Skip to Content

Dark and Light Brown Sugar: Baking 101

Dark and Light Brown Sugar: Baking 101

Characterized by a softer and more moist construction than granulated sugar, brown sugar maintains some of it’s natural, molasses like syrup.

It offers a sweet, caramel like flavor and the darker the sugar, the more intense it’s flavor is.

Use and History of Brown Sugar

bowl of light brown sugar

When brown sugar was first introduced it was not processed to completion and came before granulated sugar in the processing stages. Therefore, originally brown sugar was not as refined as table sugar.

Because it was less refined, brown sugar maintained some of the sugar canes mineral content and was once considered a healthier choice than granulated sugar.

How Brown Sugar Is Made

brown sugar on a table

Today the process for making brown sugar is much different. Now it is processed after making granulated sugar.

A dark caramelized syrup that is colored is added to dissolved sucrose. Then it is allowed to crystalize to it’s final form.

The process was changed due to the containments found in raw sugar cane and th subsequent regulations created to prevent them from being in brown sugar. Raw sugar cane can contain dirt, bacteria, and mold.

Many sugars labeled raw in the United States have actually been steamed to remove bacteria.

In fact, many “raw” sugars have had color or flavor added.

Brown Sugar Contents

The syrup used to create brown sugar today contains fructose and glucose. These are used instead of just sucrose because they retain moisture better allowing the brown sugar to not become hard if kept in an air tight container.

This moisture retention leads to baked goods with brown sugar maintaining moisture longer as well.

Brown sugar contains 85%-92% sucrose where granulated sugar contains 99%.

Most brown sugars will offer the same level of sweetness as table sugar.

How to Bake With Brown Sugar

Whenever baking with brown sugar you should tightly pack for all measured amounts.

Brown sugar can be substituted for granulated sugar. But due to it’s higher moisture retention consideration should be made when substituting.

It also has a lower browning temperature than white sugar. If you are planning ahead for a granulated sugar substitute, there is granulated light brown sugar available. And it better mimics white sugar when baking.

Does Brown Sugar Mold?

The high moisture content of brown sugar does mold when stored in humid conditions.

If your brown sugar has gone bad throw it away. You can prevent your brown sugar from molding by storing it in an air tight container in a dry place.


Brown sugar is indispensable in the baker’s kitchen. It is used in so many dishes and offers a sweet flavor and moisture to a baked dessert. Always keep your brown sugar in an air tight container to hold it’s moisture and keep it stored in a dry, room temperature location.