Imagine taking a bite of a light and airy cake, so soft that it practically melts in your mouth. Have you ever wondered what makes that possible? One of the key ingredients that contribute to such a delightful texture is cake flour.
This finely milled flour is a secret weapon in the arsenal of bakers around the world, and its unique properties make it a must-have for creating delicate and delicious cakes, pastries, and more.
In this article, we’ll delve into the specifics of what cake flour is, how it’s different from other types of flour, and why it’s an essential ingredient for cake!
What is cake flour?
Cake flour is a finely milled flour made from soft wheat with a low protein content of around 7-9% (the opposite of bread flour). It’s perfect for making cakes (hence the name!) as well as tender cakes, cookies, and pastries.
To make cake flour commercially, the wheat is carefully milled to remove the bran and germ, which are the parts of the wheat that contain the most protein. The remaining endosperm is then finely ground and treated with chlorine (bleach) to produce a light, fine-textured flour. There’s also unbleached cake flour available. There should be no sugar added in cake flour.
What’s the difference between cake flour and regular flour?
Both are types of white, refined flour, but cake flour is made from soft wheat, whereas all-purpose flour is made from soft and hard wheat (higher protein).
Cake flour has less protein, resulting in light and fluffy cake with a more delicate crumb. Regular flour has more protein, and using regular flour in cake recipes results in a denser, heavier texture in cakes and other baked goods.
Benefits of cake flour
One of the main benefits of cake flour is its low protein content, which makes for a tender and delicate texture in baked goods. Cake flour is also finely milled, which means it’s very soft and lightweight, making it ideal for creating airy and fluffy cakes.
Another benefit of cake flour is that it absorbs liquid well, which means it can help produce a moist and tender crumb in cakes. And because it’s so finely milled, cake flour blends easily with other ingredients, resulting in a smooth and consistent batter.
Cake flour nutrition facts
|Flour (¼ cup)||Calories||Carbs||Fiber||Sugar||Fat||Protein||Glycemic Index|
|Cake flour||120||26 g||1 g||0 g||0 g||4 g||Likely at least 85|
|All-purpose flour||120||24 g||1 g||0 g||0.5 g||4 g||85|
How to bake with cake flour
You can substitute cake flour for all-purpose flour, using 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons of cake flour for every 1 cup of all-purpose flour. This is because cake flour absorbs slightly more liquid than all-purpose flour.
Cake flour is very fine and can clump together, so it’s a good idea to sift it before using it in a recipe. This will help to break up any clumps and make it easier to blend with other ingredients.
While cake flour is best for cakes, it can also be used in other baked goods like cookies, biscuits, and muffins. Just keep in mind that the texture may be lighter and more delicate than if you were using all-purpose flour, and it may not work as well in recipes that require a higher gluten content, like breads or pizza dough.
Popular cake flour baked goods and dishes
- Cakes (angel food cake, chiffon cake, sponge cake, birthday cake, layer cake)
- Fluffy cupcakes and muffins
- Cookies (sugar cookies, shortbread cookies, macarons)
- Pastries (pie crusts, tarts, quiches, pastries such as eclairs and cream puffs)
- Quick breads (banana bread, pumpkin bread, zucchini bread)
- Light and fluffy pancakes and waffles
- Brownies and bars
- Cake donuts
How to make cake flour at home
If you don’t have cake flour on hand, you can make a substitute by combining all-purpose flour with cornstarch.
For every cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons of the flour and replace it with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Whisk well to combine and sift the flour a few times to get an extra-fine texture without lumps that is similar to cake flour.
How to store cake flour
Keep unopened store-bought cake flour in its original packaging for up to 6 months. Once opened, transfer the flour to an airtight container and stash it in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight and moisture.
For homemade cake flour, it’s best to store it to an airtight container like a mason jar. Don’t forget to label it with the type of flour and the date you made it. Store it in a cool, dry place like a pantry or cupboard.
What are the best substitutes for cake flour?
As I mentioned, all-purpose flour + cornstarch makes a pretty good substitute for cake flour (use the recipe above). This will give you the closest match in terms of flavor and texture. In my experience, adding cornstarch creates the softest cakes! However, you can just use 100% all-purpose flour if you don’t have any cornstarch on hand.
Alternatively, a mix of oat flour + arrowroot powder acts similarly to all-purpose flour + cornstarch. Or you can use almond flour as a gluten-free substitute, but the result will be less fluffy and much denser.
You can, just take out 2 tablespoons of flour for every 1 cup of regular flour used. Also keep in mind the result will be slightly more dense and crumbly than if you were to use cake flour.
To convert all-purpose flour to cake flour, for every 1 cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons of flour and replace it with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift the mixture together several times to ensure the cornstarch is evenly distributed throughout the flour and no clumps remain.
Technically, no. Cake flour is not strictly necessary for making cakes (all-purpose will do), but it can make a HUGE difference. Many professional bakers use cake flour for their cakes for its lower protein content, which results in a more delicate texture and tender crumb.