In This Article
Thanks to an experimental trail of unsuccessful scones, uneaten cakes, and sludgy brownies I’ve left in my wake, I make it a habit to stick to recipes for baked goods through-and-through, carefully reading the recipe to the end, shopping for any ingredients I need, and then re-reading the recipe at least once more before diving in. But when ingredients like cake flour or even dark brown sugar are called for, I find myself rolling my eyes and plucking all-purpose flour and whatever brown sugar I have from the pantry—these will work just fine, right?
Well, the answer to that question is, largely, yes. However, for the finest, lightest textured, and most tender cakes, cake flour really does make a difference. Why, you ask? The answer, plus how to make a perfectly passable substitute and what, exactly, to use it for, below.
What is Cake Flour?
Cake flour is a very finely milled, low protein flour, typically somewhere between 5 - 9% gluten protein. For context, an all-purpose flour has between 10 - 12% protein and bread flour contains about 12 - 14% protein. The low protein levels in cake flour means that, in comparison to other flours, there isn’t much gluten that’s able to be produced leading the texture of the final product—typically, and unsurprisingly, cakes—is lighter, softer, and much more tender.
Higher gluten flours are what help give bread that chewy, more resilient crumb and lofty rise.
What You’ll Need to Make Homemade Cake Flour
If you’re making a lot of cakes or cupcakes at home, it’s probably worth keeping cake flour on hand, so you can ensure a consistent end result that you’re happy with. However, in a pinch, it’s super easy to make a substitute cake flour! Here’s what you’ll need to get started, and how to do it:
- 1 cup measure
- 1 butter knife
- 1 tablespoon measure
- 1 fine sieve
- 1 large bowl
- all-purpose flour, as needed
- cornstarch, as needed
How to Make Cake Flour at Home
- Measure one cup of all-purpose flour and level it off with the back of a butter knife.
- Use the tablespoon measure to remove two tablespoons of flour from the cup measure.
- Measure out two tablespoons of cornstarch, leveling it off with the back of a butter knife.
- Add the flour and cornstarch to the fine sieve set over a large bowl. Sift the mixture and it’s ready to use in lieu of cake flour. Repeat as needed depending on how much cake flour you need.
How to Use Cake Flour
It might go without saying that when a recipe calls for cake flour, it’s probably a good idea to use it. But if you’ve never come across a recipe calling for cake flour, or are an avid baker who wants to give a lighter touch to any future cakes, it’s good to know that not all cakes are a good fit for cake flour.
Use cake flour in vanilla or white cakes, upside down cakes, red velvet cakes, scones, muffins, biscuits, pancakes, waffles, and loaf cakes.
Avoid using cake flour with dense cakes like carrot cake or banana bread, in cookies, brownies, breads, pie crusts, pizza doughs, or in any chocolate cakes with cocoa powder.