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Most recipes measure ingredients in cups rather than by weight. But when you’re shopping for dry ingredients, it can be hard to tell how many cups are in one pound of powdered sugar. That said, measuring powdered sugar isn’t always completely straightforward. So how many cups in a pound of powdered sugar?

How is Powdered Sugar Different From Brown and Granulated Sugar?

If you’ve been baking for any length of time, you already know that there are different types of sugar. Most cakes, cookies, and other recipes will call for powdered sugar (also called confectioners sugar), granulated sugar, or brown sugar.

So what’s the difference? Regular granulated sugar is completely refined sugar that is in very small grains. Brown sugar is similar, but it contains molasses. Molasses is a byproduct of refining sugar, so some types of brown sugar are just not very refined. Other types are simply granulated sugar with molasses added back in — most types of commercial brown sugar are 5% molasses.

Powdered sugar has a markedly different consistency, but it’s actually not that far off from the other types. Powdered sugar is just finely ground granulated sugar. It usually contains a small amount (2%-5%) of an anti-caking agent to both prevent clumping and absorb moisture. It’s often used to make icing, as it’s ground so finely that the sugar dissolves with the wet ingredients and forms a completely smooth texture.

It’s worth noting that there are different types of powdered sugar. Most grocery stores carry primarily 10X powdered sugar. This measurement is the second-finest grain of sugar available. The finest grain is 14X, also called “superfine” sugar.

The 10X sugar works well for most applications. However, if you need something that dissolves quickly and completely, the 14X sugar is a good choice. Often, it’s used to make sweetened whipped cream. You can make whipped cream with other types of sugar, but the 14X gives it the best texture.

Unsifted Powdered Sugar

If you want to know how many cups is 2 pounds of powdered sugar, the answer depends on whether or not the sugar has been sifted. If you need to sift powdered sugar before baking, most recipes will include sifting in the instructions. Some people choose to always sift powdered sugar before baking and others do not. As long as you ensure that your ingredients are not clumped, either option is usually acceptable.

You likely already know this, but while the powdered sugar in the box or bag is finely pulverized, it is not sifted. If a recipe calls for cups of sifted powdered sugar, you’ll need to make sure you sift it yourself!

How Many Cups Are in a Pound of Unsifted Powdered Sugar?

Converting lbs to cups powdered sugar is pretty straightforward, although. The exact number of cups in 1 lb confectioners sugar will vary depending on the brand. But generally, there are 3.5 to 4 cups in a pound of powdered sugar.

Sifted Powdered Sugar

Some recipes calling for powdered or confectioners sugar will ask you to sift it. But why? Sifting powdered sugar makes it seem fluffier. Many bakers opt to sift powdered sugar because it effectively aerates it and ensures that it won’t clump when mixing wet ingredients and dry ingredients. Sometimes, a bag of powdered sugar will also contain hardened lumps of sugar (especially if it’s been sitting in the pantry for awhile). Sifting it is a quick and easy way to get rid of the lumps. Generally, sifting it will give you more consistent results and a smoother overall texture.

This is certainly important when it comes to baking. Say you’re making icing. Ideally, icing has a smooth, even consistency. However, if it has clumps of undissolved sugar, you’ll get an unexpected, powdery surprise when you bite into it.

So how do you sift confectioner’s sugar? The easiest way to do so is with a hand-cranked sifter. These usually look like a piece of metal tubing with a strainer and a handle. When you turn the handle, a piece of wire presses the sugar through the holes in the strainer to break up any clumps. If you need to sift several cups at once, make sure you don’t dump it all in the sifter at once! It’s easy for the sugar to float out of the sifter into the air, creating quite a mess.

If you don’t have a hand-cranked sifter, don’t worry! You can also use a fine mesh strainer instead. To do so, place a strainer above a bowl. Spoon a small amount of sugar into it and press it gently through with a spoon if need be. It’s especially important to make sure that you are using a strainer and not a colander to sift cups of powdered sugar. Colanders, which are often used for rinsing vegetables and other ingredients, have larger holes than strainers. That means that hardened clumps of powdered sugar can get through — something you really don’t want!

If you don’t have either a hand-crank sifter or a strainer, you can pour sugar into a bowl and use a wire whisk to whip the sugar. This will help break up clumps and aerate it, though it may not be as effective as some other methods. However, it can still make a major difference when it comes to consistency and your overall baking results.

If you’ve never sifted powdered sugar before and want a visual guide on how to do so, check out this video.

How Many Cups Are in a Pound of Sifted Powdered Sugar?

When powdered sugar is sifted, it becomes less dense. That means that if you measure out the same volume of unsifted and sifted powdered sugar, the unsifted will weigh more. A pound of sifted powdered sugar equals 4.5 cups.

How Do You Measure Powdered Sugar?

Now you know how many cups are in a 2 pound bag of powdered sugar. But you of course need to know how to measure it accurately! For best results, choose a 1-cup measure from a set of measuring cups. If you use a two-cup measure without a level top, it can be next to impossible to get a completely level two cups.

You might think that all you need to do is use the measuring cup to scoop the sugar out of the plastic bag. Don’t do this! It will pack the confectioner’s sugar too tightly, giving you an inaccurate volume measurement.

Rather, you want to do the spoon-and-level method. When measuring powdered sugar, spoon it into a measuring cup. It’s a good idea to measure it one cup at a time. Once you have filled one cup, take a straight edge (like the edge of a knife) and scrape it across the top of the cup. That will give you a level measurement.

As a side note, the way recipes ask you to measure powdered sugar is often confusing, especially if you haven’t been baking that long. If you see a recipe that calls for “three cups (or any number of cups) sifted, powdered sugar, ” that means to sift first and then measure. If a recipe calls for “two cups (or any number of cups) powdered sugar, sifted,” that means to measure first and then sift.

That might seem like a small difference, but when it comes to measuring cups of powdered sugar (or any other ingredients), it’s important to be as accurate as possible to get the best results. As any master chef will tell you, baking calls for measurements to be as exact as possible.

Put Powdered Sugar to Work for You

Whether you’re sprinkling powdered sugar on a cake for subtle sweetness or using it for icing sugar, powdered sugar is a versatile addition to many recipes. Of course, for best results, be sure to measure it accurately and follow the recipe exactly! Now that you know how many cups in two pounds of powdered sugar, you’ll be able to find the right ingredients for any recipe you encounter.

FAQ

Still have some questions about the number of cups in a pound of powdered sugar? Here are some commonly-asked questions:

Is 4 cups of powdered sugar a pound?

Sometimes. In a pound of powdered sugar that has not been sifted, there are between 3.5 and 4 cups. Depending on the brand, powdered sugar can be more or less “fluffy.” If your recipe calls for a pound of powdered sugar, you might want to weigh it out for accuracy.

How many cups are in a 2 pound bag of powdered sugar?

If you’re wondering how many cups in 2 lbs powdered sugar, the answer depends on whether you intend on sifting it or not. If the sugar isn’t going to be sifted, a 2 pound bag will give you between 7 and 8 cups. If it is sifted, a 2 pound bag will give you 9 cups.