Difference between Icing Sugar and Powdered Sugar

Updated on September 16, 2017

Sweets and pastries are delicious and fun to eat. We owe it all to one ingredient which never fails to energize us and livens up our senses. This particular ingredient is sugar and it comes in different types. Though they all add sweetness into our lives, certain types of sugar are more finely ground than others. I’m talking about icing sugar and powdered sugar. In this article, you’ll learn more about these two types of sugar and how they differ.


Icing sugar on a bundt cake
Icing sugar on a bundt cake

Icing sugar is a type of sugar that is made in the same way as other sugars: extracted from sugarcane or sugar beet. The difference lies in its texture and fineness. Icing sugar is a term often used in England and Canada to refer to the super fine variety. It is also referred to as 10X sugar. This means that the sugar has been processed ten times, giving it a very fine appearance. To achieve the fine granulation, the sugar crystals are ground in a steel magnesium rotary giving it different levels of fineness. While the size of the sugar crystals in 10X sugar is usually 0.010mm, icing sugar sometimes has 0.024mm size. In order to avoid clumping together, an anti-caking agent is added in the form of cornstarch or tri-calcium phosphate. This type of sugar is mostly used to make icings or frostings as crystallization doesn’t occur due to the presence of the anti-caking agent.

Powdered sugar on pastries
Powdered sugar on pastries

Powdered sugar is a term used in the US and other countries to refer to a very fine type of sugar. It is also often called confectioners’ sugar. Its difference from traditional white sugar is in the texture and level of fineness. To achieve its powder-like state, sugar crystal are milled, ground, or crushed. This type of sugar can also have different degrees of fineness, such as 3X, 4X or 10X. The greater number of X’s means a finer product. An anti-caking agent is also added to powdered sugar at 3% to 5% concentration in order to prevent clumping and refine the flow. However, due to the anti-caking agents, powdered sugar is not that good of an option to use on coffee or tea. Powdered sugar is often used as an added sweetener or a final decorative touch when dusted onto cakes and pastries.

Icing sugar vs Powdered sugar

What is the difference between icing sugar and powdered sugar? Icing sugar and powdered sugar are essentially the same kind of sugar except they sometimes vary in terms of texture, level of fineness, and regional term preferences. “Powdered sugar” is the general term or category used for super fine sugar while “icing sugar” is one of the alternate terms used that fall under that category. The term “icing sugar” is common in England and Canada and “powdered sugar” is often used in the US and other countries.

Comparison Chart

Icing SugarPowdered Sugar
Alternate term for super fine sugarGeneral term or category used for super fine sugar
Term mainly used in England and CanadaTerm often used in the US and other countries