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Icing Sugar vs. Powdered Sugar: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 3, 2023
Icing sugar and powdered sugar refer to the same finely ground sugar, but the naming varies by region.

Key Differences

Icing sugar is a term predominantly used in the UK and some other parts of the world to describe a very fine sugar, essential for making icings and confectionery. On the other hand, powdered sugar is the term Americans commonly use for this same product, making it a staple in US kitchens for similar purposes.
In recipes, the distinction between icing sugar and powdered sugar is purely based on regional vocabulary preferences. Thus, when an American recipe calls for powdered sugar, someone in the UK would use icing sugar.
The texture of both icing sugar and powdered sugar is significantly finer than regular granulated sugar. This fine consistency ensures that they dissolve swiftly, which is crucial when creating smooth icings, glazes, and certain baked goods.
Sometimes, a small amount of anti-caking agent is added to both icing sugar and powdered sugar to prevent clumps from forming. While the terms might differ, the substance and purpose remain consistent across regions.
Both icing sugar and powdered sugar should be stored in a cool, dry place, preferably in an airtight container. Despite the naming differences, the storage recommendations for these sugars are universally the same to maintain freshness.

Comparison Chart

Regional Usage

Predominantly UK and Commonwealth
Predominantly US


Finely ground sugar
Finely ground sugar

Anti-caking Agent

May contain
May contain

Used in

Icings, confectionery, baked goods
Icings, confectionery, baked goods


Confectioners' sugar in some places
Confectioners' sugar in some places

Icing Sugar and Powdered Sugar Definitions

Icing Sugar

A fine sugar used in the UK for baking and confectionery.
She sifted the icing sugar over the freshly baked cake.

Powdered Sugar

American term for a sugar variant with a soft consistency.
She dusted the donuts with powdered sugar.

Icing Sugar

Also known as confectioners' sugar in some regions.
Some people call it icing sugar, while others say confectioners' sugar.

Powdered Sugar

Essential for making smooth American icings.
To get the perfect icing texture, use powdered sugar.

Icing Sugar

Sugar variant used in desserts for a refined texture.
Add icing sugar to the mixture for a smoother finish.

Powdered Sugar

It dissolves quickly, ideal for certain desserts.
Using powdered sugar ensures the mousse remains velvety.

Icing Sugar

Ground sugar ideal for making smooth glazes.
The glaze needs icing sugar to achieve the right consistency.

Powdered Sugar

Known in other regions as icing sugar.
What Americans call powdered sugar is known as icing sugar in the UK.

Icing Sugar

Essential for certain recipes to prevent graininess
For this frosting, icing sugar is better than granulated sugar.

Powdered Sugar

Finely ground sugar used in American recipes.
The recipe calls for a cup of powdered sugar.


Why might anti-caking agents be added to icing sugar?

To prevent the fine sugar particles from clumping together.

Can I make powdered sugar at home?

Yes, by grinding granulated sugar in a blender until fine.

What's the main difference between icing sugar and granulated sugar?

Icing sugar is much finer than granulated sugar.

Are icing sugar and powdered sugar the same?

Yes, they are the same but are named differently based on the region.

Is confectioners' sugar the same as powdered sugar?

Yes, in the US, confectioners' sugar and powdered sugar are the same.

How do I measure powdered sugar for recipes?

Typically, it's measured after sifting to ensure accuracy.

Can I use granulated sugar instead of powdered sugar?

No, granulated sugar has a coarser texture and doesn't dissolve as quickly.

Can I replace powdered sugar with icing sugar in a recipe?

Yes, they are interchangeable.

Why is powdered sugar often used in icings?

Its fine texture allows it to dissolve quickly, ensuring smooth icings.

Why do some desserts have a dusting of powdered sugar?

For added sweetness and a decorative touch.

Can I use icing sugar in coffee?

Yes, but it might make the coffee overly sweet due to its fine texture.

What should I do if my icing sugar becomes lumpy?

Sift it to remove clumps before using.

Do I need to store icing sugar differently than granulated sugar?

Both should be stored in cool, dry places, but icing sugar benefits from airtight storage due to its fine texture.

Can diabetics consume powdered sugar?

It's pure sugar, so it should be consumed in moderation or as advised by a healthcare professional.

Why do some powdered sugar packages mention "10X"?

"10X" refers to the fineness of the sugar, with 10X being extra fine.

Is there a flavor difference between powdered sugar and granulated sugar?

No, the difference is in texture, not flavor.

Why do some recipes specify sifting the icing sugar?

Sifting removes clumps, ensuring a smoother product.

Are there different grades of fineness for icing sugar?

Generally, no. However, there may be slight variances based on the brand.

Does icing sugar have the same sweetness level as granulated sugar?

Yes, but its fine texture can make it seem more potent in some recipes.

How is powdered sugar made?

By grinding granulated sugar until it achieves a powdery consistency.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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