Demerara sugar is a brown sugar made by refining the liquid extracts of sugar cane. It’s production differs from that of standard brown sugar, though the two are sometimes confused.
While commercially sold brown sugar is made by adding molasses to refined table sugar, demerara sugar is never as fully refined as its brown sugar counterpart.
In order to make demerara sugar the juices extracted from sugar cane are heated to evaporate the water content, which leaves behind the crystalized brown sugar. As a result, demerara has a different flavour than that of brown sugar, and reacts differently when used as a bakery component.
Demerara gets its name from the Demerara colony in Guyana, where it was originally manufactured. Today most demerara sugar is made in Mauritius, though the name has stuck.
Why is Demerara Sugar Different?
Unlike traditional brown sugar, demerara isn’t a very moist sugar product; instead it offers larger crystals and a drier texture. However, it does have a rich, distinctive flavour that many people enjoy.
In fact, demerara is often marketed as a “natural” brown sugar and is commonly used to sweeten teas and coffee.
For those food manufacturers interested in marketing a more natural alternative to brown sugar, demerara can be substituted for traditional brown sugar in bakery goods, although the moisture content of the product will be reduced.
So, moisture and binding products may need to be increased if you’re considering demerara as a replacement for other another type of sugar.
Demerara is also popular as a form of decorating sugar, since its distinctive colouring and flavourful crunch lend themselves to the topping of scones and cookies.
Because of its exotic origins and its extraction from sugar cane (instead of sugar beets) demerara is a premium product priced accordingly.
However, its popularity in coffee houses and bakeries continues to grow despite its higher costs, situating demerara as a niche product with a very loyal consumer base.