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!

192 Comments

  1. Hey Sally, thank you for this very educating post.Although I have a question about baking powder and soda. I never really knew that they go bad after 6 months, so is there something I could possibly do with the leftover powder? 
    P.S: I look forward to more of your baking informative posts

    1. Baking soda has quite a lengthy list of uses– something to look up and research. Just not ideal for baking after 6 months.

      1. Alright thank you so much. I know about baking soda, but what do I do with baking soda.

  2. Very informative post, Sally! I started measuring flour the correct way a few months ago (thanks to you) but these tips will definitely help me with other ingredients. You said you usually pack brown sugar, and I notice a lot of recipes will just call for brown sugar but do not specify “packed”. For those, I typically scoop it like sugar & scrape the top off with a knife but have always wondered if I’m supposed to pack it. What do you suggest for those recipes?

    1. If a recipe does not specify packed– in my experience– it’s usually packed. So, always pack brown sugar unless the recipe states otherwise.

  3. What am awesomely informative post!  I’m printing this to keep in my cookbook.  I have a question regarding measuring cups and spoons.  I noticed in your post photos that you have several different types.    There are such cute ones available everywhere now (not just Anthropologie anymore!) that I would love to bring home, but wonder how accurate they are.  Have you every  had an instance where cups/spoons haven’t been accurate?

  4. Thank you! I just took a tart making class at a local chocolate store and they are obsessed with weighing all the ingredients.  All the recipes they gave us are all in grams.  I was wondering how to take my existing recipes and convert to weighted measurements.  

  5. Hey, Sally! In your post Measuring 101, you said: “One correctly measured cup of flour should weigh about 125 grams or 4.5 oz.” and on this one you said 120 grams. I always use 125 grams for one cup of flour. Witch one is right?

  6. Sally, you have taught me so much since I’ve started following your blog. I’ve always enjoyed baking, but you have now made me ‘obsessed’!  In every recipe of yours I’ve baked, and trust me it’s many, I always listen to your hints, suggestions, ect. I have perfected my baking skills and my family is reaping the benefits with full bellies and lots of smiles! Baking has become my therapy, my ‘happy place’, and I owe it all to you. Thank you from one sprinkle-lover to another!!

  7. Can you freeze baking powder to extend the life? Sometimes I buy mine in bulk online because I know it expires after 6 months (and never use the whole can) but wasn’t sure if it was ok to freeze the extra or if I should just plan on buying a new one every 6 months to avoid problems. Thanks!

  8. Sally, you are such an inspirational talented woman ……. thanks to your posts I started understanding the since behind baking and I LOVE IT!!!! I started backing when I had my baby girl a year and a half ago during my maternity vacation, since then my baking skills are just getting better and better, and my family and husband are so grateful for you :).
    I have two questions the first is how can we contact you and ask for specific recipes? 🙂 :), the second is am a little confused, cant I use the dry ingredients cups to measure a cup of wet ingredients like milk?

  9. My Mom told me to used a liquid measuring cup for peanut better… but in my head using a dry one made more sense, since once the peanutbutter was in the liquid one it was hard to see the level. 

  10. since i’m from germany (and i’m handing your blog / homepage out to EVERY one i know who compliments ‘my’ cupcakes) i LOVE you for writing the grams next to the cups. germans use a scale for baking, we measure everything, cause, as you said, a cup isn’t always a cup. keep up that work!!!

  11. Great read!! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    One thing though, not all recipes are written according to the “spoon and sweep” flour method. Many are based around “dip and sweep.”  A good recipe/cookbook should tell you which method to use 😉  Of course a kitchen scale always more accurate, but I know that’s not always practical and (confession) hardly ever use mine for day to day baking.

    1. Yea it bugs me when people don’t clarify which method they use. I’ve actually never used a cookbook before (though I really want to get Sally’s Baking Addiction Cookbook) but a lot of recipes online don’t tell you which method

  12. great post I love learning new things but OoOoOo I SO  love the “Equivalents” listed in this post! 😉 keeping them, will save me so much time! 

  13. What a great post Sally! I weigh all my ingredients as most of the time I am converting something gluten-ful to something gluten free and the only way to do that successfully is to use weights. And weighing ingredients leaves me with so much less to clean up! 
    I’ve converted some of your recipes using weights rather than measures and I find it so helpful that you include weights alongside any relevant ingredients 🙂 Thanks Sally!

  14. LOVE IT!!  I was notorious for getting flour out of the bag using the measuring cup.  Then, I found your site and started weighing everything with my digital scale (I recommend everyone get one), which has made a huge improvement in my baking.  Thanks for the master list, as well.  Your site is one of my “stops” everyday! 🙂

  15. Thank you for this post and the conversions. Being British and new to preparing food from scratch, I have developed such an irrational hatred of ‘cups’ as a measuring tool! I follow quite a few websites/blogs and I barely make any receipes because having to convert every type of ‘cup’ ingredient to grams is too frustrating and time consuming for me to enjoy. I expect I am missing out on a lot but accurate weight is surely the best way. I cannot tell you how much more enjoyable it is to make your receipes because the gram conversion is added in. I am not a natural in the kitchen so to try and cook with ‘cup’ measures, and not knowing if I’ve got them right, really makes the experience less enjoyable. I love a receipe with weights added in – it actually makes me excited to try it!

  16. Weighing is the only way to go. I’m from Australia and also find many US blog recipes too much of a pain to convert. They also never seem to understand that much of the world uses metric and Celsius. Thanks for noticing Sally!

  17. I feel like I’m confessing to my priest, but I’m a longtime baker who doesn’t spoon and level flour. I dip the measurement, pour it back into the bag, swirl, then dip again. I also aim to undermeasure flour a little so it’s not packed.  I also don’t ever sift my powdered sugar. My stuff turns out great to be honest.    

    1. If you’re scooping and then undermeasuring a bit in the cup, that should be fine. It makes up the difference! Always best to be precise though, especially with finicky recipes.

  18. hi sally,I love your blog this post has really cleared my doubts. I love baking and I have tried several of your recipes. thanks

  19. It’s all very well saying to weigh your ingredients, but so many recipes don’t give this option! I wish more recipes had weights as well as cup measurements. In the UK we always weigh recipes, but I love American cookies & muffins so I’m always looking at US recipes, love that most of your recipes do have weights, & really hope that more people will follow suit.

  20. Thank you! Since following your blog my kitchen scale has become my”go to” for measuring everything!!! I love how easy it is now for my kids to help in the kitchen since I know they are measuring the correct amounts for me (get me 60g of brown sugar please!, etc.)  I even got my mom and a few friends hooked on baking with a scale- less mess and reliable results. I am so obsessed with it, that I have been starting to go back through the old family recipes and converting them to frams where applicable. Because of how my grandmother measured, (usually scoop, shake and level with a knife) your post makes total sense why the measurements were heavier than I had predicted. Thanks for being awesome and the reference chart for many future cooking adventures!

  21. Hi sally,

    i am your new follower.. from pin it i’m looking for cookies recipe for my son and i pick yours… after looking up on your blog… i knew i’m on the right page to learn. You bake beautifully. 

    I love  baking & still learning … and thanks for sharing basic measuring. Here where i lived we used gram so its a bit confusing to convert it.. well not any moreee 🙂

    Thanks!

  22. I LOVE that you have the weight for all ingredients in your recipes!! You’re one of the few blogs I follow that do. Honestly, if I need to make something I search your site first simply because all your ingredients are in weights and it’s so precise; I love it! Just last week I went to make pizza but have been unhappy with my current pizza dough recipe. I thought, “Man, I bet Sally has a good pizza dough recipe.” Sure enough you did and the flour was measured in grams so I couldn’t mess up. Thanks you!! 

  23. Thanks for all the great info!  I was surprised to read some things I actually did not know.  Awesome post!

    1. You should begin to Melissa! Make sure you have a zero out option. Weigh the measuring cup, then take it off then add the ingredients to the cup. The scale will weigh the contents, not the cup as well.

  24. One of the things that attracted me to your blog in the first place was the fact that you include weights as well as measures for flour and other obnoxious ingredients. As an American in love with her kitchen scale (easy, precise, fewer dishes, what isn’t to love?) there is nothing better than seeing a grams notation next to an ingredient!

  25. Just an FYI, for peanut butter measurement, I use a liquid displacement measurement technique. If I need a 1/2 cup measurement, I fill a liquid cup with 1/2 cup water, plop in peanut butter until the water rises to the 1 cup line. Drain out the water. You have 1/2 cup of peanut butter.

    1. Exactly, this is the way I was Always taught to measure Peanut Butter too! I was going to make a comment to Sally to use this method, since it is tried and true, just not by weight! I know my mom taught me to measure Peanut Butter this way since the oil in the peanut butter will Not mix with the way, yet, for recipes make sure you pour off or “drain” water off of your peanut butter or “sticky, oily” ingredient so you do not add any extra water or liquids to recipes such as my Grandmother’s Tried and Fail-Proof Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies, which I plan to maybe start selling for the Fall next year or by maybe at least Christmas 2015 if anyone is interested! I LOVE these Cookies and just “popped” in here to check to make sure I had the correct Tablespoon conversion for 1/3 cup of an ingredient that goes in them!!! Does anyone know what that ingredient might be?
      If you have a More Traditional, Old-Fashioned, Basic recipes of these easy cookies you have to know that it is key to be precise with that ingredient while you can compensate really on almost any of them a bit and adjust as you go, but I prefer to Always make Full batches Only of these cookies as I can eat the Whole Batch in a few days time all by myself, but the cookies can last for months when I do not have the cravings for them or forget about them!!! (Part of being single, you can Binge or Closet Eat and Only You Know UNLESS You Tell The World like I have here!!! Oh well, I can pack on the pounds in most areas as that I am only about 100 lbs. soaking wet except maybe in the waistline, hips, and thighs, and much keep down the Sodium and Salts as I know have Fluid on both feet from being up working on them outside preparing a covered porch and deck for sealing and Winter yesterday and now finished making another batch of these Delicious and Healthy Cookies with a reduced amount of sugar as my last batch I overdid it on the sugar and they did Not keep well! (The reason I had to make more this morning!!! I went to eat one yesterday and just suffice it to say, you Must let these cookies “Dry Well” before storing them!!! And do Not try to make them in Wet, Damp, or Humid Weather!!! I was trying to beat the rain, which is to hit in 12 hours from now… Well, must run back to seal my deck for the same reason! It is clean enough to start sealing it, and if I wait much longer, I would just have to start the cleaning and bleaching process ALL Over Again!!! The Baking Rat!

      1. I Goofed up at least one important sentence! It should have read as follows!
        I know my mom taught me to measure Peanut Butter this way since the oil in the peanut butter will Not mix with the “Water”, yet, for recipes make sure you pour off or “drain” water off of your peanut butter or “sticky, oily” ingredient so you do not add any extra water or liquids to recipes such as my Grandmother’s Tried and Fail-Proof Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies, which I plan to maybe start selling for the Fall next year or by maybe at least Christmas 2015 if anyone is interested! My what a Run-ON Sentence!!! One thing Sally and I have in Common!!! I should have broken it into at least 2 or more sentences!!! Hopefully, you all get the point and can understand and follow that information. ( * Smile * ) And Happy Baking and Merry Christmas to You All!

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