Differences Between UK & US Baking Ingredients

small sieve, red bowl of blueberries and sugar shaker, on a black background with powdered sugar and title.

Differences Between UK & US Baking Ingredients

Different Names For Ingredients

By Caro


Here's my article & handy table of the different names common baking ingredients are known by across the world & specifically in the UK & America.  Never mistake a recipe ingredient again - know exactly what you need.

I have many baking friends & readers from the US & Canada, so I thought I would take the time to talk about the differences between UK & US/Canadian baking ingredients & the different names used.  Likewise, if you watch US/Canadian food programs or are trying out a recipe with different ingredient names this should be beneficial too.  With the Great British Bake Off tv program,  (The Great British Baking Show), being so popular abroad, I do often read on Facebook groups I amin, people asking questions about ingredients and measurements but sometimes, there are incorrect answers given out.

Save Some Money & Make Your Own

Also, some of these ingredients are either more expensive or difficult to find in another country, so I did some research to find out how to make them by altering ingredients that are widely available. (Thank you so much Beth Hurst for helping me out with this – my friend who lives in the states. ) 

Cup, Gram & Ounce Conversions

For help with recipes in grams, ounces or cup measurements, go to my handy Conversion Table Of Most Common Baking Ingredients.


CASTER SUGAR

The equivalent is known as ‘Extra Fine or Super fine sugar’ in the US. Below is a photo of one brand that is available in the states. The bottle however is for tea or coffee, so isn’t in a very big bottle, (only 340g/12 oz). There are others listed in the table below too, but may not always be easily available as regular granulated sugar.

Size of Caster Sugar Granules

After I showed my friend a video of the differences between our granulated, caster and icing sugar (powdered sugar), it turns out that US regular (granulated) sugar is finer than our UK granulated.

Make Your Own Caster/Extra Fine Sugar

So US Granulated is easily ground or processed lightly to resemble our Caster sugar. Just be careful, as grinding in a processor too much may produce too fine a sugar, (similar to powder and be icing/powdered sugar) and possibly ruin your machine, so I would advise caution with it. Some people have also been known to use coffee bean grinders. A good tip with making your own is to crush in small batches and weigh or measure it as you go along until you get the quantity you need. Alternatively, make up a jar of your own caster sugar and use when needed. Be sure to store in an airtight container.



Can I Just Use Granulated Sugar?

Now something I hear getting asked a lot too is ‘can I not just use regular (granulated) sugar in place of caster sugar?’

CAKES – Well for some things, like cakes you can, but the texture is going to be slightly different because of the differences in granule sizes. You should also bear in mind that the original recipe has been developed using a specific ingredient.

MERINGUES – For things like meringues though, too big a granule is not something I would advise as you are trying to change the structure of the egg whites and produce a stability that wouldn’t hold if, for example you used powdered, (icing) sugar.   

SUGAR SYRUPS/DRIZZLES – Also for things like making a sugar syrup, or drizzle, granulated can be used in place of caster, since you are melting down the sugar anyway in the process.  

You should also be aware that during the ‘creaming’ of the sugar and butter stage of cake making, you will need to beat a bit longer if using granulated, because of the bigger granule size


Golden Caster Sugar

Another note about caster sugar, is that some recipes call for golden caster sugar. This isn’t as widely available and more expensive in general. The only difference between this is the colour and a slightly more caramel taste to the sugar. It will not affect the bake in any other way than maybe a very slight colour & taste difference.  

Make Your Own Golden Caster Sugar –You can also make an alternative to it, by combining light brown sugar and caster sugar (of a ratio of about 1:3).  *Literally as I am typing this, I was answering a question on caster sugar on Facebook and I was informed that some Walmart’s stock larger super fine/extra fine sugar, however it may be more expensive. 


dusting cookies with powdered sugar plus jam spoon for filling

ICING SUGAR

Icing Sugar is simply powdered sugar. Confectioners’ Sugar can also be used as a substitute (the only difference being a small amount of corn starch is in this). It’s used in the same way and should be pushed through a sieve first before using in recipes or on top as a decoration.  See comparison photo above. 

For a more professional finish to desserts, push the sugar through a very small fine sieve, or use a fine tea-strainer (see photo).


GRANULATED SUGAR

This is just regular, everyday tea sugar.  Note that US granulated granule size is slightly finer than our UK equivalent.  See photo above.


GROUND ALMONDS

In the US/Canada the equivalent is Almond Meal and Almond flour is sometimes available but is a lot finer and hence it’s name.

Why Use Ground Almonds?

Ground almonds provide moisture from it’s oils, but most importantly provide a solid structure and is why it’s better to use this than regular flour or almond flour.

Make Your Own Ground Almonds

If you can’t get ground almonds or almond meal, you can make you own by using whole almonds, and with the skin on is fine (as it helps retain the good oils). You simply place them in a zip-lock plastic food bag and ‘bash’ them with a rolling pin or something similar until a lot finer and like large breadcrumbs. From this point you can then place in a food processor (in small quantities at a time) and grind a little finer, but not too much to a powder consistency.

It should be like fine breadcrumbs, and crumbly & course. You can find videos on YouTube showing you how to do this. See the photo of how our ground almonds looks like compared to regular flour.


close font on angled shot of a fancy lemon poppy seed drizzle bundt cake with icing down the groves, and the tin to the background.

Uses Of Ground Almonds

Ground almonds are used in several of my recipes, some examples being Lemon Poppy Seed Drizzle Cake, Traditional Christmas Fruit Cake & in Madeira Cake.

CORN FLOUR

Corn Flour from the UK is also known as corn starch. Used as a thickener but also used a lot in the UK in baking recipes, in things such as shortbread and is very important in this. It’s what gives the classic crumbly melt in the mouth texture of real Scottish Shortbread.  I also use a little in my soft sugar cookies. It can also be used to reduce the protein content of a strong/bread flour by mixing a little in if needed.


SEMOLINA

Often listed in recipes as fine or course semolina, Fine Semolina is a bit more coarse than semolina flour, but still very fine. See photo opposite comparing semolina to regular four. Still fine, but has a course texture if you run it through your fingers and is pale beige/yellow colour.

Uses Of Semolina

Semolina is used in cakes and also on top of breads or rolls. Both give a slightly different texture feel to the sponge, and obviously the coarse one more so.

Where To Buy Semolina

Note that semolina can be found in bigger supermarkets, and in foreign food stores/aisles and also online. It can be used in a lot of baked goods and I have a Turkish cake Revani, also known as Sambali, uses it. Check out my Summer Berry Griestorte Cake that uses it (a berry, and cream Genoise sponge layer cake).


Compared To Regular Flour

See my photo of the semolina compared to regular wheat flour. Swipe, or scroll left/right through the pics or arrows below, to see more comparison pics in the slideshow.


SELF-RAISING FLOUR

This is roughly the equivalent to US self-rising flour, with flour and baking powder.

Make Your Own Self-raising Flour

It can be more expensive and hard to come by in the states and Canada, but it’s easily made from All purpose flour(Plain flour in the UK) by adding baking powder and I add a little salt. The ratio for UK self-raising is, for every 125g (1 cup) of self-raising flour needed, you add 2tsp baking powder to 1 cup of all purpose or plain flour. However, US Self-rising, is 1.5 tsp of baking powder and ¼ tsp of salt. I personally find the 2 tsp of baking powder too much if there are several cups of flour involved, and especially so if there is baking powder in the recipe you are using also.

For Cakes & Scones

I go between 1.25 – 1.5 tsp baking powder per 125g/1 cup of flour and a scant ¼ tsp salt. I prefer this combination, as I don’t like the metallic taste of too much baking powder. For British scones, I use the 1.25 tsp ratio as there is additional baking powder in the recipe. For cakes, I typically use 1.5 tsp.

Too Much Baking Powder

Note that too much baking powder, can give a good rise, but if there is not enough support for the bake (ie. enough flour), it will deflate and be very dense.

* Note also, that in my recipes, I always give the corresponding ratio of baking powder to use that has worked for me.


MY PREFERRED FORMULA FOR MAKING SELF-RAISING FLOUR FOR CAKES

*Note there is no salt added to self-raising flour, but I add as I find it helps bring out the main flavour.

SELF-RAISINGUS CUP SIZEBAKING POWDERSALT*
113g1 scant Cup1 & scant 1/2 tspScant 1/4 tsp
125g1 Cup1 & 1/2 tsp1/4 tsp
225g1 3/4 Cup2 3/4 tspScant 1/2 tsp
250g2 Cups3 tsp1/2 tsp
450g3 1/2 Cups5 1/2 tspScant 1 tsp
My preferred quantities for making Self-raising flour for cakes

Making Your own buttermilk that looks curdled.

BUTTERMILK

Buttermilk isn’t always easy to find or have on-hand, but it can be made in several ways. This is the easiest I find.

Make Your Own Buttermilk

For every 1 cup of buttermilk required, add 1 tbsp lemon or vinegar to 1 cup (240 ml) milk and preferably not skimmed/no fat milk. Mix and leave to settle for 10 minutes. This doesn’t give you actual butter milk, but it provides the acid that is required for the baking process in the particular recipe you are using.  **Note the milk will look curdled, but that is exactly what we want and is just the fat separating from the liquid.


DIFFERENT INGREDIENT & EQUIPMENT NAMES

Below is a table of the corresponding or alternative ingredients commonly used in baking. Note there may be some regional variations. On mobile phone, swipe left/right to see all the table.


NAME IN THE UKKNOWN IN THE US & CANADANOTES
1/2 Double Cream 1/2 Milk“Half & Half”Not low/zero fat milk
BBQ CookingGrilling
Bicarbonate Of Soda
or Sodium Bicarbonate
Baking Soda
Black TreacleBest alternative is Black Strap MolassesSee below.
Bread/ Strong Bread FlourBread FlourHigher protein %
Caster SugarExtra/Super Fine Sugar, Baker’s Sugar,
Fruit Sugar, Berry Sugar
‘Domino’ brand, or make own
Cling FilmPlastic Wrap, Saran Wrap
CornflourCorn Starch
CustardLike a pudding, thinner than creme pat
(pastry cream)
Double CreamHeavy or Whipping CreamSlightly different fat % but
still whip the same
SemolinaFine or Coarse SemolinaNot semolina flour but gritty
Frying PanSkillet
Gas Mark 1 to 9275of to 475 of140-250 oc temperature conversions
Golden SyrupNo 100% equivalentDark Corn syrup or honey for
consistency but not flavour
Granulated (tea) sugarRegular white sugarUK slightly larger grain
Grease-proof or Baking PaperParchment Paper
Grilling/GrillBroiling or broil
Ground AlmondsNear to Almond MealOr make your own, see above
IcingFrosting or glazeAlso Fondant (sugar paste)
Icing SugarPowdered Sugar or Confectioners’No corn starch in Icing Sugar
JamJelly in some cases
JellyJell-OCan be squares, or powder
Kitchen Paper,Towel or RollPaper Towel
Kitchen worktopKitchen counter
Liquidiser/ BlenderBlender
Pastie/ Pasty, pastryHand pie, Turnover
Pickles/ preserves in jars“Canning” in glass jars
Plain FlourAll Purpose (A.P.) FlourVery close protein percentage
Self-raising FlourPlain/A.P. flour plus baking powderSelf-rising similar but slightly
less baking powder
Single CreamLight Cream18% & 20% fat respectively
Slow CookerCrock Pot
Sodium Bicarbonate or BicarbBaking SodaAlso Bicarbonate of Soda
Stove, HobHot, Burner or Range
Strong FlourBread FlourHigher protein %
Tin Foil, Aluminium FoilAluminium/Aluminum Foil
Tin of …..Can of …e.x. fruit
Wholemeal FlourWholewheat Flour
UK & US/Canadian baking names/terms table

Close shot of spooning golden syrup and black treacle into a pot

GOLDEN SYRUP

Golden Syrup from the UK is NOT the same as corn syrup.  Different processes to make them, but in baking terms, the consistency is not equal with the Golden Syrup being thicker.  But more importantly, the Golden Syrup has a unique taste that does not have a 100% comparison.  The closest is to a cross between a caramel, butterscotch and syrup taste.  It is great in recipes and also can be drizzled straight on top of a cake or even ice-cream.  Using corn syrup will not give the same depth of flavour as using the Golden syrup.

Golden Syrup & Corn Syrup Experiment

 A friend from the Bake Off group I help admin, did a little experiment with my Gingerbread Cake, that requires Golden Syrup and some Black Treacle.  She made using the original ingredients and also one with the American substitutes of Corn Syrup & Black Strap Molasses.  And she too confirmed as I suspected, that the original recipe and it’s intended ingredients produced a much better tasting cake and with a slightly lighter texture too.  Thanks Jennifer!   (Here’s a link to that recipe, where I also list where in the states you can buy Golden Syrup).


BLACK TREACLE

As mentioned in the last paragraph, US Black Strap Molasses is the nearest equivalent to Black treacle and NOT Dark Corn Syrup.  Here’s where to buy Black treacle in the States & Canada.

For lots more conversion tables and useful baking information see my baking information page.

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Caro x


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2 thoughts on “Differences Between UK & US Baking Ingredients

    1. Thanks Sally. I think I would need to order aluminium-free baking powder online but for the Uk at least, we can’t buy in stores so not ideal for my readers. Must have a check on Google.

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