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Confectioners sugar (Recipe: chocolate refrigerator cake)


Friends, I have failed you.

I've tried and tried to find the confectioners for whom confectioners sugar was named.

I checked the library, the telephone directory, and the Internet. I searched everywhere for an "association of confectioners who gave their name to sugar," but to no avail.

This would be so much easier if the sugar had been named for a particular confectioner. Edward's Sugar. Sabina's Sugar. Joe's Corner Store Sugar.

Ah, well. I did learn a few things along the way. Confectioners sugar, also called powdered or icing sugar, is regular old granulated sugar that has been ground into a fine powder and then has had 3 percent cornstarch or tri-calcium phosphate added to prevent lumping and crystallization. Often you'll see the number 10X on the box; that means that the granulated sugar has been ground ten times.

Once the box is opened, I store leftover sugar in a glass jar with a tight-fitting cap, to prevent moisture from getting to it.

According to Joy of Baking, a pound of confectioners sugar equals 4 cups sifted or 4-1/2 cups unsifted. Because it dissolves almost instantly, it's used primarily in recipes that don't require much, if any, cooking, such as icings, sauces, and some cakes and candies.

By the way, the confectioners sugar I buy in my local market does not come with an apostrophe. You might find confectioner's or confectioners' sugar where you shop. Powdered sugar, icing sugar, apostrophe or no apostrophe -- all the same.

Chocolate refrigerator cake

Another old-fashioned recipe I've had in my little black notebook for so long that I can't remember whether it came from a magazine, a friend, or the back of a box. Serves 8-10.


2-1/2 dozen ladyfingers
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners sugar
4 egg whites, stiffly beaten
1 cup whipping cream, beaten (for topping)


Separate ladyfingers and line bottom and sides of a 9x12-inch glass baking dish with half of them. Put chocolate, granulated sugar and water into a double boiler over low heat. Stir until chocolate and sugar are melted, and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the egg yolks gradually; continue to cook mixture until thick and smooth, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool. In a large bowl, cream the butter and confectioners sugar. Add the cooked mixture, and then the stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour the chocolate mixture into the lined glass baking dish, and then cover with another layer of ladyfingers. Put in the refrigerator or freezer and let set overnight or up to 24 hours. When ready to serve, cut into single-serving squares and add a dollop of whipped cream.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

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Best icing sugar I've found is the English brand Billingtons.

It's much less refined and has a slightly golden tinge to it. Sweet, yes, but not overwhelemingly so.

That apostrophe business would drive me crazy, I can tell. Luckily, I go the Brit way with "icing sugar".

in baltimore, where the huge domino processing plants are, the air sometimes fills with confectioners sugar. its really a site

I've had a similar recipe for so long it's called "Chocolate Ice Box Cake". It was originally made with (thin, flat and square)Girl Scout cookies. (No comments about age, please)

I always have confectioners sugar at home, Lydia - nowadays I don't use it as much, but there was a time I baked many decorated cakes and I needed this sugar to make my own sugarpaste/rolled fondant.

Your recipe sounds delicious!

Yep, confectioners sugar is a staple in my pantry. Aside from the above mentioned uses, i found it very effective in fixing cakes and pastry that lacks sweetness simply by dusting it on top.

Yup - Love confectioners sugar! When I was young (this is so bad), I used to butter a toasted Eggo Waffle and dust it with confectioners sugar, making my own personal funnel cake! So fattening, but so...Yummmm!

Your cake recipe looks great. Bookmarked! :)

I like how you pointed out the no apostrophe! I'm an editor and I didn't even notice until you said something. Anyway, I love confectioner's sugar (yes, I'm still going to use an apostrophe) on pancakes! Delicious.

I have been confused about the difference between powdered sugar and confectioner's sugar for a long time. Do you mean they are the same thing? I got confused because they sell both at the grocery store and I always thought they were different, that confectioner's sugar somehow was more suitable for making icing than powdered sugar. help!

I just make my own by grinding regular sugar in the spice grinder. That chocolate cake sounds just divine!!

Well, I'll call it glazing sugar because that's what King Arthur calls theirs, the only kind I've found w/out the cornstarch in it. I find it best for uncooked frostings b/c there's no grit.

Lucy, thanks -- I'll look for that brand at the gourmet market.

Lobster, I agree! Pesky punctuation indeed.

Connie, I'd love to see that. Sometimes in Louisiana, driving along the river lined with sugar plantations, you "see" sugar in the air, too.

Pauline, ice box? I remember those too!

Patricia, making your own fondant? Wow! I am in awe.

Veron, so true. Using a doily or some other stencil to create patterns on top of a cake can make it so beautiful that the taste almost (almost!) doesn't matter.

Chris, your childhood snack sounds so delicious -- don't tell anyone, but I think I'll have to try it!

Chew, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. In our house, it's maple syrup on pancakes, no exception! But the powdered sugar does sound great, too.

Nora, they are the same thing!

Nupur, the great thing about grinding your own is that you can make just as much as you need. Thanks for the good idea.

Susan, I'm not much of a baker, but I'm guessing that sometimes you want the cornstarch, and sometimes not, depending on what you're baking? I know that when I use confectioners sugar to make royal icing, the proportion of water to sugar has to be just right, or there is grit and/or clumping.

Since I'm not a big-time baker, I don't use confectioners sugar that often. I mostly remember using it when I lived at home and baked Christmas cookies with my mom as it's requisite in so many cookie and icing recipes. And no worries, Lydia; you'll probably find the answer when you're not looking for it. Isn't that the way it always works?

One of the challenges of moving to Europe (that none of the books tell you about) is figuring out names for common things. Cornstarch is corn flour or maizena and there are way too many sugars: icing, granulated, demarera, light cane, to name a few. Nothing like trial and error, and error, and error...

I am just starting to learn my way around all the sugars out there -- much more interesting than I thought. Thanks for the primer on confectioners.

Susan, that is the way it always works! I use confectioners sugar for dusting and for royal icing, but my husband, who's getting into baking a bit, seems to find other things to do with it.

Katie, now that all of the European sugars are making their way to US markets, it's just as confusing for us! And with more and more UK chefs writing cookbooks that are popular in the US, we're having to learn a whole new lexicon. Not a bad thing, of course, but confusing!

Christine, for the longest time I only knew about white sugar and brown sugar. Now there are as many specialized kinds of sugar as there are types of salt!

You didn't fail us...while I rarely have leftover confectioner's sugar (I use a whole box when I make frosting) you've provided me with a great tip for storage should I not use a whole box!

If need conf sugar in a pinch, can I just put regular sugar in my food processor and grind? Do I need to add flour?

Homesick, glad to provide a tip! I'm still looking for those confectioners, though....

Steamy, yes, absolutely, you can grind your regular sugar -- and add a pinch of cornstarch or arrowroot if you want to keep the sugar from clumping. Actually, I guess if you're going to use it all right away, you might not even need to add the cornstarch (see Nupur's comment above).

i've never made or had a refrigerator cake, one of these days. sounds refreshing and delicious!

Wow Lydia you are so dedicated, doing all that research! The cake sounds delicious!

Aria, refrigerator cakes are a bit old-fashioned, but perfect for summer.

Amy, I will stop at nothing to search out the facts for Pantry readers! Well, okay, I did stop... but at least I found this great cake recipe!

I always learn something here!
I bet you are great to stand next to at a party~ you would always have a conversation starter!

Sandi, thanks. If my cute husband is with me at the party, he's the one you'll want to stand next to!

That's a really interesting point of where the name might have come from. Maybe it was used by sweet makers initially? I was thinking Turkish delight and old fashioned boiled sugar sweets that are tossed in icing sugar to keep them seperate - just a thought, no real foundation!

Another old-fashioned idea -- put a paper doily over a cake (especially gingerbread because it's dark), sift conf. sugar over it. Very decorative, very easy (not that I do it, but you reminded me).

Kelly-Jane, you're probably right about the candy makers. I'll keep looking for them!

Susan, I've done the doily decorating trick too. Even if it's old-fashioned, it's easy and it works.

Since I've done a lot of baking recently, I have gone through pounds and pounds of confectioners sugar, with a little butter thrown in for the icing! Your old fashioned cake sounds excellent!

TW, I usually use confectioners sugar for royal icing -- just sugar, water, and meringue powder (or egg whites). Does the butter make it into butter cream and keep the icing from hardening?

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