Sugar is, without a question, the most important component of what makes cakes so delicious, and what, after all, satisfies our sweet craving. Its application is on par with that of flour, which is THE component. But do you really understand what it does and how it influences the cake baking process and, ultimately, the finished product? A cake would be boring and uninspired in terms of flavour without sugar, but did you know that your cake would also be pale in colour, squatty, and dense? Sugar has a wide range of effects on cake.

Some scientific facts about sugar

Sugar is the common name for sweet-tasting, solvent starches, of which a significant portion are used in food. Sucrose, often known as table sugar, granulated sugar, or ordinary sugar, is a disaccharide made up of glucose and fructose. Sucrose is the only substance that can legally be labelled "sugar" on food labels in the United States.

Glucose, fructose, and galactose are examples of basic sugars, often known as monosaccharides. Compound sugars, are known as disaccharides or twofold sugars, which are particles formed by joining two monosaccharides with a glycosidic bond. Table sugar containing a combination of glucose + fructose, lactose containing glucose + galactose, and maltose are the most basic models (two particles of glucose). Compound sugars are digested into simple sugars in the body.

Historically, the word ‘sugar’ came from the Persian Shakar, the 20th century French call it sucre and the English, Sugar.

Sugar in cake baking

Sugar serves as a primary flavour enhancer in cakes and also plays other important roles in baking.


While sugar is most commonly associated with sweetness, it also serves as a platform for caramelization and browning. Cake without sugar has a raw flavour, lacking the nuances that emerge as sugar decomposes during caramelization and contributes to browning during Maillard reactions. The addition of sugar in cake gives it a "baked" flavour.


Sugar tenderises a batter by weakening the structural agents and slowing down protein-protein interactions such gluten production and egg solidification. Sugar can also slow the gelation of starch and lengthen the baking time.


Because water molecules are attracted to sugar, the inclusion of sugar in a cake will aid in the capture and retention of liquid. The result of this reaction is a highly moist and delicious cake.


When sugar and butter are mixed together, the sugar crystals help to drive air into the mixture. These air pockets expand while the cake bakes, generating leavening.

In a cake, sugar has a range of functions, although leavening and flavouring seem to be the most evident. While a conventional sugar-to-flour ratio of 2:3 results in moderate sweetness and leavening, you can simply alter the saccharinity of your cake by increasing or decreasing the amount of sugar you use.

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