If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between Cake Flour Vs. All Purpose Flour, you’ve come to the right place! I’ve outlined everything you need to know about these two essential baking flours and even provided some suggestions for what to make with them!
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Cake Flour vs. All Purpose Flour
So, what’s the big difference between cake flour and all-purpose flour? Can they be swapped interchangeably? What if I can’t find cake flour at the store? I’ve wondered some of these questions myself, and I’m sure you have, too!
If you do much cooking or baking, you likely keep all-purpose flour stocked in the cupboard as it’s the most common type of flour used in a variety of recipes. Easy to find in the baking section of nearly any local grocery store, all-purpose flour has a white appearance and neutral flavor. As a result, it’s extremely versatile and easy to use.
However, occasionally you’ll find a recipe that calls for cake flour. Not as common, this fine flour is used specifically for baking and is great for moist, tender cake recipes, as the name suggests! This flour is specifically designed to help produce tender, delicate baked goods. As a result, it is not suitable for every kind of recipe.
So, what is the big difference between the two? If you don’t have one or the other, can you do a direct substitute? Keep reading to find out!
What is Cake Flour?
Cake flour is a type of light flour made from finely milled soft wheat. It has a lower protein content than other flours such as all-purpose flour. For instance, cake flour contains roughly 5 to 7 percent protein. Meanwhile, all-purpose flour contains about 10 to 13 percent protein. This is important to know, because the more protein flour has, the more gluten it has. Gluten acts as a binding agent, impacting the texture of foods as they bake.
This means that cakes or baked goods made with cake flour will have a fluffier texture and a looser crumb than items made with all-purpose flour, which has a higher protein content (and more gluten, leading to a firmer, denser texture).
You don’t technically need to bake cakes that have a soft crumb, but some cakes in particular, like an angel food cake, really benefit from a softer flour!
What is All-Purpose Flour?
All-purpose flour is the workhorse of the baker’s kitchen. One of the most versatile flours available, all-purpose flour is a medium gluten flour, designed to be used in a variety of recipes from cookies to cake to bread, and forms the base of most baked goods.
In general, wheat flours are distinguished by their gluten content. As mentioned, all-purpose flour is around 10 to 13 percent gluten. Meanwhile, cake flour is about 5 to 7 percent gluten, and bread flour is a bit higher at 13 to 14 percent gluten. By keeping these differences in mind you can choose the flour that’s most suitable for your baking project (sometimes it’s a combination of flours!).
Substituting All-Purpose Flour for Cake Flour
In general, it is fine to substitute all-purpose flour for cake flour if you don’t happen to have cake flour on hand to use in a recipe. Your final product will have a less fine crumb, but it will bake up perfectly fine (and you may not even notice the difference).
Substituting Cake Flour for All-Purpose Flour
You probably won’t have extra boxes of cake flour sitting around. So, this question may not come up often! But just so you know: while you can typically substitute all-purpose flour for cake flour in a recipe, you won’t want to use cake flour unless it’s specifically called for in the ingredients list. If you use cake flour in a recipe that calls for all-purpose flour, your final product is likely to be fragile and fall apart easily due to the lower protein content.
Brands of Cake Flour
There are a few brands of cake flour to choose from. Some are easier to find than others. However, they’ll typically be located in the baking section of your local grocery store. I’ve outlined some of the most popular and widely available options for you below:
- Pillsbury Softasilk Cake Flour
- Bob’s Red Mill Unbleached Fine White Pastry
- Swans Down Regular Cake Flour
- King Arthur Cake Flour
- General Mills Purasnow Cake Flour
How to Make Your Own Cake Flour
If you absolutely must have cake flour for a recipe and don’t have any in the pantry, you can easily make your own version with all-purpose flour and a bit of added cornstarch for lightness.
Here’s how to do it: Whisk together 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Make sure they’re well combined! This mixture can be substituted evenly with cake flour in any recipe.
Dessert Recipes with Cake Flour
Here are a few of my favorite recipes that use cake flour:
Dessert Recipes with All-Purpose Flour
Here are a few of my favorite treats that use all-purpose flour: