Measuring is EVERYTHING

Learn how to correctly measure your baking ingredients-- recipe disasters usually stem from mis-measured ingredients!

Fellow bakers! Welcome back to my Baking Basics series. Cue little dance in the kitchen holding a whisk.

Ooooh before I forget (which, let’s face it, always happens)… I shared another post in my photography section yesterday!

Today we’re focusing on something that may seem trivial to you, but it is easily the most important step in every recipe you bake. 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. I’m being serious!

Baking is not very forgiving. It is a science. (Nerds unite.) Estimating the measurements of an ingredient in a recipe spells disaster. While you can easily get away with a handful of this or that when you’re cooking dinner, even the slightest miscalculation could turn your soft-baked chocolate chip cookies into rocks. Understanding the correct measuring technique for a particular ingredient will guarantee better baking results. Soft cookies, fluffy cakes, flaky crust!

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In terms of measuring your ingredients, it pays off to be a perfectionist. 


Flour is the most common mis-measured ingredient.

When measuring flour, use the “spoon & level” method. Do not scoop the flour out of the container/bag with your measuring cup. Believe me, I catch myself doing it often! Scoop the flour and you could end up with 150% of the correct measurement. Rather, using a spoon, scoop the flour into the measuring cup. Do not pack the flour down and do not tap the measuring cup– both cause the flour to settle in the cup. After you’ve spooned the flour into the measuring cup, use the back of a knife to level off the top of the measuring cup.

Drill this in your head: spoon & level flour– do NOT scoop.

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I often use dry old-fashioned rolled oats in recipes like granola, oatmeal bars, or oatmeal cookies. These are also called whole oats.  Sometimes I use quick oats, which are finely chopped whole oats. Quick oats have a more powdery consistency than whole oats. I actually never keep quick oats in the house. However, some recipes call for quick oats (when a more powdery, fine oat is ideal). 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 chops them up into quick-oat-consistency.

Make sure you are using the correct type of oats that the recipe calls for. To measure oats, use the same spoon & level method that you use with flour. (see above!)

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.

Always remember the differences between the two. Each expire after 6 months, though I find they begin losing strength after 3 months. Write the date on the box so you know when to replace.

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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. Check to see if your yeast is active by sprinkling it in a small dish with 2 Tablespoons of warm water (105F-115F degrees) and waiting about 5 minutes for it to begin foaming. If the mixture does not foam, the yeast is not active. This little step is called proofing the yeast. Some recipes already work “proofing” into the first step.

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. Sugar also aids in proper browning and stabilization.

Brown Sugar

Measure brown sugar like you would granulated sugar. Unless the recipe states otherwise, brown sugar should be packed into the measuring cup or measuring spoon. For most of my recipes, I pack the brown sugar.

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Confectioners’ Sugar (Powdered Sugar/Icing Sugar)

I usually always sift confectioners’ sugar. I especially do this when I make frosting to avoid lumps. You don’t always have to sift confectioners’ sugar (unless the recipe calls for it), I just prefer it. Whether you sift or not, confectioners’ sugar must be measured using the spoon & level method– explained in the flour section above.

1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted means that the sugar is sifted after measuring.

1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar means that the sugar is sifted before measuring.

This is the case with any ingredient, not just confectioners’ sugar.

Cocoa Powder

Like confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder is full of lumps. If a recipe calls for sifting it, make sure you do so. Measure cocoa powder using the spoon & level method, as you would measure flour or confectioners’ sugar.

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Liquid Sweeteners

(maple syrup, agave, honey, molasses)

To easily measure and use sticky liquid sweeteners in your recipe, spray the inside of the measuring cup lightly with nonstick spray. This will make it much easier to get the sweetener out of the cup! I do this with sticky, thick sweeteners every time.

Other Liquid Ingredients

(oil, water, milk)

Liquids like water or oil need to be measured at eye level. Using a liquid measuring cup, pour the liquid into the cup. Then, bend down to make sure the liquid is EXACTLY at level with the measuring requirement from the recipe.

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(chocolate chips, dried fruit, chopped candy, sprinkles, etc)

Easy. Just scoop or pour into the measuring cup. These ingredients aren’t typically used to make up the structure of a baked good.

Semi-Liquid ingredients

(applesauce, yogurt, sour cream, peanut butter, etc)

Measure semi-liquid ingredients in dry measuring cups. They are much too thick to be accurately measured in liquid cups. Spoon & level, like you do with sugar or flour, then use a rubber spatula to help release the ingredients into the mixing bowl.

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I find these baking equivalent charts helpful when 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 = 1 quart
  • 8 cups = 64 fluid ounces = 4 pints
  • 4 quarts = 128 fluid ounces = 1 gallon

The most accurate way to measure? Weigh your ingredients!

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Weighing takes out the guesswork.

Weighing is how I measure when developing recipes. Some people might say it’s a waste of time, but if you want the exact results you see on my blog and in my books– weighing your ingredients will help you get there. A cup isn’t always a cup, but a gram/ounce is always a gram/ounce. Here is the food scale I own.

I refer to this master chart often. If you can’t find an ingredient listed below, go there!

Here are a few common ingredients:

  • 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)


Q: Did you make it through this novel of information?!

Q: Did you learn anything new?

Good. Now go bake up something incredible!

How to measure all of the common baking ingredients including the #1 mistake you could be making when measuring flour!


  1. Love your tips on baking, I always give the same ones when instructing! Especially the read the recipe!

  2. I’m a US expat living in the UK and am another fan of measuring-by-weight-instead-of-volume.  I never have to worry if my flour is sifted before or after it’s measured, or how tightly I pack my brown sugar.  It also gives me a little more leeway when I want, or need, to substitute ingredients: American granulated sugar is slightly coarser than British caster sugar (and both are finer than British granulated sugar).  If I use a cup-for-cup measurement of caster sugar, the cake will be slightly too sweet, but if the measurement is in grams I know the sweetness will be spot-on.  It may make a slight difference to the structure, but for the kind of baking I do it has never mattered.

    Most British housewives of a certain age can bake at least one serviceable cake without a recipe because they weigh everything – a classic Victoria sponge requires only 4 ingredients (butter, sugar, eggs and flour) in exactly the same weight.  They weigh their eggs first and the rest of the ingredients are based off that measurement.  Now that’s easy!  Pie crust is also simple – the ratio is half fat to flour so if you use 250 g flour it’s 125 g butter/shortening/lard etc.  Presto!

  3. Your Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake calls for 3 cups (360g) sifted all purpose flour yet in the weight table above 1 cup sifted flour = 115g. You mention being precise in baking so do I put in a little over 3 cups sifted all purpose flour?

  4. Thanks for the tip on spraying the measuring cup/spoon for sticky sweetners & peanut butter. Never thought of that-will make sure to do this in the future.

  5. Hi!

    I love both this and other baking basics posts! I’m teaching my younger sister (15!) how to do some real baking. I was wondering if you’d be able to making a printable version?
    -Nichole 🙂

    • Hi Nichole! For that, I would just copy and paste the text into a document. Recipes are printer friendly, but not informational posts like this except if you copy/paste.

  6. I’ve got the Pyrex measuring cups where you can look down into them as you pour, because the measurements are on the inside. I love them to bits, and highly recommend them 🙂

  7. Where are those pretty cups from? I’m new to the kitchen, so could you maybe recommend some good whisks, different spatulas (normal, rubber etc) tablespoon and cups measurement? 

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi M! Which cups are you referring to? A lot of these measuring cups are from Target actually. And the mug with sprinkles is from Anthropologie 🙂

  8. Sally,

    I just discovered your website and I am hooked!!!  Today, I made your Cinnamon Raisin Bagels and they are delish! I used your tip(s) today with measuring the flour and powders, proofing my yeast, making sure I use a liquid measuring cup, etc.  I have discovered a new way of enjoying time to myself, instead of shopping 🙂

    Thank you so much.  God bless you, Sally, and your ‘baking addiction” 🙂

  9. Hi Sally
    I greatly appreciate the recommendation of providing the weight of ingredients. As I’m in Australia cup sizes are different and I’ve been caught out by this several times when trying new recipes. 
    A question for you regarding measuring ingredients on a kitchen scale. Mine is also the most used item in the kitchen!  It has mls and fl oz would you use your scales for measuring liquids?


  10. Hi Sally I’m from Colombia has being a really wonderful and Amazing enjoy your blog Your have to much Talent and I so Thankful for all your time and effort you giving to us .
    I’m apologizing for my grammar but ENGLISH is my Second L, 
    Thank you 

  11. Thank you so much for the list of ingredient weights converted from volumes. I have been looking for just such a list, as I prefer weighing ingredients versus volumetric measures, for improved consistency.

  12. Thank you so much for the list of ingredient weights converted from volumes. Such a helpful read. Majority of the website with recipes do not really go into detail about all the do’s and dont’s . Thankkkss 😀

  13. Do you have any suggestions for converting your recipes using sugar and flour alternatives, such as stevia and coconut sugar and flour? Thank you. Found this measuring blog helpful

    • I don’t, I’m so sorry. I like to use coconut sugar in muffins and quick breads. I often do an even substitution, cup for cup.

  14. Hey Sally! What containers do you recommend for storing flour? Something wide mouthed would be nice to make the spooning and leveling easier…I still haven’t found an easy messless way to do that yet…

    • Lauren, I’m int he market for some as well and I stumbled upon a few options. I really like this hammered copper look and a larger size seems like it would be a very large opening in the top.

      These are gorgeous. And so many positive reviews on Amazon. I’m drawn to the red ones! It looks like the largest one for flour is pretty wide.

      Obsessed with this and want like 20 of them! Haha! Great price too.

      • I’m LOVING that last one!! Ahhhh…my husband will kill me…everything in the kitchen is that color! But I can’t help it!! Thank you so much for the suggestions!

  15. The King Arthur site you link to shows 120g for 1 cup of All-Purpose Flour but you list 125g. Any reason for the difference?

  16. Hi, it seems like I can’t post a comment on the post “Moist Yellow Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting” – is there a 300 comment limit per post on your site?
    Anyway, just wanted to say I made the cupcakes (without the frosting) as a base for a raspberry lemon cupcake and they came out PERFECT! Added some lemon zest and they are amazing. Thanks so much!!

  17. Thanks!!! Love your tips!!! Very hellpfull..
    Let me ask you: i make a lot of sugar butter cookies.
    The first time that i roll the dough, the cookies cone out at a perfect shape ( from the cookie cutter).  I collect the extra dough , to spread it again.
    This time the cookies short themselves. I don’t know what to do.
    Hope you understand me, because of my English!!
    Thanks in advance!!

  18. I love your recipes and I homeschool my children.  This year for science I am doing Food For Today and wanted to incorporate Cooking for my daughter who is almost 14.  I was making your chocolate Zuchinni cake and came across your Baking Basics and your cook book.  This is so perfect for her.  I have read many of your baking basics and am so excited to use them with her.  I have printed off several of them, but I have a suggestion for you, you should make a book, they are truly good and give me a good base to start with, with her.  Thank you so much for providing this, I am excited to get started with her and for her to start baking from your cook book, which I just recently purchased.  Happy Baking.

  19. In the section for ‘semi-liquids’, you say to measure these (i.e. peanut butter, sour cream, applesauce, yogurts} like sugar and flour. Did you mean powdered sugar?

  20. Hi Sally,

    Thanks for the wonderful recipe. If I wanted to make it gluten free, what flour would you substitute it with? Quinoa?, Rice? Soya? Robin Hood’s Gluten free flour? or a mix of flours? Any sugestions please? Thanks a lot!

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