it off to ensure its dry before using
So when measuring almonds or pecans or some other kind of nut for a recipe- the trick with this knowing when to chop. And it’s all in how it is written in the recipe.
1 cup nuts, chopped –> measure whole nuts first, then chop after
1 cup chopped nuts –> measure already chopped nuts
For any recipe, I always toast the nuts before using them. I think this helps to bring out the natural nuttiness and enhance the flavor. To toast the nuts, you can toast them in the oven, on the stovetop, or even in the microwave. Yes,the microwave!
Microwave Toasting: This method works well when you have a small amount (1/2 Tablespoons) up to a 1/2 cup. And with any microwave, they can vary so just keep and eye and a nose out. You want to place them in a single layer in a microwave safe dish. You want to add a small amount of fat- 1/2 teaspoon (butter, oil) to every 1/2 cup of nuts and stir to coat them. Microwave for one minute. Stir. And microwave for one more minute. Check to see how they are doing- they should be slightly dark in color and more fragrant. You can microwave for additional time but in 1-minute increments and stirring in between to ensure you don’t burn them.
Oven Toasting: You want to preheat your oven to 350F and spread your nuts (unchopped) in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Quick tip: Use a rimmed cookie sheet! The last thing you want is your really expensive macadamia nuts rolling right off your sheet! You want to bake them 5-10 minutes until they are GOLDEN brown. You want to stir once or twice during this time. Remember once you take them out, they will continue to brown, so remove and let them cool. And great tip: You can store any leftover toasted nuts in an airtight container in your fridge for 1 to 2 weeks, and in the freezer for 1 to 3 months!
On The Stovetop: This method works well for small batches. Just note these ones will get darkest on the outside where they come in contact with the pan, as opposed to the oven which will produce a more golden color. You want to again toast before you chop. For this method, you want to use a heavy duty skillet and toast over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes and again stir to ensure even browning. After the couple minutes, remove the heat and allow to cool.
It might seem silly to include these in this post. But not all eggs are created equally. I always use large eggs when I bake. But if you ever need to half a recipe that calls for one egg- every large egg is about 3 tablespoons- so you could measure your egg,give it a whisk, then measure out 1 1/2 tablespoons. And if you need to substitute egg whites for eggs just remember
1 egg = 2 egg whites
Ahhh, butter. Makes thing all better doesn’t it? Now depending on where you live butter may be available in different forms, such as sticks or blocks. Butter that is in a tub, isn’t really butter but a “butter spread” and won’t behave the same way in your recipe as it’s actually made from oil. You can read more here about Unsalted Butter Vs. Salted Butter In Baking
Measuring by weight is always the easiest. (ahem, sensing a theme?) However not all recipes are offered by weight and by volume. So you can remember this:
1 stick of butter = 113 grams = 8 Tablespoons = 1/2 cup
Mix-ins (chocolate chips, sprinkles, candy, dried fruit)
For these I almost always use my measuring cups. For recipes that call for ounces of let’s say chocolate I will use my kitchen scale. But otherwise I simply scoop or pour them into my measuring cup.
Here are some basic conversions for you if you need to adjust a recipe ever!
Dry Ingredient Equivalents
- 1 Tablespoon = 3 teaspoons
- 1/8 cup = 2 Tablespoons
- 1/4 cup = 4 Tablespoons
- 1/3 cup = 5-1/3 Tablespoons
- 1/2 cup = 8 Tablespoons
- 2/3 cup = 10-2/3 Tablespoons
- 3/4 cup = 12 Tablespoons
- 1 cup = 16 Tablespoons
Liquid Ingredient Equivalents
- 1 cup = 8 fluid ounces = 1/2 pint
- 2 cups = 16 fluid ounces = 1 pint
- 4 cups = 32 fluid ounces = 2 pints = 1 quart
- 8 cups = 64 fluid ounces = 4 pints
- 4 quarts = 128 fluid ounces = 1 gallon
If you want to take the guesswork out of the baking process, here are some basic conversions to from cup to grams/ounces:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour = 125 grams (4 1/2 ounces)
- 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour = 115 grams (4 ounces)
- 1 cup bread flour = 130 grams (4 1/2 ounces)
- 1 cup sifted bread flour = 121 grams (4 1/4 ounces)
- 1 cup (packed) brown sugar = 200 grams (7 1/2 ounces)
- 1/2 cup butter = 1 stick = 115 grams (4 ounces)
- 1 cup cake flour = 115 grams (4 ounces)
- 1 cup sifted cake flour = 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces)
- 1 cup chocolate chips = 180 grams (6 1/4 ounces)
- 1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder = 41 grams (1.6 ounces)
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar = 120 grams (4 1/4 ounces)
- 1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar = 115 grams (4 ounces)
- 1/4 cup cornstarch = 28 grams (1 ounce)
- 1 cup granulated sugar = 200 grams (7 1/2 ounces)
- 1 Tablespoon honey = 21 grams (3/4 ounce)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup = 156 grams (5 1/2 ounces)
- 1 cup milk = 227 grams (240ml; 8 ounces)
- 1/4 cup molasses = 85 grams (3 ounces)
- 1 cup oats = 95 grams (3 ounces)
- 1/2 cup peanut butter = 135 grams (4 3/4 ounces)
- 1 cup sour cream or yogurt = 227 grams (8 ounces)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour = 113 grams (4 ounces)
Don’t see an ingredient on this list, then use this complete conversion chart from King Arthur Flour!
Is there an ingredient on here you didn’t see that you are curious about? Let me know! I’m glad to answer any questions and I hope you learned a little something! And I hope you now know how to measure ingredients for baking!
More Baking 101 Posts:
- What Are The Different Kinds Of Yeasts?
- How To Prepare Cake Pans
- Cocoa 101
- Types Of Flour
- Unsalted Butter Vs. Salted Butter In Baking
And if you want to become a better baker this year, then be sure to enroll in my Ultimate Baking Bootcamp online class today!