Replacing sugar with honey in Baking Recipes

Replacing Sugar with Honey

Sugar was brought back to Europe by crusaders in the 12th century. However, this ‘white gold’ was very expensive to import, so was restricted to the richest households. Sugar only became widely available in the 18th century, when sugar cane plantations were established in the Caribbean. Up to this point, honey was the main sweetener used throughout Europe. Honey makes an excellent replacement for sugar in baking, and many of the recipes we know today would originally have been made with honey.

However, you cannot replace sugar directly with the same amount of honey. Sugar and honey have different physical properties, which need to be taken into account:

Weight: a tablespoon of honey contains around forty percent more calories, giving it a higher density this means that less honey is needed
Moistness: honey attracts water, and keeps things moist this means that less liquid is needed
Sweetness: honey has a slightly higher percentage of fructose than sugar, giving it a sweeter taste this means that less honey may be needed (according to personal taste)
Acidity: the acidity of honey is a pH of 3.9, which compares to a pH of 2.2 for lemons this means that a neutralising agent may sometimes need to be added
Cooking temperature: honey browns faster than sugar when baked this means that a lower oven temperature is required, and that the cake will be browner in colour

The magic formula:

Ingredient: Increase: Decrease: Adjustment:
Sugar
  • honey -40%
    (if measuring by volume (cups))
  • honey -25%
    (if measuring by weight (grams))
  • replace 1 cup (225g) of sugar with 5/8 cup (170g) of honey
Liquid
  • dried ingredients +2 tablespoons
    (if the only liquid ingredient is eggs)
  • liquid -25%
    (if the recipe contains 1 cup (270g) of honey or more)
  • add extra flour for each cup (270g) of honey if there are no liquid ingredients to reduce
  • replace 1 cup (240ml) of liquid with 3/4 cup (180ml) of liquid (do not reduce eggs)
Acidity
  • baking soda +1/4 teaspoon
    (if baking soda is not already included in the recipe)
  • add 1/4 teaspoon for each cup (270g) of honey
Oven Temperature
  • temperature -15°C/25°F
    (if more than 180°C/350°F)
  • use light-coloured baking tins
  • tent with tin foil to stop the top from over-browning
  • position on the middle shelf in the oven
  • place a tray of water on the shelf below to deflect the heat and create steam

Conversion Table:

Volume
Weight
1 cup
:
5/8 cup
100g
:
75g
Sugar
(1 cup = 225g)
:
Honey
(1 cup = 270g)
Sugar
:
Honey
1/8 cup
:
1/8 cup (scant)
50g
:
40g
2/8 cup
:
1/8 cup (heaped)
75g
:
55g
3/8 cup
:
2/8 cup
100g
:
75g
4/8 cup
:
3/8 cup (scant)
125g
:
95g
5/8 cup
:
3/8 cup
150g
:
115g
6/8 cup
:
4/8 cup
175g
:
130g
7/8 cup
:
4/8 cup (heaped)
200g
:
150g
1 cup
:
5/8 cup
225g
:
170g


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