With every new recipe I make, I’m learning how imperative it is to have the correct measuring tools and techniques down straight. Measuring ingredients properly is imperative. The difference between a recipe success and a recipe failure could lie within 1 mis-measured tablespoon of flour or sugar.
Baking is not very forgiving. It is a science. Estimating the measurements of an ingredient in a recipe spells disaster. I’ve ruined many recipes before from over-mixing, over-measuring, and using expired leavening agents. How will your Bakery-Style Chocolate Chip Muffins rise with expired baking powder?
Understanding the correct measuring technique for a particular ingredient will guarantee better baking results of your finished product. In terms of measuring your ingredients, it pays off to be a perfectionist.
Flour: This is the MOST common mistake made and I have certainly been victim to it as well. Use the “spoon & level” method for flour. Do not use the measuring cup to scoop the flour out of the container/bag. You could end up with 150% of the correct measurement doing it this way. Rather, using a large spoon, scoop the flour into the measuring cup. Do not “pack” the flour. Do not tap the measuring cup, as this causes it to settle in the cup and become more dense. After you’ve spooned the flour into the measuring cup, use the back of the knife to level off the top of the measuring cup.
One correctly measured cup of flour should weigh about 125 grams or 4.5 oz.
Homemade Soft Pretzels surely wouldn’t taste the same if my I over-measured the flour by 150%.
Oats: I often use dry old-fashioned rolled oats in my recipes for things like granola, oatmeal bars, or oatmeal cookies. These are also called “whole” oats. Sometimes I use “quick oats” which are finely chopped whole oats. They have a more powdery consistency than whole oats. I never have quick oats in my pantry. Always whole oats since I use whole oats more often. However, some of my recipes call for quick oats. To make my own quick oats, I simply grind up whole oats in the blender or food processor for about 3 seconds. A few quick pulses to chop them up.
Make sure you are using the correct form of oats that the recipe calls for. For measuring oats, use the same spoon & level method of measuring as you do with flour. 1 cup rolled oats = 85 grams = 3 oz
Baking powder & baking soda: Shake up the baking powder or baking soda container a bit. Using a measuring spoon, lightly scoop out of the container. Use a knife to level it off evenly with the top edge of the measuring spoon.
Baking powder and baking soda expire after 6 months. I do not get through a box of either within 6 months, so I usually have to toss it before it’s finished off. I write the date of each on the box so I know when they need to be replaced.
Active Dry Yeast: typical yeast packets are 2 and 1/4 teaspoons, which is 1/4 ounce. Measure yeast how you would measure baking powder or soda. My mom has taught me that you can check the see if your yeast is active by sprinkling it in a small dish with 2 Tablespoons of warm water (105F-115F degrees) and waiting for it to begin foaming (about five minutes). If it does not foam, the yeast is not active. I’ve never had a problem using said yeast + 2 Tbsp of water in a recipe after I’ve tested it.
My Chocolate Chip Cherry Sweet Rolls call for yeast and you actually proof the yeast with milk in the first step in the recipe. No need to test if the yeast is active beforehand with warm water.
White (Granulated) Sugar: Unlike flour, sugar is measured by scooping the measuring cup or spoon into the container/bag until it is overflowing, then leveling it off with the back of a knife. Sugar is more forgiving in recipes than other ingredients, because the sweetness of a finished product depends on your tastebuds. However, it is always best to measure the ingredients exactly as the recipe states, because sugar crystals are imperative to break down other ingredients. For example, sugar crystals allow the butter in a recipe to “cream.”
1 cup white sugar = 201 grams = 7.1 oz
Brown sugar: Unless the recipe states otherwise, brown sugar needs to be packed into the measuring cup or measuring spoon. For most of my recipes, I pack the brown sugar.
1 cup packed brown sugar = 207 grams = 7.75 oz
Powdered sugar (Confectioners’ sugar): I usually sift my powdered sugar if I’m using it for a frosting recipe. I’ve ruined buttercream before by not sifting the powdered sugar beforehand. I ended up with lumps throughout the frosting. Not very pretty. Once sifted, powdered sugar must be measured by spooning the sugar into the measuring cup or spoon from the container/bar. Then, level off with a knife. Powdered sugar is measured like regular white sugar. I do not usually sift powdered sugar for recipes besides frosting, unless otherwise noted.
For sifting, I measure 1 cup of powdered sugar and then sift it. One correctly measured cup of powdered sugar should weigh about 126 grams or 4.5 oz.
Cocoa Powder: Like powdered sugar, I always sift cocoa powder if I’m using it in frosting recipes. Cocoa powder is full of lumps. Measure cocoa powder as you would measure flour or powdered sugar.
I sifted the powdered sugar and cocoa powder together for my Dark Chocolate Frosting. No lumps in site!
Liquid Sweeteners (maple syrup, agave, honey, molasses): If you need to measure a liquid sweetener, spray the inside of your measuring cup or spoon lightly with nonstick spray. That will make it much easier to get the sweetener out of the cup. I do this with sticky, thick molasses ALL of the time.
1 cup syrup, molasses, and honey = 340 grams = 12 oz
If the recipe calls for a liquid oil as well as a liquid sweetener, just measure the oil in the cup/spoon before you measure the liquid sweetener, you’ll get the same result if you were to spray the measuring device with nonstick spray. Using the oil/nonstick trick to measure the molasses in my Caramel Molasses Cookies makes things much easier!
Other Liquid Ingredients (oil, water, milk): Liquid ingredients: Liquids, like water or oil, need to be measured at eye level. Using the a liquid measuring cup, pour the liquid into the cup. Then, bend over to make sure the liquid is EXACTLY at level with the measuring requirement from the recipe. I use this liquid measuring cup.
Add-ins (chocolate chips, dried fruit, chopped candy, etc): pour ingredient into measuring cup and level off.
Semi-Liquid ingredients: I often use semi-liquid ingredients in my recipes, like applesauce, yogurt, or peanut butter. Measure these types of semi-liquid ingredients in dry measuring cups because they are too thick to be accurately measured in liquid cups. Level off with a knife, like you do with sugar or flour.
3/4 cup of creamy peanut butter is required for my Rolo-Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies. No more, no less.
I find the baking equivalent charts below helpful while I’m in the kitchen.
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
- 8 cups = 64 fluid ounces = 1 quart
Though not mandatory, a food scale helps tremendously. I bought one a couple years ago and it’s quickly become one of the most frequently used items in my kitchen. It’s impossible to incorrectly measure an ingredient when it’s weighed. Here is the food scale I own. Very clear readings, large numbers, stainless steel. Worth every single penny.
Ok, now go bake up something incredible!