The Difference Between Liquid & Dry Measuring Cups

stephanieauthement In the Kitchen

I have a friend, and she cannot bake. Not a cookie, not a cake, not a brownie. Actually, I have a few friends that cannot bake. The one person that I think of in particular that complains that her cakes NEVER rise is who I want to talk about. She has literally NEVER had a cake rise. I’ve watched it with my own eyes  because I thought that it just wasn’t possible.

The first time I watched her make a cake, I was not in dietetics yet so I had no IDEA what the difference between a liquid measuring cup and a dry measuring cup was. I thought you could use that glass measuring cup for everything. (Rookie mistake!) And she did the opposite. She used (still uses) a dry measuring cup for the oil and water. Obviously you don’t have to measure an egg in a measuring cup, but anything that needs to be measured is going in the dry ingredient cup.

Needless to say, after she added the oil and water the cake stayed flat. It was dense and it was definitely not the best cake ever. She still continues to make her cakes this way. I thought maybe my kids are jumping and making it fall. So I told the kids they had to stop jumping around because they were going to make it fall, but low and behold that cake stayed flat. I mean not a centimeter of cake rose.

So let me explain why this doesn’t work. It is not the right measurement. A liquid measuring cup like the one below measures 1 cup or 8 FLUID ounces of liquid. A dry measuring cup is specific to dry ingredients such as flour and sugar – a cup of flour is not 8 ounces. In fact a cup of sugar weighs 7 ounces. If it is confectioners sugar ( powder sugar) it is 4.5 ounces. That is a HUGE difference when it comes to baking terms. Too much sugar can create a crisp, dry, breakable cake. That is not appetizing.

To show you the big picture here I did an experiment to show how big of a difference it makes. Here is my example for you.


This is 1/4 cup of water. I measured it first in this measuring cup. This looks right, yes? That is because this is how you are supposed to measure liquids.


Okay. Here is 1/4 cup of water measured in a DRY measuring cup. I did not put the water from the liquid measuring cup into this. This is the closest to the rim I could get without it spilling all over the place.


And here ladies and gentlemen is where you can actually SEE the difference between the two. I took the dry measuring cup and filled it up four times and poured them into this liquid measuring cup as I went. So here you are only getting about 2/3 cup liquid instead of 1 cup. Like I said, this can make a huge difference. The liquid creates the steam with the baking powder and makes a cake rise. If you don’t have enough liquid from oil and water your baking will not rise and will be too dense and dry.


This is what sugar looks like in a dry measuring cup. Just a little tip for you – when you measure out dry ingredients have a butter knife close by. Use the flat side and swipe across the top to ensure that you have a flat surface with the ingredient. Also – when you see 1/2 cup of flour in a recipe that doesn’t mean to take your measuring cup and scoop into the bag or container. You will wind up with twice the amount of flour needed and once again have a horrible baked item. You need to take a spoon and lightly spread the flour in the cup. Then take the knife and make a flat surface.


There is no way to create a flat line with a liquid measuring cup. I tried shaking the cup, using my finger to make a flat surface, and using the bottom of a glass. Shaking was the best to distribute, but it didn’t make it exactly even, My finger was hysterical because it created little craters in the sugar. The bottom of glass created a ring of flat, but a ridge where the glass stopped. Using this type of measuring cup for this creates measurements that aren’t accurate and if you put too much of an ingredient, your baked good will not be very edible.

To finish this up, do not use the liquid or dry ingredient measuring cups for everything. Have both in your kitchen and use them the right way. This will ensure that your baked goods will always turn out delicious and you will never hate baking again and say “nothing ever turns out good.”