What do the X’s mean on confectioner’s sugar labels? The X’s on the labels of confectioner’s sugar or powdered sugar indicate the degree of grinding that the sugar has endured. The higher the X rating—the more finely powdered, or ground, the sugar. Finer sugar dissolves more readily in liquid without requiring the heat needed to break down table sugar grains. Powdered sugar ranges in fineness from a 3X to a 14X—but, most of use a 10X when we grab a bag off our local grocer’s shelf.
Is there that much difference between 3X and 10X Confectioner’s Sugar? There is a difference in the fineness of the sugar granules. 10X sugar is of a more refined, finer texture than a 3X or a 4X. Does it matter much in most home kitchens? Not really. As mentioned, the finer the sugar, the more readily it dissolves in liquid. Realistically, 3X sugar yields great results for the average home baker or home candy maker. 10X confectioner’s sugar is the one most commonly found on grocery store shelves in the United States—and is often the one in the unlabeled bags of generic powdered sugar as well. While a 14X sugar would be ideal for whipped cream—10X is perfectly suitable and far easier to find in most grocery stores.
What if the recipe does not specify the fineness desired? Most agree that confectioner’s sugars of different textures may be interchanged with little impact. Whether a recipe specifies an X label or not—the odds are the powdered or confectioner’s sugar on hand will do the trick. No need to stress about the “correct” variety unless you are working on some spectacular sugar recipe that absolutely requires a 14X Sugar—but, you may have a tough time finding that in your local Kroger or Walmart baking aisle! The carrot cake cupcakes shown in the picture above were made with 4X sugar--for some reason I picked that up at some point in the store (without noting the difference on the label) and it worked great in our Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Pecans!
Now you know what those X’s signify on the powdered sugar bags—and if you see a 3X sugar listed in an old recipe—you’ll know exactly what it means!