Make Your Own Sanding Sugar
Now that I’ve confessed my love of sanding sugar, I guess it’s okay to tell you how deep the obsession really runs. After seeing my collection, you’d think I have enough, right?
But I’m not one for stopping at enough. I’m an above and beyond kind of girl.
If for some reason I don’t have sanding sugar in the color I need, I make my own.
And just so I’ll have others to point fingers at when my husband starts accusing me of being crazy, you should too! It’s SOOOOOOOOOOOO easy!
Here’s what you need:
- clear sparkling sugar, which can be found HERE
- gel food coloring like Wilton or Americolor
- heavy duty zip top bag
- cookie sheet lined with waxed paper
To begin, pour 1/2 a cup of sugar into the zip to bag and add a bit of color. Start with a drop or two at the most. A little goes a long way!
Use your hands to knead the color into the sugar. Be easy enough that you don’t crush the sugar crystals. It will start out looking like this,
and like this the longer you knead.
I decided mine wasn’t dark enough after a couple minutes of mixing, so I added a bit more color.
After a few more minutes the sugar finally reached the color I had in mind. The only trouble is the gel color makes it a little sticky.
To remedy this I add a bit of cornstarch. I start with 1/4 of a teaspoon trying to add the smallest amount possible until the sugar “flows” like dry sugar.
Mix them in the same way you did the color. Lay the bag on a flat surface and spread the sugar out looking for dark clumps and gently break them up with your fingers.
After the ingredients are well mixed pour the sugar onto a wax paper lined baking sheet and let it dry for a bit to get rid of any moisture that might remain.
Store the sugar in airtight containers or decorative jars. Mine are jars from other sprinkles that I’d washed and saved.
Because of the cornstarch, my DIY sugar isn’t quite AS sparkly as Americolor sugar, but it still has a nice sheen and looks great on cookies. Navy, turquoise, and lime green are the shades I’ve used most, along with warm brown, electric purple, and salmon pink.
A few tips for those who want to try this project…
- If you need a very soft shade, use Wilton gel colors and a toothpick
- Sometimes the grocery store carries “sparkling” sugar. In my experience, it’s usually only available around major holidays, but it’s worth a looksie
- regular sugar does not work as well for this because the grains are too small, in my humble opinion
- when making custom colored sugar you CAN mix gel colors
- keep the color intense by using as little cornstarch as possible
- Use heavy duty bags because sugar granules can break through thinner ones
- Even though it’s a cool trick, never tell your husband about this or he will bring it up any time another bag of sanding sugar arrives at your door
- If you’re not sure how to apply sanding sugar to a cookie, click HERE
DIY sanding sugar is also great for people on a budget or with limited storage space. Try this. You’ll be hooked!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend!
I am linking up to several fun linky parties this week you should check them out. I find the darnedest things there!
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EDITED I am adding this as an afterthought because I wrote it in the comment section and I am not sure everyone will see it. If you’re worried about shine, they make a product called confectioners glaze that I THINK might make the sugar sparkle more, but mine sparkles enough that I didn’t want to invest in anything I wasn’t sure of. In my experience the sparklier the clear sugar, the more sparkly the final product. I’ve never played with confectioners glaze so I was a little hesitant to buy a bottle but if you try this and it works, let me know!
Thats just what i was after – thankyou. I might add some edible glitter right before I use it to add some sparkle in too.
What’s great about this is you can create ANY custom color and it will match your icings perfectly. Wondering if drying in a warm (turn oven to its lowest setting for 5 mins, then turn off) oven would speed up the drying process. Also wondering if there is any way to make it more sparkly to counteract the addition of the cornstarch. Hmmm…
Hey, I wonder if you could use a little luster dust or some other similar product in order to make opalescent or metallic looking sugars, too. Then again, luster dust is way too expensive for my meager budget 🙁
Hey, speaking of, airbrush colors work pretty well for this!
It really is pretty sparkly still. I depends on how sparkly the initial sugar is, really. It doesn’t really need to dry enough that it requires oven time. As you experiment you’ll see what I mean. Real sanding sugar lists confectioners glaze in the ingredients which you can find here http://www.countrykitchensa.com/shop/food-items/confectioners-glaze/46/593/778/617859/. I think that is the key, BUT it requires other things like thinner for cleanup etc, and I didn’t want to spend the money, AT LEAST until I use what I have now, LOL!
This is great for custom colors! thanks for the info.
I love doing this b/c you can make your own “custom” colors. I mix my color into my sugar in my food processor. It does make the sugar abit finer – but I’ve never had a problem with it. Also good when adding the starch b/c a little will go a looonnnggg way.
This is a fabulous idea, thanks for sharing ;-))
I live in the Caribbean and dont know where to find this type of sugar………can i use granulated sugar?
Make sure it’s larger granules and it should work
I just love you! Your creative and effective solutions make me smile, as do your remarks about your husband. 🙂 Thanks for the wonderful tip!!
Thank you soooooo much for this! I have a TON of coloring; making my own sanding sugar will save me money to spend on more cookie cutters. =)
I totally thought of you today, and your post about storing all those cookie cutters. I was at the store and they had all the special cutters on 1/2 off……could not resist picking up a few more! I’m still in one drawer with mine, but I sure like the idea of labels containers to sort them! Hmmmm! Thanks for all the info today, too…….I love those Caribbean colors!
Great post! Oh how I love sanding sugar!! Your secret is safe with us!! And I think my colllection rivals yours, so B can call me and verify that you aren’t (too) crazy!!
So great to know, I have so many colours, but this will really help me not buy the colours I don’t have.
oh Callye, you are full of AMAZING ideas! Love this. Since you are so amazing and I’m sure know where to get any type of sugar, let me know if you how to tint powdered sugar or can purchase it. I haven’t seen it, and was thinking I need to look again.
Simple but brilliant tip! You can make any shade or color you want with this tip.
Yay! Time to get my sugamamma on! Thanks for the tip.
Fantastic tutorial Callye! You always come up with the best stuff.
LOVE this post! I am making a king cake next week and needed a recipe for colored sugar, this is perfect! I am definitely keeping you in mind when I decide if I have the extra energy to color my own sugar for the king cake. Thanks for posting! If I decide to use, can I link this recipe to your blog?
XO. A Southern Bee Diary
Yay!! I have been looking for this tutorial for ages, never got around to do it! Thank you thank you thank you 🙂
This is why you are my hero!
I make my sanding sugar in a similar fashion. Once mixed, I spread on a cookie sheet. Heat my oven to 170 shut it off and put cookie sheet into the oven and close the food with the oven off but still is warm. I set toner for 15 minutes…and that is usually long enough to dry. I sift it to break up any clumps.
Close the door…not food..lol
Hi Callye-Love this post and now really want to make some sanding sugar with the kids. The color options are endless. :)Happy Weekend to you. xx
I posted something similar to this on my blog 2 years ago except I used regular sugar which adds very subtle shine or sparkle to the cookie. I also did not use the cornstarch which would have PROBABLY solve the sticking together in the jar that mine does. I will try it the next time I make a batch. Thanks for the tip.
I use Parade sugar, which is a larger grain than most regular sugar and very sparkly. I don’t use cornstarch and I don’t use a ziploc bag. I just put mine in a bowl and smoosh it around with a spoon until it’s all blended. Then, I just spread it in a paper plate and put a fan on it and it retains its sparkliness (is that a word?) In Houston, we also wrestle with humidity, so sometimes I have to shake it up in the container before using it.
I am going to have to look for Parade sugar!
I’ll send you a pic! 🙂
ALRIGHTY THEN. It looks like trying to take a pic showing the size of sugar crystals is not so easy (and I’m no photographer!), but if you’d like a picture of white sugar on a black plate, I can send one! LOL!
I love this! Thank you.
I love this…I tried to color some sugars once and was not happy with the results; I’m sure I did not make them dark enough but now I’m determined again.
Awesome idea and thanks for sharing!
Really cool idea! I gotta try it! I’m going to try to bake more this year!!
This is so fabulous, Callye. It has never crossed my mind to colour my own sanding sugar–that is why you’re a brilliant little cookie! The DIY posts are such aha moments for me, because I am sometimes wired to just run out and buy everything, which is definitely not necessary all of the time. Inspired–thanks, my friend!
I just made my own a few weeks ago! I used powdered food color instead, though, and that would eliminate the problem with clumping. It worked great! But then of course you have to buy another product rather than use what you have. Will be experimenting with this for sure!
I wondered about that one! I would LOVE to see the product. I thought about ordering some just to see, but I bought meringue powder this round so I GOT REALLY cheap, LOL!
wow! even $2.00 over my limit, but I certainly would have piekcd up this little beaut! You did a great job, it looks perfect! I love it and all the details of the table.gail
This is super cool! Does the sugar bleed at all when you use it on white icing or buttercream?
What a wonderful idea! This way one isn’t limited to the ready-made colours. Love it!!
I LOVE this idea! I didn’t know about adding cornstarch! I have that stuff in my cabinets and it NEVER gets used. I don’t even know why I have it. Hm. I personally don’t like the containers that the store bought sugars come in. Especially the multi-colored ones. It is SO hard to get the stuff out! I prefer to use a spoon to sprinkle. I think I’m gonna try this with the Valentine’s cookies I’m currently designing! Thanks for all you do to help make us better cookiers! 😉
oh how great, great, great, GREAT! I am going to try to do this to make gray – I need to make a bunch of brain tumor awareness ribbon cookies (why oh why didn’t they want cupcakes!….deep sigh) and I was worried about how blah gray will look – and I’m not sure I will be able to find gray super easy…..I am going to try it to make that gray ribbon sparkle!!! YES, YES I AM!
Hi…I didn’t know about the cornstarch either, so thank you so much for all this fantastic information. I came across your page accidentally, but it is bookmarked now! Looking forward to staying in touch! : )
Aw I love making this stuff! Luckily we get really great sugar here in Trinidad, 100% Trinidad made too :)… It’s very sparkly and perfect for this kinda concoction 😀
You’re so beyond cool Callye. I would never even think of making my own sanding sugar and I use a TON of sanding sugar. Lime green would be a smart one as it’s really hard to find and then is only available in a really small container (at least of what I’ve found) and it’s my 2nd favorite color! Also the warm brown is a good idea too since the regular brown is so very dark that it changes the look of the icing. Electric purple sure sounds fun too. Awesome job and great tutorial! You’re right, if hubby sees that I can make my own, he might monitor the deliveries of sugar, although since it’s mostly for him, he might just let that one slide 😉
I made lime green sugar last Halloween and it turned out GREAT using Americolor Electric Green.
I also re-colored some purchase purple sugar that had kinda faded. The re-colored was FAR better than the original.
OMG I Love you. I never thought of doing this, and I’m always buying up sanding sugar during the holidays to get those elusive random colours. Now I can make my own. Problem is I did just show my husband, but at least he wont complaining when 4 lbs of plain sugar turns up at my door, lol. This is a life saver just in time for valentine’s.
Thanks so much for this great trick! I can’t wait to give it a try!
seriously woman, do you ever sit still! Love this idea. I hate spending money on sanding sugar, especially if it’s this easy to make!
Love love love this tip. Thanks so much. I was on the search for brown sanding sugar and practically no one carries it. Now I can when I get back to that project. 🙂 I’ll have to go check out the americolor sugars like you mentioned too. btw your jars are adorable – do you recall where you found them?
I saved those from candy or sprinkles I got at Ross. They always have random jars of sprinkles =)
I have to confess my love for sanding sugar also. I try to use it in some way on every cookie I decorate. Thank you so much for this fabulous tutorial!!
I love this because you can never find the color you want.
This is fantastic! Love it. I’ve tried this before, but it only sorta worked the way I did it (um, wrong). I’m so going to try this! (um, right way).
Well now I know!! lol For me this is the way to go (tight on kitchen space). Thanks for the tips!
If hubby says he thinks your crazy…fear not. The list of other “crazies” is growing. I love this and thank you for sharing.
So so cool!! I’ve never even THOUGHT about doing this. Great to know.
Incredible idea! Would be spectacular for diy brides who want to match their colors! Do you mind if I share the idea and link back to you with the tutorial? thanks. ([email protected])
What a great idea. Thank you so much for sharing.
What a lovely lttlie chest! It would be beautiful in a lttlie girls room. But I could also see it as extra storage. Such as part of a baking station in a french kitchen. Hope you’ll share her in my Frugal Treasures Party! : )
Thank you for this helpful post. Love the Country Kitchen link, what a great resource. I recently found some pretty sparkling sugar at the local gourmet grocery, Fresh market. It is made by Inda Tree and I have found it a couple of times in this store. Really pretty and reasonably priced.
Lovely. I will be making these! Thank you. Where did you get your bottles?
I saved them from other sprinkles, washed them, and reused them.
Hi, great looking sugar …. but why use cornstarch? I just pour out the sugar on a baking sheet after I’m done mixing, and let it dry overnight. Works all the time and it keeps the sparkel 🙂 + I just use regular sugar. I cant get hold of any “fancy” sugar here in Denmark 🙂
Hi, I love all your ideas and tips. When you find out about the parade sugar will you post it for us? I am interested in this. Thanks
oh how I LOVE you…wow, who would have thought about this!! Perfect, I’ll definitely be doing this when i need that special color of sugar! THANK YOU!
Thanks for all your advice, am big fan of your work
Great idea. I color my own sugar using powdered food coloring which eliminates the cornstarch step.
Do you use the powdered coloring for royal icing? I’ve never tried it because I don’t have any on hand, but several people have recommended it…
It turns out so vibrant and beautiful! I like the idea of saving money and custom colors! Thanks for sharing, Callye; You’re a sweetie!
LOVE this!! Hope you can link it up at my turquoise lovin’ party going on right now! http://www.sweetlittlegals.com/2012/01/turquoise-lovin-20.html#comment-form
Hi, I wanted to thank you for the sugar tutorial. I would like to know how long the sugar stays fresh. Jill
Hi, I just read your post on how to make sanding sugar then the note at the bottom that talks about possibly adding confectioners glaze. If it’s what I think it is I have used it before and it is a LIQUID you can paint over fondant or gumpaste to make it shinny. I don’t think you would want to use that when making sanding sugar.
Thanks for the recipe.
This is so easy! I love that yiu can create exactly the color that you want. I love it.
Just made my first batch of sandind sugar and Im too excited about it! It turned out perfect! I save all of my old babyfood jars and store the different color sugars in there. Perfect!!
Thanks for sharing!
Oh My God! Are you kidding me? How genius are you?
My son’s birthday is coming up much quicker than I expected… 🙂
So I was a bit bummed that I wouldn’t have time to get additional decorating stuff shipped in time.
You are a lifesaver.
I’ve been following your blog for a year and a half and have you linked to my site.
Love your work. Absolutely adore both it and you.
Thanks for making me a part of your life. It’s amazing how it works even though you live in the desert in the US and I live in Stockholm, Sweden.
🙂 // Ann (the other genius)
I’ve never tried this before, but I was wondering, do you have to use GEL colors, or can you use just food coloring? I’d love to know. P.S. I’m 11, by the way. 😀
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I think I just found my new best friend! I am new to your blog but can’t wait to read more!! I am so doing this. It helps me combine my love of craftiness and baking! I have almost every color there is of gel if that tells u anything. My Hubby thinks I’m crazy b/c I just can’t help but buy it.
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I’ve tried making it myself, but discovered the same problem of it being clumpy. Never thought of using cornstarch- you genius! Did you try just airing it out on the cookie sheet w/o the cornstarch? Wondering if that would work in my dry desert climate to retain the sheen to the sugar…
Hi read this earlier and thought I would have a go – I had some of the powder colour and that worked great but I also made a batch using bronze lustre dust – they are gorgeous – it didn’t look too sparkly in the bag but coated some marshmallows with chocolate and the sugar and they just twinkle beautifully – thanks for this great idea !
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Thank you so much for sharing this trick! I never seem to have the right colors on hand, now I don’t have to worry about it anymore!
Hey would this work if I use a more liquid-y food coloring?
I knew I had read on one of the great cookier blogs on how to color your own sanding sugar. I’d done it in the past, but had the clumping issue. So I Googled “how to color my own sanding sugar” and “ding-ding-ding” — up popped your post as the first one. The addition of the cornstarch worked wonderfully. I actually used small glass jars to shake the color into the sanding sugar. Made a dark chocolate brown, a baby blue and a buttercup yellow for baby shower favors. Thanks again for always sharing your expertise.
I came across your post yesterday and just happened to have a box of Sugar In The Raw. didnt think it would work bc its gold colored, but it still worked like a charm. Thanks!
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This is the most GENIUS idea!! Thank you for posting this… now I can stop looking for burnt orange colored sugar for fall bridal shower cookies and just make my own! Now I need to figure out how to make burnt orange though… LOL!
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I needed to have a colored sugar effect for some brownie balls that I wanted to make for my husbands work as he is in the military and constantly working 12 hour shifts with all this co-workers. So I found your blog on Pinterest and was so excited that I didn’t have to purchase the sugar. Thank you for sharing as it worked out perfectly, but I do have something to share for your followers that don’t have time to wait for shipping. I used washed raw sugar (because it was larger in size and already in my pantry) even though it is light brown in color it worked just fine to regular food coloring and the wiltons icing colors. I got really pretty colors ( I tried a lime green and blue similar to yours pictured above). Thanks again and I can’t wait come up with a reason to make more!
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If I wanted to apply candy oil to flavor the sugar, would I apply it in the same fashion, or would it end up to wet? Any other way to dry it more effectively? I can’t add cornstarch, because it will clog the cotton candy maker.
Does it have to be color gel? or can you use regular food coloring?
Oh, you are amazing! Thank you, and thank you Pinterest!
use powdered food coloring and it wont be sticky. you can find it in most cake supply stores etc. or order it on line.
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I use a little vodka & food color gel to tint sugar different colors ,I find that I get a more even color on the sugar . I just mix about 1 tsp vodka & color gel in a zip top freezer storage bag & add the sugar ,seal bag & mix ( rub ) the sugar together in the bag.
P.S. Great website ,very useful info & tips.
Instead of adding cornflour, I spread the colored sugar on a foil covered baking sheet and baked it for a few min on low heat. Watch it carefully to prevent burning. Once it’s cooled you can break up any lumps with the back of a fork. The baking process adds more sparkle. Hope it helps 🙂
What temp., Jessica? I thought of baking too. Just a tad to eliminate the cornstarch. My thought process was along the lines of Cake Boss steaming his fondant. 🙂
I actually didn’t check temp. I put the tray into the cold oven & then switched it on so it baked as the oven warmed up.
This is one of my favorite of your posts! So colorful!
Gorgeous colors and wonderful idea! I personally love this because I really prefer to make as much as I can from scratch to have control over chemicals in my food and product I sell. I have a non-GMO cornstarch that I can use but I think Jessica had a great idea with warming just a bit to bring the shine back on the sugar crystals. Thanks so much for sharing this!
i suppose that instead of adding cornstarch..if you will put the colored sugar in oven at very low temp to dry it out..it wont loose any shine.seen a tuturial sumtime back.
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Thank You Sugarbelle – another helpful tutorial
fyi – I just successfully tried this with Extra Fine Sugar (Imperial brand). Mixed the tint with a little
vodka and Bright White before applying to the sugar – voila ! Now, off to get some cuter
Great idea! Yours is better than using just straight gel colors so that there’s little risk of the sugar getting sticky. You can also mix FDA-approved petal/luster dusts with vodka (or lemon extract if you’re concerned about the alcohol content) and mix it with the sugar. The alcohol will evaporate quicker than water.
Would caster sugar work? Or would it be too fine?
Thanks for the tips and tricks to coloring sugars, Ill have to try them someday 🙂 I do know that you can color white sprinkles,, jimmies, whatever you want to call them, in the exact same way, I guess I never thought to do it with sugar.
II can’t seem to find ‘Sparkling’ sugar here in the UK… what can I use instead?
May I ask how you create the salmon pink color? I’m in need of it for a cake pops order this week and can find anything pre-made as far as sprinkles, etc in that color. Thanks!!
Brilliant tutorial! Thanks! This is going to save me looots of money! xxx
Thank you so much for your generosity of spirit. I have dabbled in decorating cakes and cookies for years. I have learned so much from your site and appreciate your willingness to share your expertise. Thanks again.