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What is cake flour?

Box of Cake Flour
All purpose flour is the standard flour for home baking, but a glance down a well equipped grocery store baking aisle is enough to tell you that there are many other types of flour available for baking. Cake flour is one of them and, if you like to bake, it should be a staple in your kitchen. Cake flour is a low protein flour that is made from soft winter wheat. It has a protein content of about 8% and is usually bleached, which gives it a very fine texture and a very light color. Because it has such a fine texture, cake flour should be sifted before incorporating it into a recipe to prevent clumping.

As the name suggests, cake flour is great for making cakes and other baked goods because it gives you a very tender result. This is because it has such a low protein content compared to other flours (all purpose is usually around 10%) and less gluten forms when you mix it into a batter, producing a cake with a fine, soft, even crumb. Although all purpose flour can yileld a great cake, there is generally a noticeable difference in the texture between a cake made with all purpose flour and one made with cake flour. You can make any kind of cake with cake flour, but it is commonly flour in white cakes and in angel food cakes, both of which are known for having a light texture.

There are many recipes that specifically call flour cake flour, but you can substitute it into a recipe that calls for all purpose flour, too. Use 1 cup of cake flour plus 2 tablespoons for each cup of all purpose flour called for. By the same token, you can substitute all purpose flour for cake flour in a pinch by using 1 cup of all purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons for each cup of cake flour called for in a recipe. Still, it is best just to use cake flour instead of approximating it if you want to get the best results from your recipes.

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25 Comments
  • kate
    November 4, 2010

    I’ve been wondering about this for a while – what a great post! Thanks 🙂

  • the blissful baker
    November 4, 2010

    i never seem to have cake flour when i need it!

  • Jessie Nuez
    November 5, 2010

    Thank you for the info – I found a cake that asks for cake flour but can’t seem to find it in any of the 4 supermarkets in my area. I am glad to know that I can substitute for now.

  • maxine
    December 27, 2010

    What is the difference between cake flour and self raising flour. Can I use SR instead of cake flour. Being English we make all our cakes with SR flour, never heard of cake flour before, much less seen it in the shops.

    Thanks

  • Nicole
    January 22, 2011

    Maxine – Self rising flour has a leavening agent already added to it: http://bakingbites.com/2007/08/what-is-self-rising-flour/

  • Gaby
    December 21, 2011

    What do you think? Should I recommend my -healthy-readers to try whole wheat flour in their other cookies generally in the place of cake flour? Would be that a good idea?

    Thank You!

    Gaby

  • Nicole
    December 22, 2011

    Gaby – No, I would not recommend it. If you want to experiment with whole grain flours in light textured recipes, such as those that typically call for cake flour, you would be better to work with whole wheat pastry flour – and I would start by only substituting a portion of the cake flour first.

  • Elizabeth George
    January 19, 2012

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful definition and instructions just when I needed them the most! I am making my first Tres Leches cake today and it calls for cake flour. Of course I am in the middle of it, up to my elbows and I have none, nor did I really understand what it was. So now I am going to employ your little trick of subtracting 2 tbls. of all purpose flour and hopefully it will all work out perfectly. Thanks for the explanation – I intend to buy some tomorrow! Too late for Friday night company but plenty of time for Sunday’s cake!

  • Toni C
    April 27, 2012

    I also am making a “Tres Leches” cake today and didn’t know what “cake flour” was. I hope our local supermarket has it!

  • Clare
    May 11, 2012

    I’ve got some self-raising cake flour from the UK called Mcdougalls Self Raising Supreme Sponge Flour which has the correct 8g low protein amount. I’ve got a US recipe which asks for 2 1/2 cups cake flour and 1 Tablespoon baking powder. What should I do, should I leave out the baking powder? The recipe is http://www.recipegirl.com/2011/05/23/red-white-blue-cake-introducing-recipeboy-com/ so you can advise me. Thank you.

  • Peter
    May 14, 2012

    Clare – I’ll leave out the baking powder. I just baked yesterday using Mcdougalls Self Raising Supreme Sponge Flour for the first time. I baked an almond flavoured sponge, and the cake was very light and fluffy inside. I could notice the superior difference in texture compared to other self raising flours that contains 11g of protein or more.

    The only observation is that I may need to lower the heat by about a 4 degrees C as the cake came out darker than when I use flour with a higher protein content. I can’t explain why that happened.

  • Nazir Khaki
    May 21, 2012

    Hello – I’ve read in other places that you can also use AP flour plus 2 TBSP cornstarch to substitute for cake flour – would that work?

  • Sarah
    June 20, 2012

    Clare – it will also depend how you make your cake. In England, we would use SR flour without baking powder if you are making a cake using this method:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/mary_berrys_perfect_34317
    This method incorporates lots of air into the cake, which together with the SR flour allows it to rise properly. If you are using an all-in-one method though, I would add a teaspoon of baking powder.
    Having said this, British cakes are a lot lighter and more airy than American ones, which are richer and denser, so perhaps SR flour alone would be ok depending on what sort of texture you’re aiming for.

  • Lisa
    August 21, 2012

    Hi, thank you for the post! I have a recipe that calls for self rising flour and cake flour. Is this normal?http://www.yumsugar.com/Vanilla-Cupcake-Recipe-15905935

  • GLENDA
    January 12, 2013

    Would cake flour make a better apple fritter batter than self rising flour?

  • Paula
    April 17, 2013

    I made cake flour the other day by removing 2 tbs of flour per cup and replacing it with cornstarch

  • alfie
    May 2, 2013

    Hi, has cake flour got baking powder in it, if not do i add some, i am going to bake whats called water sponge but it does not say anything about putting any baking powder to the flour only says to use cake flour, this is driving me round the bend, any input on this please ???

  • Nicole
    May 2, 2013

    Alfie- No, cake flour does not have baking powder or baking soda in it. It if is a sponge cake, it is likely that the leavening is supposed to come from beaten egg whites (or whole eggs) and that is why no chemical leavening is called for in the recipe

  • alfie
    May 3, 2013

    Nicole, thanks for taking the time to reply, this has made it all clear for me, going to throw myself at baking the sponge today

    kind regards

  • Bethany
    August 1, 2013

    I asked my mom why my cakes were so dense and she told me I should be using cake flour yet not once in my life had she ever mentioned cake flour to me and we bake cakes ALL THE TIME. So here I am learning what she neglected to mention all these years. Thank you for posting this.

  • Phyllis
    September 28, 2013

    Can I use gluten free flour instead of cake four?

  • Karen
    January 31, 2014

    The thread that will never die :-).

    In the world of flour, AP, Cake, Bread, 00, etc., where does Wondra, or Wondra-like flour, fit in?
    Thanks for the floury advice and info!

    -Karen

  • Theresa
    September 6, 2014

    Just so I get this right if I cant find cake flour I can use one cup all purpose minus 2 tsp for cup it calls for of cake flour.

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