Sanding sugar, that sparkly, crunchy topping to sugar cookies and fancy baked goods is nothing but coarsely ground sugar. A little more substantial than regular granulated sugar, sanding sugar holds up better through baking. It's easy enough to purchase already colored sugar when you're only working with one color, but when you're interested in a variety of colors the cost of buying each one adds up.
Making your own is simple. The first step is to find the coarse ground granulated sugar with the texture you want. You'll find sanding sugar along with sparkling sugar, which is super coarse ground, and edible glitter, which has more of a flaky consistency. Choose the variety you like, purchase a pound of the white stuff, and start coloring. See links below for online sugar and food coloring resources.
Put a half cup of sugar in a plastic storage bag. Add a drop of gel or a pinch of powdered food coloring and shake until well combined. Experts swear liquid food coloring works as well as long as you use only a drop at a time and combine the mixture before the liquid dissolves any of the sugar. Once your sugar is the color you like, use or store it indefinitely.
(Image: Stephanie Barlow)