A Note on Measurements


Having previously lived in two countries, England and Sweden, moving recently to my third, the Netherlands, I well appreciate that the commonly utilised units of measurement differ between countries and provide, therefore, considerable consternation when it comes to cooking in general, and baking in particular. I recently posted a recipe for a Swedish kladdkaka – a sticky chocolate cake – which asked for ‘dl’s of certain ingredients. I have of course been inundated with messages ever since, some frantic and desperate, some mailed and covered in butter or cocoa powder, thankfully none threatening, all asking me – just what is a dl?

Well, dl stands for decilitre. One decilitre, as the name duly indicates, is equivalent to one tenth of a litre, or one hundred millilitres, ml. So we can already construct a sort of chart:

1 litre = 10 dl = 1000 ml

A litre is a measurement of volume; therefore the units litre, dl and ml ought – so you might think – to indicate quantities of liquids. However, in my kladdkaka recipe, I used dl as a measurement of solids, calling for 3 dl sugar, and 1.5 dl plain flour. In Sweden, the decilitre is the standard by which all ingredients are measured. All recipes use decilitres, and the predominant measuring implement is a stack of spoons or cups, ranging from a teaspoon, through a tablespoon, to a half decilitre and then a full decilitre. Packets of flour and sugar in Sweden indicate on them how much a decilitre of the contained substance translates to in grams.

When I use the measurement ‘dl’ in my recipes, take this for granted:

1 dl flour = 60g flour

1 dl sugar = 80g sugar

Finally, for additional clarification in American:

1 cup = 2.37 dl


1 dl = 0.423 of a cup

So therefore:

1 cup flour = 142.2g flour

1 cup sugar = 189.6g sugar

You are to refer to this note whenever you seek to make one of my recipes yet strike upon confusion over the quantities and measurements provided; or else when you simply endeavour to engage in the humane, intellectual act of reading.

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  • …and things get so much more complicated when you go up to the mountains, where you discover water boils at a temperature below 100 C, and cooking times are all different )

    • I don’t think you ought to put people off using my kladdkaka recipe at higher altitudes. The recipe calls for no water to be boiled; and all one requires to endure the longer baking time is patience. Besides which, the cake mixture is edible uncooked. Take the ingredients, I say, and be not afraid, and scale those mountain tops.

  • I think an easier way for North Americans to understand is this:
    1 cup = 2.5 decilitres
    1 decilitre = 100 mL (In Canada, a cup measure will have metric millilitre measurements opposite the imperial fluid ounces)

    People in North America do not typically use weight measurements when cooking!

    • I thank you, Lorraine – and yet I feel that the information you provide is already contained within my post. If you want to make 1 cup = 2.5 dl rather than 2.37 dl, then I won’t complain, and I can see why this may appear more practical; but of course all of my rights are reserved and etc., and I cannot be made to bear the ramifications of an imbalance in the consistency of your cakes. Thanks again, and best of luck with all of your baking endeavours.

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