What is Decorating Sugar?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Images By: Globalphotogroup, Brent Hofacker, Michalis Palis, n/a
  • Last Modified Date: 23 February 2020
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Decorating sugar is a product used primarily on top of baked goods such as cakes and muffins to add sweetness to the dish and to also add color. It is quite common for this type of colored sugar to be sprinkled over cakes that have already been topped with icing. There are dozens of colors of decorating sugar that can be used in order to match or stand out in contrast to the color of the icing that tops baked goods. Depending on the skill of the pastry chef, decorating sugar also can be used to create patterns on tops of cakes and cupcakes.

The instances in which decorating sugar is not used along with icing are usually with cookies. Sugar cookies, for example, may be coated with decorating sugar to create a splash of color on the top of the cookies or to even make a shape. For example, sugar cookies made for the Christmas holidays may be topped with green colored sugar that is arranged in the shape of a Christmas tree. Sugar cookies that are made for Valentines Day may be topped with red or pink sugar — or a mixture of the two — that is arranged into the shape of a heart.


In order to get decorating sugar to adhere to cookies, it is best to add it to the tops of the cookies while they are fresh out of the oven and still warm. Unlike iced cakes and cupcakes, cookies don't have a sticky substance on the top that will hold the sugar in place. As such, the sugar must be added when the cookies are still warm enough so that the crystals can become slightly embedded in the tops.

Decorating sugar can be bought in most grocery stores but is also pretty easy to make at home. Simply fill a clean plastic bag with the desired amount of sugar and add a few drops of food coloring. For custom colors, a few different colors of food coloring can be added.

Knead the plastic bag with the sugar inside until the sugar has absorbed the food coloring and is uniform in color. To make this process as easy as possible, be sure to add the food coloring drops in different areas of the plastic bag so that the color does not become concentrated in one area. Homemade decorating sugar can be stored just like plain sugar.


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Post 4

My friend used some cake decorating sugar to make her daughter's cupcakes spectacular. She was throwing her a fifth birthday party with a princess theme, and she wanted everything to be sparkly and pink.

She made strawberry cupcakes from a mix and then frosted them with bubblegum pink icing. She had found some bright magenta decorating sugar that was darker than the icing, and she sprinkled it in a spiral pattern on top of each iced cupcake.

It really did make the cupcakes seem special. She told her daughter they were sprinkled with fairy dust, which delighted her and her friends to no end!

Post 3

I used colored decorating sugar on my chocolate truffles to tell the different flavors apart. I made twenty lemon centered truffles and twenty orange, so I used yellow sugar on top of the lemon and orange sugar on top of the orange.

Since I was going to take these truffles to a party, I wanted people to be able to distinguish them. Some people can't stand the taste of lemon, and I didn't want them to bite into the truffle and be disappointed.

I had dipped the gooey truffle centers in a mixture of melted chocolate and shortening, so the outer coating solidified like wax. While it was still hot, I sprinkled the sugar on top, and for the most part, it stayed put.

Post 2

@seag47 – There is a way to still make decorating sugar adhere to the tops of hardened cookies. The only drawback is that it can make the cookies even sweeter than they already are.

If your cookies have taken on the texture of a rock, then you can make a quick glaze from confectioner's sugar and milk. Just mix these together until the glaze is runny, and pour it over the cookies. Immediately add the decorating sugar.

Since you will be adding the glaze while the cookies are hot, it will trap some of the heat and soften the hard cookies. The decorating sugar will cling tightly to the glaze, and once it solidifies, they will become one with it.

Post 1

If you are planning on adding decorating sugar to cookies, then make sure you don't overbake them. If you get them too brown, then the tops will be too hard to absorb any sugar.

I accidentally baked some cookies for my niece's birthday for too long, and they were extremely golden brown. They still tasted okay, but I was disappointed that I could not get the sugar to cling to them. I had planned on spelling out her name on top of the cookies, but that had become impossible.

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