Baking is not like cooking. It requires precision and accuracy to achieve consistent results. Weighing ingredients on a digital food scale helps you do that. This is why recipes on this site are generally based (and tested) using weight (gram) measurements.
American home bakers measure ingredients by volume or cups while most of the rest of the world measure by weight or grams. Given this, whenever possible, recipes include approximate volumes of ingredients in American cups (and American sticks of butter*) in parentheses, next to the gram amounts. There is no commonly accepted cup-to-gram (i.e. volume-to-weight ) conversions for most ingredients. I referred to several websites – likeKing ArthurandJoy of Baking–but I ended up developing my own list of key baking ingredients with their corresponding weight per gram per cup. See the table below.
How to use a digital food scale
If you need tips on how to use a digital food scale, there are a number of resources available online includingthis simple WikiHow post. If you don't have a scale, below are some tips for measuring by cup.
Measuring ingredients by cup (or by its volume) is not so straightforward. For example, depending on whether you compactly ‘dip’ or lightly ‘spoon’ flour into your measuring cup, a cup of flour can weigh anywhere from 110 grams to 170 grams. A big difference! More finely ground nuts will pack more tightly into a measuring cup than ones that are coarsely ground, resulting in vastly different weights of each cup of nuts. These types of variations can severely affect your baked goods.
Weighing your ingredients on a digital scale eliminates this variation – 100 grams of almonds always weighs 100 grams! If you use a scale, it doesn’t matter how tightly an ingredient is packed into a measuring cup or the size of the grind. Scales are also easy to buy and use, and affordable. I highly recommend getting one if you don’t already have a scale.
Tips for measuring by cup
Dry: Use a measuring cup that is specifically meant to measure dry ingredients (usually it is made of metal). Spoon the dry ingredients gently into the cup and sweep off any excess from the top.
Liquid: Use a measuring cup that is specifically meant to measure liquid ingredients (usually it is made of glass or acrylic). Fill the cup to the measurement line desired, making sure to bend down to read the cup at eye level on an even surface.
However, there are times when measuring by volume works better. Smaller qualities of ingredients – like salt, cinnamon or other spices – are best measured using a teaspoon, tablespoon or a ‘pinch’. Standard home scales are not precise enough to weigh such small amounts. Most home scales have a ± 2 grams accuracy and 1-gram readout resolution which means that 5 grams of cloves can actually weigh anywhere from 2.51 to 7.49 grams depending on the accuracy of the scale. And, with something like cloves, you don’t want to add too much. Some ingredients – like a pinch of salt which weighs about .5 grams – is impossible to measure on a home scale. Using a teaspoon or a ‘pinch’ is actually much more precise.
Finally, ingredients that are typically used in single units are indicated in the recipes by the unit and not the gram weight – for example, 3 egg whites, 5 pears, zest of 1 lemon, etc. Professional bakers use gram measurements for everything but home bakers would have difficulty measuring out only 125 grams of eggs and storing the leftovers for another use or using 3¼ pears to reach the precise measurement of 500 grams. For these ingredients, listing the unit makes baking easier and less wasteful for home bakers.
The chart below listing key ingredients and the approximate weight in grams of one cup of the ingredient.
* For some ingredients, I rounded up or down to avoid making the measurement too cumbersome
* In the USA, butter is sold in sticks, usually in packs of 2 or 4. Each stick weighs about 113 grams (4 ounces). The package of each stick has 8 lines on the side, representing tablespoons. This makes portioning butter easy. Similarly, butter in Europe is sold in blocks of 250 grams with the packaging showing demarcations of 25 grams.