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!

Learn how to correctly measure your baking ingredients on

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.

Learn how to correctly measure your baking ingredients on


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

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

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

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.

Learn how to correctly measure your baking ingredients on

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

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. 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.

  2. 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 😀

  3. 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

    1. 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.

  4. 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…

      1. 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!

  5. 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?

  6. 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!!

  7. 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!!

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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!

  11. I have been trying to put together a master list of weights for common ingredients. I see you got your list from King Arthur. I also see on my canister of rolled oats a 1/2 cup serving dry is 40 grams – so 1 cup would be 80 grams, not the 95 that you and KA list. I wonder why the discrepancy. Thanks 🙂

  12. Hi Sally. For your recipes calling for sifted flour, do you measure first and then sift or do you sift and then measure? Thanks for your feedback.

  13. I will never understand why you Americans don’t weigh ingredients like almost the entire world. Sally, for that reason I am extra grateful that you provide metric conversions for your recipes.

    Thanks for this very convenient conversion chart, I will print it and put it close to the oven when I bake from another American site again.

  14. Hi Sally!
    I was reading trough the Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake and the chocolate cookie (that Im baking now ^_^) recipe and I ended up reading your suggestion/explanation (measure is everything) to how to measure flour with a spoon!I have always been really concerned about how to measure a spoon, 1/2 spoon of something… but I still don’t get the difference between scoop and spoon & level…. would it be possible for you do add the amount of the ingredients in gr instead of n° of spoon or maybe both? Or is there any other way to explain how to do not over measure ingredients? Thank you very much!

  15. You LOVE what you do and it shows. I think it’s really generous of you to share your knowledge. I too LOVE to bake and I’m always looking for the trivial answers I’m either not able to find or would have found if I had gone to culinary school. I appreciate your enthusiasm, sense of humor and sharing your wealth of knowledge.

  16. Hi Sally,
    thank you for all of your YUMMY recipes! I tried your lemon cupcakes and unfortunately they came out a little dry… I read your spoon & level measuring and think maybe that could’ve been the reason why.. I scooped :(… do you think this is why they were dry? or could too much zest do that?
    Please help! 🙂

  17. I made your Banana cake today. I followed your instructions to the letter. The cake came  out pretty well but I found it to be dense. Is this the way it should be? The taste was great so I’m thinking it could be my technique. I’m never sure how long I should beat the batter, which by the way was somewhat thin. Any suggestions you could give me would be helpful.
     I love your site.

  18. Reading your instruction how to measure is very helpful, even for a seasoned baker.
    I would guess using baking soda that has been in the frig or freezer is a no-no ?
    Thanks for yummy recipes 

  19. Hi Sally!! The chart at KAF has all-purpose flour at 120 grams, but you have 125g. I am assuming you use the 125 g in your own recipes, but I am curious why the change? Super geek alert!! Hahaha! (Loving your new site, too – WOW! )

    1. Hi Stephanie! 125g is what I usually measure for 1 cup of all-purpose flour when I’m in the kitchen testing recipes. So glad you enjoy the new website layout and design. I appreciate you letting me know!!

  20. A question about sifting granulated sugar. One of my kiddos requests your triple chocolate layer cake for his bday every year (July 2nd). I actually made it today and changed it up a bit – I put the filling from your homemade oreos in between the cake layers and added the vanilla cream cheese frosting from the pumpkin cake recipe -yum! Added some oreos crumbs on top – it was a HIT! But anyway – here’s my question: When I sift all the dry ingredients as directed in the first step of the cake, I always have what seems like a pretty good amount (maybe 1/8 cup or a little more) granulated sugar (mostly) left in my sifter. Your recipe does not say if the 1 3/4 cup is to be measured before or after sifting – but it seems like after since you are putting all that stuff in one bowl and sifting. So should I be adding more sugar to make up for what’s left in my sifter?

  21. I guess I am doing most of these right,thanks to my mother.
    I had read that weighing is the best way to measure & do refer to it at times when in doubt.
    I’ve saved this in case my melon starts forgetting ,at my age its possible,lol.

  22. Thanks for this great post! Tons of good info included. If you are a new baker, read this post and follow Sally’s advice. It’s spot on! I would like to recommend a measuring that I love to use. It is from a company that does Home parties. Nope, not a rep, justsharing info. It is the BEST measurer I have ever found for thick or sticky things. I use mine for peanut butter, honey, sour cream, mayo, you get the idea. It is called measure all and comes in 3 sizes. Try it, you’ll be hooked too.

  23. Sally,

    You mention cake flour in your recipes, if I am purchasing the red mill flour, do i purchase the cake flour or pastry flour? Awaiting your reply!

  24. This is FANTASTIC! I’m not a ‘baker’ but I m often baking, lol. Thankfully (for those eating my creations) not all of this was new to me, but enough of it is. Thank you for compiling all of this into one place–pinning & printing!!

  25. If measurement is science, then why do you measure flour by cups? and with possible mistake in packing the flour in the measurement cup. Why not measure it by weight?

    And while discussing that, if it is science, then why use imperial system? Why not metric? I love this website and your recipe, but everytime I have to translate lbs to kg, cups to liter, I want to bang my head against the nearest wall.

    Complaints aside, I genuinely loves your work!

    1. When I’m baking, I typically measure by weight using my scale. However most of the population uses cup measurements so I offer them both in my written recipes. Thank you so much!

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally