General Uses of Sugar

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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Sugar, in one form or another, is utilized in just about every cuisine, not to mention its use in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and even energy production. See cosmetics, sugar in; pharmacology; and sugar, unusual uses of. In preparations both sweet and savory, its applications are manifold. Besides contributing to sweetness, viscosity, and body, sugar enhances the flavor, appearance, and texture of many foods.

How sugar affects texture in baking is especially apparent in cakes. In addition to facilitating the incorporation of air during the creaming of the sugar and the fat, sugar creates tenderness, because during baking it raises the temperature at which egg protein coagulates and starch granules gelatinize, allowing the gas cells to expand more before the batter has a chance to set. The result is a more open texture that weakens the cake’s structure so that it melts faster in the mouth. However, even though a cake high in sugar is more tender—that is, it falls apart more easily—it won’t have as soft a mouthfeel.