Why use Cake Flour?
If you’ve ever wondered about cake flour, all your questions are answered here! Learn all about why this ingredient is often used in recipes, what it is, where to get it, and how it’s used.
I’ve been using cake flour in my cake and cupcake recipes since way before I ever even started this website. If you’ve been tuning in to my Live recipe demos (11am EDT on Facebook and Instagram!), then you’ve probably heard me explain why.
It’s one of the number one questions I get asked by readers. So I thought it was about time I break it all down and explain it in a post.
This is going to be the first in a series of non-recipe posts! I’m tentatively titling the series “Bake like a Boss: tips & tricks that will take your baking to the next level.” What do you think?
So, today’s topic is cake flour. I have a lot of cake and cupcake recipes on this site, and most of them call for cake flour.
WHAT IS CAKE FLOUR?
Cake flour is a flour that is very finely milled from soft winter wheat. It has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour, and it is finer, lighter, and softer. It’s also bleached, so the color is paler and the grain is less dense.
Because of the lower protein content, cake flour produces less gluten. You know when you’re making bread and it gets that chewy, elastic texture to it? So yummy right?
Well, it’s good when you’re talking about soft pretzels, but it’s really not so good when you’re talking about cakes.
When it comes to cakes, we want them to be light, soft, and tender, with a fine, close crumb. And that is exactly what you will get if you use cake flour!
The first time I baked a cake with cake flour, I was astonished. It sounds silly, but it was kinda life-changing for me. I could not get over the difference it made in that cake.
Ever since then, I swear by it! I mean, if you’re going to go to the trouble of baking a cake from scratch, wouldn’t you want it to be the best possible cake? Ever since that first cake, all those (cough! cough!) years ago, I’ve always made sure to keep cake flour in my pantry.
WHERE DO YOU GET CAKE FLOUR?
Cake flour is pretty easy to find here in the US. I’ve never been to a supermarket that doesn’t carry it. It’s always found in the baking aisle, right in the same general area as all-purpose flour.
There are all sorts of flours: bleached all-purpose, unbleached all-purpose, bread flour, pastry flour, whole wheat flour… the list goes on and on. Cake flour is just another one of those, unique in its purpose, and it can be found right alongside all the others.
It can also be ordered online. Click here to see several different options.
Some of my favorite brands are Softasilk, Swan’s Down, King Arthur Flour, and Bob’s Red Mill. They are all great products and will yield excellent results.
If you do not live in the US, you might have a little more difficulty. As far as I know, there is nothing quite the same available in Europe. Cake flour is NOT “self-raising flour,” and it is NOT “sponge flour.” The closest thing would be “plain flour,” sifted with a little cornstarch (see “Cake Flour Substitute” below).
CAN I JUST USE ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR INSTEAD OF CAKE FLOUR?
In a pinch, yes. But if you really want to bake like a boss, I’d highly recommend keeping a box of cake flour in your pantry.
If you use all-purpose flour, you will notice that your cakes and cupcakes will have more of an open crumb. In other words, there will be bigger pockets of air within the cake.
They will also be a little more dense and chewy. I prefer the light, soft texture of cakes that have been baked with cake flour.
CAKE FLOUR SUBSTITUTE
If you’re still not convinced, or if you live in a part of the world where cake flour is not available, you can create a reasonable facsimile by replacing 2 tablespoons (for every cup) of all-purpose flour with cornstarch.
Cornstarch has very little protein and it will help to lighten the all-purpose flour. Depending upon where you are in the world, it may go by the name “corn flour.” It is white and powdery. It is NOT corn meal, which is usually yellow and gritty.
Sift the flour and cornstarch together, then measure, either by weight or by lightly spooning into a measuring cup and then leveling off. NEVER pack flour into a measuring cup!
With that said, just bear in mind that this substitution is still not exactly the same thing as cake flour, and so the results will be better but not identical.
Most of the recipes here on Baking a Moment are measured by cups and teaspoons, because that’s the way the majority of my readers bake. But if you prefer to measure your ingredients by weight, be sure to check out my free printable Weight Conversion Chart.
IS CAKE FLOUR GLUTEN-FREE?
No, cake flour is not gluten-free. It is still made from wheat. While it does produce less gluten than all-purpose flour, it’s still not recommended for people who have a gluten intolerance.
If you want to bake a gluten-free cake or cupcake, substitute all the flour in the recipe for a gluten-free flour blend. Look for one that subs 1 for 1 (in other words, 1 cup of gluten-free flour is equivalent to 1 cup of all-purpose flour). Here are some good options:
- King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour
- Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour
- Cup4Cup Multi-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour
- Pamela’s Products Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend
- Better Batter Gluten-Free Flour
- Namaste Foods Gluten-Free Organic Perfect Flour Blend
WHAT CAN I USE CAKE FLOUR FOR?
Obviously cake flour is great for cakes. But what if you don’t bake a lot of cakes and you want to use up what you have left over?
Good news! Cake flour is great in all kinds of recipes. Any time you’re baking something that wants to be airy and delicate, cake flour is a great option.
Here are a few examples:
But I would stick with all-purpose flour for things like cookies or pie crust, and use bread flour for anything yeasted (such as pizza dough or dinner rolls.
Follow me on Pinterest for tons of great recipe ideas!
This post contains affiliate sales links.
Very thorough and enlightening
Can I use your substitute recipe of flour + cornflour for any cake recipe that requires flour? And replace it 1:1?
Thanks in advance
Cake flour has been available in Europe since I can remember (and I’m 60). In my birth country -Spain- it’s called ‘harina de repostería’.
Cake flour makes all the difference in the world! Especially in cheesecake recipes.
If you want to use the cake flour in PLACE of a box cake mix how much do you use? And what else do you add.
What kind of cake are you trying to make?
December 10, 2020 I am going to make a coconut cake that calls for all-purpose flour, baking
soda, baking powder and salt. If I use cake flour, do I still need to add these 3 ingredients?
I’m glad you told the difference in flours. I didn’t know that.
Yes, cake flour does not contain any of those other ingredients.
Hard to source cake flour but will get some online and try. I am trying to bake the perfect pound cake or vanilla butter cake.
Hi! Can I use all cake flour instead of all purpose flour in your chocolate cupcake recipe?
I find that they come out too delicate that way- I’d recommend making them as per the recipe for the best result. Good luck!
Hi Allie! I am enjoying looking over your blog, and am planning to make your vanilla cake. My one question is do you sift all the flour for your recipes (both cake and all purpose)? I am assuming that you would specify if it was required, but maybe its a no-brainer that people should ALWAYS sift flour for cakes… :p I just don’t want to mess up your yummy-looking recipe with my ignorance! Thanks for your help, and sorry if you already answered this somewhere!
No worries! Unless the recipe specifically says “sifted,” you don’t have to sift. I do typically fluff it up a little bit though before scooping it into the measuring cups. It sometimes settles and becomes compacted as it sits. Hope this is helpful!
Very informative. Thank you so much
You answered all my questions. Thank you.
This post is super helpful, thank you! I originally loved using cake flour (the kind in a paper bag) for cupcakes. With COVID the store was out of my usual brand and I ended up using the kind that came in a plastic bag in a box. It gave my cupcakes a really weird aftertaste- almost metallic or baking soda-ish. It was subtle but my family noticed it too. I tried again with all purpose flour and it worked fine so I know it’s that boxed cake flour. I’m 15 and just started a recipe blog but I’m afraid to use cake flour in my recipes as I’m not sure if there’s variation in taste. Have you ever experienced this? Thanks so much!
Interesting! I have not but I almost always use a blend of cake flour + all purpose… so maybe it’s harder to detect because there’s less of it. I do know that cake flour is usually bleached so maybe that is what you’re tasting? Is the kind in a paper bag made by Bob’s Red Mill? And the kind in the box either Swan’s Down or Softasilk?
Ok yes you’re right! Turns out the weird tasting one is bleached and the other organic one that works well isn’t. I think I’ll stick with all purpose flour solely for this reason in case that weird taste is common with the bleaching and other people notice. They’re both different versions of the store brand. Thanks for your help, I appreciate your reply!