I was making a scratch cake, and my sugar (to my chagrin) was inferior. When I beat it into the batter, it turned into many tiny lumps. Has anyone ever figured out how to solve this problem? I beat it for a long time on high speed, but there were still lumps.

If there's no way to fix this type of problem, could I get some hints on how to prevent it, e.g. how to smash all the sugar lumps before I put it in the batter?

Edit: For clarification, this batter is very thin, and the recipe requires beating it on the highest speed for three minutes straight. So that's not a big issue with this.

Also, I did mix the dry ingredients (including sugar) together before anything else. I used the mixer to try and break up the lumps (when the mixer only had the dry ingredients in it), and when it had stirred for 5 minutes or so, I thought it would be better to proceed with the recipe and add the wet ingredients, hoping that they would dissolve the sugar. They didn't. After beating it for the required three minutes, I just put it in the oven. I didn't actually beat the batter any longer than the recipe said to; the only thing I did that the recipe didn't tell me to was to stir the dry ingredients for 5 minutes.

The cake seems okay. Maybe when the lumps are small enough, the heat of the oven takes care of them?

  • 1
    Yeah, your cake will be fine. The sugar will dissolve with the cooking heat. I would say pass the sugar by itself through a sieve.
    – Adam S
    Jun 26, 2011 at 12:04

5 Answers 5


Don't most cake recipes require mixing dry ingredients first? Well, what's been done has been done.

The standard professional chef way of getting lumps out of anything is to pass it through a fine strainer. In your case a standard metal pasta strainer should work. Put the strainer over a bowl, pour the batter in and use the back of a large spoon or ladle to gentle press the batter through. The lumps of sugar will be left over and you can just crush them then.

Whipping the batter might work the gluten proteins in the flour which will make for a tough chewy texture. Some cakes actually take this into account and others it is bad, so be careful.


As you noticed, depending on the size of the lumps, it may not be a problem. Consider how lumpy you can get away with American pancake batter and have them come out fine).

As most cakes don't react well to a significant amount of beating (which could develop gluten and cause tunneling in the cake), if the lumps are huge (more than ~5mm / ~1/4" across), I'd personally try to break them up:

  • Force the batter through a coarse sieve, a ricer, or a colander with appropriately sized holes
  • If any lumps remain (that weren't pushed through), use the back of a spoon to force them through the strainer.
  • If you have a significant number of lumps, you can also move them to another bowl, and squish it all into a paste. Then mix that in with some of the batter until it's loosened up, then mix that back into the rest of the batter.

The only dry ingredient that's a real problem if doesn't disperse well is the leavening -- not only will you then get a poor rise, but the pocket of baking soda or baking powder tastes disgusting if you find it.


In the days before mixers, it was standard to cream the sugar and the fat together as a first step, then add the beaten eggs and milk, and the flour, a little at a time. Doing it that way, the sugar was always invisible by the time the flour went in.

Nothing to stop you adding the ingredients stepwise ...


I agree. Always mix the butter sugars together first in order to avoid lumps. Also, if that didn't work, does your mixer have a whisk attachment? Mine does and that works well after all the ingredients have been added together to get out any final lumps.


Well don't use granulated sugar it doesn't dessolve quickly instead use caster sugar cause it's super fine sugar and that means it dessolve quickly on your batter mixture.

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