Measuring is EVERYTHING

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

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!

Learn how to correctly measure your baking ingredients on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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

Flour

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.

Learn how to correctly measure your baking ingredients on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Oats

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.

Learn how to correctly measure your baking ingredients on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

Learn how to correctly measure your baking ingredients on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

Learn how to correctly measure your baking ingredients on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

Learn how to correctly measure your baking ingredients on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Add-ins

(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.

Learn how to correctly measure your baking ingredients on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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!

Learn how to correctly measure your baking ingredients on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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!

139 comments

  1. I’m sure I have seen in your site the buttermilk and/or sour cream recipes (well a link to them), but now I have looked into 5 or 6 recipes that use buttermilk and I don’t see anything. Can you repeat it/them for me?  I find many on the web, but I prefer to trust in your recommendation. Thank you. 

  2. I apologize for posting this here. I tried to post earlier, but I don’t think it showed up.

    Your site used to have a feature under “search” where you could look by keyword and a list of all the recipes that used that ingredient would come up. It was very useful. I am unable to find that function now. I was trying to find recipes that use buttermilk since I have a little bit left to use up. Thank you!

  3. Awesome post. Thank you!!

  4. Sally, just a quick note to tell you I made your coconut chicken tenderloins and the dipping sauce (marmalade, honey, Dijon and red pepper flakes) tonite for dinner with friends.  Flash frying and then finishing in the oven keeps the chicken so moist. Just yummy! Thanks for all the good savory dishes as well as the baked goodies (have made a lot of those goodies too).  Love your blog.

  5. Thanks for another very informative and helpful post!  Like others, I love your baking basics series.  I think my least favorite ingredient to measure is cornstarch.  Especially when you get to the bottom of the paper bag inside the box… you end up with a powdery mess all over the place…. Anyway, I was glad to find it in a cardboard can the last time I bought it, and thought hey, surely they were smart enough to install a leveling edge in the top of the can like for baking powder… but, at least this brand wasn’t.  But it did have a sturdy foil seal… So I triumphantly folded it in half and made my own!  Such an improvement… and for a few minutes there I was dangerously proud of myself!!  🙂

  6. Great tips and I agree with all things said.

  7. Dear Sally, love your blog. It is always a pleasure to read. This is off the measuring topic, but still I thought you may be able to help. How do I make really thick custard? The kind you find in a vanilla slice or piped into a cannoli? I can make a beautiful tasting custard but I don’t know how to make it super thick. Thanks again, Judy

    • All-purpose flour and cornstarch usually do the trick! Make sure you’re following a recipe using both or either.

  8. I made it through the novel of info, and I loved it! 😀 I didn’t know about the trick for oiling up your measuring cup for liquid sweeteners. Genius! Also the rule for sifting then measuring vs measuring then sifting was new to me. Loving this baking lesson series!

  9. Now this is super helpful! I know sometimes my recipes (measured the same way) can end up tasting slightly different from one to the next. It’s because my measuring isn’t always spot on! 

  10. I’m a Brit.  We always measure.  It’s just whether we do it in ounces or grams!

  11. Thanks for all the helpful information.  Especially the part concerning ingredients being sifted…I really was not sure if I was supposed to sift and then measure or vice versa.  I am so glad you made it clear on how that works.  I will definitely refer to this page often.  I absolutely love your cakes as well and cant wait to make another : )

  12. Just a couple days ago I made cupcakes and I put too much flour! They were terrible and this will definitely help in the future

  13. Hi Sally,

    This is a great chart! I was wondering, I had calculated 1 c. of AP Gold Medal flour according to the nutrition label on the bag of flour to be 120g which is slightly off from the chart. As a general rule, do you recommend I follow the calculations based on the bags that I have (since it is specific to the brand) or is it ok to follow the standard chart regardless of brand? It seems slight deviations are pretty standard across other ingredients too, such as sugar, cocoa powder, etc.

    • Generally, I’d follow the measurements on the individual product bags. They may be very slight differences, you’re right!

  14. I must say you are really doing a great job…you inspire me a lot….thanks

  15. After many, many years of cooking and baking, I finally broke down and bought a scale. I had found a chart on the internet, giving measurement/weight equivalents, so I knew I’d get my money’s worth. . I’ve had the scale for about 10 years now, and use it ten times more than I had anticipated. I love that more and more recipes are available with weights included. PS – can’t wait to try your chocolate doughnut holes. That’s what I came here for.
    Great blog, I’ll visit often.

  16. Love this post. Just a tip… Not only do I spray my measuring cup for sticky sweeteners, I also do for peanut butter! Makes it much less of a pain.

  17. Very nice that you have transferred the cups and Oz to gram etc. for us that don´t measure the american/english  way. I have seen that an american cup is 2.4 deceliter and the English is 2.8 dc. LOL 
    Thanks 🙂

  18. Hi Sally, I just baked the chocolate cake using your recipe and I love it. This my second time trying to make a chocolate cake for my nephew’s birthday. Well using your recipe, the cake turned out delicious. Thanks for the directions and the measuring info. it helped a lot. I think I’m going to make the carrot cake next. Hmmm, my favorite!

  19. I am from the UK, and we use grams here. I recently bought cups as I have always wanted to use them for some reason! The cups I bought have a line where the cup is so I can’t do the spoon and level method you talked about. Does anyone else have this problem? Is the any ways to overcome this without levelling it by shaking it down / patting it down? Many thanks xx

  20. Hi! Thanks so much for the great info. Question…I am a new baker and I had been following a chart that has AP Flour at 128g for a cup. I found another that says it should be 140g for a cup. Yours is 125g. Why a difference? Is it the specific brand that makes thr difference? Very confusing. Thanks

    • Brands might vary but any all-purpose flour I bake with is typically around 125g. I usually use King Arthur flour or Gold Medal. When I weigh them, 1 cup is about 125g.

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

  22. 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!

  23. 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?

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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 🙂

  27. 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!
    /Marilyn

    • 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 🙂

  28. 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” 🙂

  29. 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?

    Thanks

  30. 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, 
    GOD BlESS YOU AND YOUR  FAMILY. 
    Thank you 
    MARIADELPILAR.

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