Sanding Sugar


What Is Sanding Sugar?

red sanding sugarSanding sugar is a large crystal sugar used as an edible decoration that will not dissolve when subjected to heat. Also called pearl sugar or decorating sugar, sanding sugar adds "sparkle"  to cookies, baked goods and candies.  The sparkling affect is achieved because the sugar crystal grains are large and reflect light.

Featured Recipe

lemon shortbread slices
Our featured recipe is for Lemon Shortbread Cookies from Christmas Gifts From the Kitchen.   These cookies are so cute, they use the sanding sugar to create the affect of a lemon rind.  Using the sugar only on the edges is a simple technique that works well many types of cookies.  I'm not a highly-skilled "decorator" so these little tricks work great for me.

Lemon Shortbread Slices

Adorable cookies look like real lemon wedges.

  • 1 cup (250 ml) butter, softened 
  • 3/4 cup  (175ml)  granulated sugar  
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) grated lemon zest  
  • 2 1/4 cups (550 ml) all-purpose flour 
  • 1 egg white (large) lightly beaten 
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) yellow sanding (decorating) sugar
  1. Cream butter and granulated sugar in large bowl. Add lemon zest. Beat well. 
  2. Add flour in 2 additions, mixing well after each addition until no dry flour remains. Roll dough into 3 inch (7.5 cm) diameter log.
  3. Brush log evenly with egg white. Sprinkle sanding sugar evenly on sheet of waxed paper slightly longer than log. Roll log in sanding sugar until coated. Wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 6 hours or overnight. 
  4. Discard plastic wrap. Cut log into 1/4 inch (6 mm) slices. Cut each slice in half. Arrange halves about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart on ungreased cookie sheets. 
  5. Score each half with knife to make 4 wedges.
  6. Bake in 325ºF (160ºC) oven for 8 to 10 minutes until golden. Let stand on cookie sheets for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool. Makes 6 1/2 dozen (78) cookies. 

Nutrition Information

1 cookie: 47 Calories; 2.5 g Total Fat (1.6 g Mono, 0.3 g Poly, 0.5 g Sat); 0 mg Cholesterol; 6 g Carbohydrate; trace Fibre; 0 g Protein; 30 mg Sodium

How To Use Sanding Sugar

Sanding sugar can be used prior to baking or used as a finishing sugar. Here are some suggested uses.

Decorate Cookies

Sprinkle all over atop cookies prior to baking. The sugar can be used in small amounts or used heavily for a solid color affect.

sanding sugar edged cookies
swedish christmas cookies,

  • Edges only - dip cookie edges only in sanding sugar for subtle yet colorful affect.
  • Muffins and Cobblers - Martha Stewart suggests sprinkling white sanding sugar on cobbler and muffin tops prior to baking.
  • Use On Wet Icing - Ice cookies or cup cakes and allow icing to dry. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a small tip with icing. Pipe on little raised accents. Sprinkle sanding sugar over the wet piping. Tilt the cookie or cupcake and tap lightly to remove excess sugar.

Where To Buy Sanding Sugar

Sugar can be purchased at specialty baking supply shops and sometimes at very well-stock grocery stores.

Buy Online

buy sanding sugar - Purchase a 4-color sanding sugar starter set, includes red, yellow, green and white.

Make Your Own Sanding Sugar

You can make your own sanding sugar using the colors you prefer. All you need to do is purchase AA Coarse Sugar from a baking supply store (turbinado sugar will work too but it is not pure white) and some gel food coloring.  Place about a 1/2 cup sugar in a medium or large Zip bag.  Add about one drop of gel food coloring (regular liquid will not work as well). Seal the bag, knead the sugar until the color is well incorporated. If the sugar seems tacky, add an 1/8 tsp of cornstarch and knead again.  Store sugar in tightly sealed containers.

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.