How to Properly Measure Baking Ingredients

With a video tutorial and in-depth explanations, learn how to properly measure baking ingredients and why measuring is so crucial in baking.

flour butter milk eggs and sugar

With every recipe I publish, my goal is to help you become a more confident baker. Baking from scratch doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re set up with the right resources and tools, you can put the FUN back into your kitchen.

Today we’re focusing on something that may seem trivial to you, but it’s the most important step in every recipe you bake. Measuring ingredients properly is imperative. You see, baking is not very forgiving. It’s a science and estimating measurements could spell disaster. While you can easily get away with a handful of this or that when you’re cooking dinner, even the slightest baking miscalculation could turn your soft chocolate chip cookies into rocks. Understanding the correct measuring technique for a particular ingredient will guarantee better baking results. Because the difference between a recipe success and a recipe failure could lie within 1 mis-measured ingredient. 

When it comes to baking, it pays off to be a perfectionist. Learn how to properly measure baking ingredients so your next recipe is a success.


How to Properly Measure Baking Ingredients


FLOUR

Flour is the most common mis-measured ingredient. Whether you’re using bread flour, cake flour, all-purpose flour, or any other flours on the market, use the “spoon & level” method. Do not scoop the flour out of the container/bag with your measuring cup because you could end up with 50% more than you need. Rather, using a spoon, scoop the flour into the measuring cup. Do not pack the flour down and do not tap the measuring cup as 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 flour.
  • How do I measure sifted flour? If a recipe calls for “1 cup of flour, sifted” — measure the flour, then sift it. If a recipe calls for “1 cup of sifted flour” — sift the flour then measure. It all depends where the word “sifted” is in the ingredient wording. If “sifted” is before the ingredient name, sift before measuring. If “sifted” is after the ingredient name, sift after measuring.

My favorite containers for bulk storing ingredients are these tightly sealed flour keepers. (Affiliate link, I love them!) I own about 10 and recommend them to anyone who asks. I use them for my all-purpose flour, cake flour, bread flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and more. They hold 3.8 quarts, which is about one 5 lb bag of flour. I use a label maker to make labels for each– they’re placed on top.

flour storage containers


OATS

Make sure you are using the correct type of oats that your recipe calls for. To measure oats, use the same spoon & level method that you use for flour.

Whole oats and quick oats are different and depend on the cut of the oat. I most often use old-fashioned whole rolled oats in recipes like granola, oatmeal bars, and oatmeal cookies. Quick oats are finely chopped whole oats that have a more powdery consistency. When a more powdery, fine oat is ideal in a recipe, I use quick oats. To avoid having two different types of oats on hand in my baking supplies, I make my own quick oats from whole oats. This is very easy: pulse whole oats in a blender or food processor about 5-10 times to break them up to reach the quick oat consistency.


BAKING POWDER & BAKING SODA

Baking powder and baking soda can settle down in their containers over time. Shake it up or give it a stir, then using a measuring spoon, lightly scoop out of the container. Use a knife (or the container if it has a leveler) to level it off.

Always remember the difference between baking powder and baking soda. 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.


DRY YEAST

Standard packets of yeast hold 2 and 1/4 teaspoons, which is 1/4 ounce. If your recipe calls for more or less than 1 standard packet of yeast (or if you are measuring out of a jar or container), measure yeast how you measure baking powder or baking soda.

  • Dry yeast can be sold as active-dry or instant. I answer plenty of yeast FAQs, including the difference between yeasts, on my Baking with Yeast page.
  • If a recipe calls for dry yeast and you only have cake yeast (aka fresh yeast), use this handy conversion chart.

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 heavier than flour, so it’s less likely to pack down into the measuring cup. It’s also 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, texture, structure, and stabilization.


BROWN SUGAR

Measure brown sugar like you measure granulated sugar. Unless the recipe states otherwise, brown sugar should be packed into the measuring cup or measuring spoon. Light brown sugar is most common, while dark brown sugar has a slightly stronger molasses flavor. Unless the recipe states otherwise, you can use light brown sugar and dark brown sugar interchangeably.


CONFECTIONERS’ SUGAR (Powdered Sugar/Icing Sugar)

Measure confectioners’ sugar using the same spoon & level method as flour, explained above. Sift confectioners’ sugar if the recipe calls for it. If your confectioners’ sugar is extra lumpy though, it’s best practice to sift it anyway. (No one wants pockets of powdered sugar in their otherwise smooth whipped cream!) As detailed above in the Flour section, 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted means that the sugar is sifted after measuring and 1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar means that the sugar is sifted before measuring.


COCOA POWDER

Whether you’re using natural or dutched cocoa, measure cocoa powder using the same spoon & level method as flour and confectioners’ sugar. Like confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder can clump up. If a recipe calls for sifting it, make sure you take the time to do so.

two kinds of cocoa powder


LIQUID SWEETENERS

Liquid sweeteners include maple syrup, molasses, honey, corn syrup, agave, etc. Measure these thick and sticky liquids in dry measuring cups.

  • A handy tip: To easily measure sticky sweeteners, 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!

LIQUIDS

Liquids used in baking such as milk, water, oil, etc should 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 of the recipe.


SEMI-LIQUIDS

The semi-liquids I’m referring to here are ingredients like sour cream, yogurt, peanut butter, applesauce, mashed banana, etc. Measure these semi-liquid ingredients in dry measuring cups. They are too thick to be accurately measured in liquid measuring cups. Spoon & level, like you do with sugar or flour, then use a rubber spatula to help release the ingredients into the mixing bowl.

  • What about butter? Butter is usually sold in sticks, either 1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) sticks or 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) sticks. This makes measuring very convenient– simply slice off however much you need in a recipe. If your butter isn’t in stick form, use a dry measuring cup to measure it. If a recipe calls for melted butter, measure the butter in its solid state, then melt it.

ADD-INS

The add-ins I’m referring to here are chocolate chips, chopped fruit, sprinkles, nuts, etc. Simply scoop or pour them into a dry measuring cup. These ingredients aren’t typically used to make up the structure of a baked good, so there’s no need to be as precise.

ingredients measured in measuring cups


I find the following measurement equivalents helpful.

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 and 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

Free Printable PDF: Sally’s Baking Addiction Measurement Equivalents


Use a Kitchen Scale to Measure

A cup isn’t always a cup, but a gram or ounce is always a gram or ounce. Metric weights, such as a gram or ounce, are most accurate. Cup measurements are standard where I live, so that is why I offer my recipes in both cup and metric measurements.

When I’m developing recipes for my website and books, I weigh the ingredients in my recipe testing. Some may say weighing ingredients is a waste of time, but if you want the most precise results, weighing your ingredients will help. No need to spoon & level ingredients if you’re weighing them, but if a recipe instructs you sift the ingredient, it’s still best to do so before or after weighing (depending which the recipe instructs).

  • Here is (affiliate link) the food scale I own.
  • Place your measuring cup on the scale, zero it out, then add your ingredient.

Though it’s best to use the weights given if the recipe supplies them, you can refer to the following list if needed. Different products and brands could have different weights, but this is what I usually measure common baking ingredients to be.

Free Printable PDF: Sally’s Baking Addiction Common Weight Conversions

Common Weights

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour = 125 grams (4 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour = 118 grams (4 ounces)
  • 1 cup bread flour = 130 grams (4 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup cake flour = 118 grams (4 ounces)
  • 1 cup sifted cake flour = 105 grams (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup (packed) brown sugar = 200 grams (7 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup butter = 1 stick = 115 grams (4 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 = 80 grams (3 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter = 135 grams (4 3/4 ounces)
  • 1 cup sour cream or yogurt = 227 grams (8 ounces)

measuring flour on the kitchen scale


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109 Comments

  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. Anam Saleem says:

    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. 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!!

  4. 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.

    1. A book of baking basics tips? I love that idea! Thanks Diane 🙂

  5. Sally I so much love your recipe they are amazing

  6. 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 🙂

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. Sadie Johannsson says:

    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.

  11. 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! 🙂

  12. 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.

  13. This is a wealth of info ALL IN ONE SPOT!!!! I love it. Thanks

  14. 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!!

  15. You can summarize this entire chapter by just one simple comment: weigh your ingredients… Forget cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, my goodness, why are people still making it difficult for themselves with these inaccurate measurements! Weight on this planet is everywhere the same, a gram is a gram in Europe, the America’s , Japan and Australia. A table spoon differs by country. The amount of flour in a cup, thus measured by volume instead of weight, differs every batch and type of flour. It even depends on how tight you pack it in the cup… C’mon people, grams! (or ounces, if necessary)

  16. Hello Sally,
    THANK YOU!!! I love your blog. I haven’t actually tried any of your recipes YET, but I’m collecting quite a few that look & sound AMAZING!!! After we finish our move & get settled I can see myself making a wonderful Afternoon Tea – with your help!!! Thanks again.

  17. I found you when I was looking for a pie crust recipe (which I use exclusively). I’ve learned so much from you since then. Thanks for this chart!

  18. Can you clarify if a recipes calls for two (2) cups of ground walnuts; are the walnuts measured first and than ground or do you grind the walnuts first and then measure out two (2) cups?

    1. Hi Jelena! If the word “ground” comes before “walnuts” then you grind/process the walnuts before measuring. If the word “ground” comes AFTER “walnuts,” you grind/process after measuring the full walnuts.

    2. Hey sally! I’m always confused about how to measure butter.How much solid butter equals how much melted butter?I love your blog!

      1. Hi Maddie, See the section above under “Semi-Liquids” called “What about butter?”

  19. Sally, I just discovered your website a few weeks ago. i love to bake when I have time and I am a cake lover so your site is a real find! There are so many recipes I want to try and I am going to do that. I do like that you give weight measurements. I’ve been measuring with a scale for several years after I started using King Arthur’s flours and going to their site for weight conversions for my recipes. Your recipes will save me a lot of time; thanks. I also agree that measuring is more accurate, but also less dishes to clean!! I just zero out my scale before I add the next ingredient in the same bowl if feasible.

    Thanks again and I look forward to trying several of your recipes.

  20. Ahha! Here’s another bad thing I always did. Stick the measuring cup into the bag of flour, wipe off the excess with my finger, tap on the counter a couple of times to get it to settle, & stick a bit more flour in to bring it back to 1 cup.
    Between that, my ‘warm’butter & using the whisk attachment instead of the paddle theres no wonder my cakes keep coming out heavy.

  21. Awesome tutorial. Thank You again Sally, for making us all better baker’s!

  22. Wonderful information!

  23. Sally – love these informative articles and videos, you must put so much time into them!! As someone who always bakes by weight (being in Aus it makes it easier as our cup measures are different to yours) I absolutely love that you include weights in all your recipes, I won’t even bother with a blog that doesn’t! A gram is always a gram, makes it so much more accurate!
    Can’t wait for the printable PDF of weights 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your positive feedback, Robyn! I appreciate it 🙂

  24. Sally, I have been baking for only 10 years and made every mistake one can make the first year of baking. Without a gram scale it is very difficult to get accurate measurements.
    The other important thing one has to learn is what the people who are developing the recipes use for their measurements. King Arthur uses 4 1/4 ounces for a cup of AP flour. Americas Test Kitchen/Cooks Country uses 5 ounces for a cup of AP flour. I have also seen some sites use 7 ounces of sugar for a cup and others 7 1/2 ounces. Many of the sites do not give the weights that they are using for a cup. Your recipes are excellent. They are easy to follow, weights in grams are given and the recipes always get rave reviews from the folks I give the baked good to. For me, the two most important tools in the kitchen for baking are the gram scale and a high end instant thermometer. I wouldn’t even start baking without a KitchenAid Stand Mixer. I know they are expensive but, if well cared for, they will last many many years. Just my two cents worth.

  25. What about browned butter, if I’m experimenting (and I love the taste of bb) with cookies? Let’s say the recipe calls for half of a cup of butter. Would I use one stick, browned or would I brown enough to make up a half of a cup?

    Best thing I did was buy a food scale. Thank you for including weight in your recipes!

    1. Hi Susan! It depends the way the recipe is written. If a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of butter and the first step is to brown it, you brown 1/2 cup of butter. If a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of browned butter, I would measure the browned butter. Hope this helps!

  26. When I am cooking savory food, the weighing scales go out of the window. I just wing it, adding ingredients until it tastes right. Baking is a different matter. It’s more of a science, and a slight discrepancy in the measurements can completely change the dish. I am from the UK, and an American measurement system I have always struggled with is cups. I used to look at a recipe and wonder how big is the cup? Is it a small cup or a big cup? A mug or a teacup? I get the whole cups thing now. Your information is very useful and will give a lot of international readers some clarity.

    1. I’m so happy you found this post helpful, Liz!

  27. This is such an informative piece today! I know how to measure…but the rest of it…cake pan sizes, volume, etc is priceless! Thank you. I use large eggs, but some of the recipes I make call for x-large and I have read that large and extra large eggs are interchangeable. I am not sure if that is the case, but that is how I have been treating that ingredient.

  28. Hi Sally,
    Is there an option to print your measuring tips?
    It’s very useful and I’d love to have it printed and handy in the kitchen!
    Thank you!
    Debbie

    1. Working on a PDF! Stay tuned.

  29. Hi Sally,
    First I just want to say thank you for the helpful posts! It makes my baking journey 100% easier!!! Next, I was just wondering what Kitchen Aid mixer you would suggest? I know you have the tilt-head and the original but I was just wondering which one you would suggest for someone who bakes everyday. I really like the tilt -heads but they are only 325 WATS, does it matter a lot?

    1. Hi Zoe, you’re so welcome. I use and recommend KitchenAid 5 qt artisan series tilt head stand mixer. I have a 6 qt as well, but it’s pretty large and I really only have it because I bake so often!

  30. Thank you!! I love all of your valuable information and recipes! 🙂
    Quick question:
    I can only get fresh yeast at the moment, can you let me know the conversion for yeast in your cinnamon roll cake?

    1. See the chart linked above! A lot of useful information over on that site.

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