Switching from cups to grams is a total game changer.
I learned to bake using measuring cups. We used Pyrex ones for liquids, and stackable plastic ones for dry ingredients. It always bothered me when a recipe would call for 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of flour. I’d always be thinking - What the hell is that about? Who has time for this madness? I thought it was the fault of bad recipe writers. I learned later this annoying instruction is what happens when you take an amount that was intended to be weighed, and translate that into dry cup measures.
My first baking job was at a cafe where I was making decent sized batches of muffins, cakes, croissants, lemon squares etc. We made everything from scratch which was awesome, but we used measuring cups for ALL OF IT! I’m talking batches of muffin mix that used 16 cups of flour. I would always get mad at my coworkers for talking to me when I was on like, cup #9, because I was so focused and didn’t want to lose count.
Now that I’m older and wiser, I realize how insane that was. If I could turn back time I would of course tell the cafe owner that he is out to lunch and to get a scale.
European and British bakers, as well as bread bakers have been weighing their ingredients forever. The problem occurs when American and Canadian bakers bring recipes over from Europe and translate them to our cumbersome measuring methods that we run into this 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp madness.
The cup measure needs to go. It’s time has come. Here are 5 reasons to ditch the cup and embrace weighing your ingredients on a scale.
When you start weighing your ingredients instead of measuring them, you start seeing that a single gram is actually a fair bit of volume. How many times have you gotten to that step in the recipe that calls for “3/4C packed light brown sugar?” How do you know how hard to pack it? 1 cup can turn into as little as 1/2 cup if you give it enough muscle. Is that what they mean? I’ve seen people “aerate” flour by scooping and dropping it a few times with the measuring cup before actually measuring it. Is it aerated flour that the recipe wants? There are too many variables with this system. Weighing your ingredients removes all variables.
It’s Faster, and There are Less Dishes to Wash
I can get into washing dishes from time to time, especially if I’m listening to a good podcast, but for the most part, I don’t love washing dishes. Consider a cake that uses 3/4 cups of honey, 1/2 cup melted butter, and 1/3 cup molasses. Suddenly you have three dirty measuring cups - two of which you were supposed to ‘oil first’ because that’s a trick that cup measure people tell you to do. You also have a lot of sticky stuff on your counters, your spatulas, and how do you know how much cold butter to melt in the first place? Weighing your sticky and awkward ingredients solves all of these problems. - Read to the end for a sticky ingredient weighing strategy!
Sifting is no big deal anymore
I’m a fairly lazy baker. I rush things, I’m impatient, and I’m guilty of cutting the odd corner to save time. Sifting used to be one of those corners that I occasionally (usually) cut when baking. I always knew sifting had it’s merits - It gets rid of lumps, aerates the flour, catches any bugs or other weird foreign objects that might have gotten into the flour bucket. Still, I’m guilty of skipping this step many times.
Since I started weighing my ingredients, I’ve changed my tune about sifting. Since I’m saving so much time avoiding fussing with cups, it feels like the easiest thing ever to bust out my sieve and stick it on the bowl I’m measuring into.
My setup: Scale, Bowl, Sieve. That’s it. Everything just gets thrown in there.
Bonus tip - I NEVER wash my sieve in water. I just tap it out and put it back in the cupboard. If cocoa powder is involved, I’ll sift that first, before the flour etc, so it kinda gets “cleaned” out by the flour. I sift everything now, and I sleep better at night because of it.
Your Results will be better and more consistent.
I really got into weighing my ingredients in 2013 when I went to work at a farm shop in rural Scotland. There we made big batches of classic loaves, cakes & pies every day. The consistency of these baked goods were so spot on, that we would compete for who got the most volume on their carrot cake for example, and the difference from batch to batch was imperceptible. We weighed everything at that shop.
Better Results + Less Dishes = More Fun.
Truth be told, I didn’t used to like baking at all. It wasn’t until the the farm shop experience that I turned the corner and started loving it. I had been a measuring cup hater all along, I just didn’t know it. I used to think scales were a pain, an investment, an extra step. Now I see how baking with a scale is like adding one step to alleviate 10 other more annoying steps.
Baking can be so fun. If it doesn’t bring joy to both the bakers and the eaters, what’s the point in doing it? When you bake something that turns out well, it makes you feel good. Having less dishes to wash at the end is a luxurious bonus that brings you a few steps closer to eating cake with your friends.
A digital scale costs $20. The batteries will need to be replaced every year or two but other than that, a scale is a tiny investment that will revolutionize the way you bake.
Bonus: The better way to bake a cake
Grab the pot or dish you were planning on melting your butter in. Put the whole pot on the scale.
Tare the scale (zero it out).
Now that you’re at zero grams, put the butter in until you have the amount you need.
Now pour in as much molasses as you need
Finish with the honey - literally just pour the honey straight from the jar into the pot.
Now all the sticky stuff is where you need it to be! That is, in the pot you’re going to melt it in! Of course, now that you’ve got your scale out, you might as well use it to sift and weigh all your dry stuff too.
For more conversions: King Arthur Flour has put together a comprehensive guide. Find it here.
Got your own opinions about measuring styles? Let’s talk about it! Comment here or join me on Instagram @howtomakedinner. Thanks for reading!