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What Is Cake Flour?

I found that questions several times as a comment to my post on Chocolate Cake In A Mug, and I decided to do a whole post about cake flour. It never occurred to me that there might be other countries in which cake flour isn’t as popular or widely available as in South Africa.  For those of you who mostly use all purpose flour, I have below the definition of what cake flour is, and then also a substitute for it :)

Cake-flour-definitionWhen I searched the internet for a proper explanation, I found this…

Cake flour is a highly specialized type of wheat flour, intended for use in making cakes, cookies, and other delicate baked goods. Several characteristics differentiate cake flour from other wheat flours, making it unsuitable for certain tasks like baking bread. Many markets carry cake flour, and in a pinch a substitute can be made with ¾ cup sifted bleached all purpose flour and two tablespoons of cornstarch.

When baking a cake, most cooks aim to create a light, fluffy cake with a tender crumb. This requires a flour with a low protein content, as protein promotes the production of gluten, which can make baked goods more tough. It also means that the flour must be very finely milled, to keep baked goods from getting heavy. Finally, a flour which is starchy and able to hold large amounts of fat and sugar without collapsing is required.

All of these needs are addressed with cake flour, which is made from the endosperm of soft wheat. The endosperm is the softest part of the wheat kernel, making cake flour the finest flour available. As cake flour is milled, it is heavily bleached, not only to make it white but to break down the protein in the flour. Typically, cake flour is around seven percent protein, much lower than other flours; bread flour, for example, has twice that amount of protein.

The delicate, fine texture of cake flour is accomplished by heavy milling. The fine grain absorbs fat readily, ensuring that butter and other fats in cakes are well distributed throughout the batter. Cake flour can also carry a high volume of sugar when compared to higher protein flours. Since cake flour is a high-starch flour, it is extremely well suited for certain baking tasks. Cake flour is also lighter than conventional flour, which is why the substitution above falls short of a full cup.

Cookie and cake recipes which call for cake flour should be made using cake flour, if possible. In the production of certain other baked goods, cake flour can replace ordinary flour for a lighter end product, using one cup and two tablespoons of cake flour for every cup of flour called for in the recipe. Cake flour should not be used to make breads and other leavened products, as it is not strong enough. Also, as a general rule, a recipe which calls for “sifted flour” requires the cook to sift the flour before measuring, while “flour, sifted” is flour which is measured and then sifted. Since sifting changes the volume of flour, this seemingly petty distinction is actually very important.

However interesting it might be to know what cake flour really is, I managed to also find a substitute for it, which might be a bit more interesting for you if you want to use a recipe which uses cake flour.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch

To make two cups of cake flour combine 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour with 1/4 cup cornstarch; proceed with your recipe.




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  1. February 11, 2009    

    interesting but I do not make cakes :o)

    • Sophia Sophia
      June 6, 2011    

      Then get off this site then

  2. February 16, 2009    

    Self raising flour with a teaspoon of Baking powder is good too

  3. July 8, 2009    

    Cake flour is identical to Self-Raising Flour in the UK, and all purpose is known as plain.
    This confused the %£&* out of me for about a month, but google really does know everything 😛

  4. July 8, 2009    

    Oh and the 5 minute mug cake? THat’s FANTASTIC!!!
    My house has gained about 3 stone collectively through that XD

  5. BAKR Mom BAKR Mom
    March 31, 2010    

    Thanks for the inside information…very helpful!

  6. audrey audrey
    April 15, 2010    

    im 13 i love making cakes and stuff like that i wanted cake flour because i wanted to make angel food cake this reallyhelped me to find out what is was so thanks 😀

  7. May 20, 2010    

    thanx for the info..

  8. Jeni Jeni
    June 14, 2010    

    Sorry to correct you, Wolf, but in Australia, Self-Raising is Self-Raising and CAKE FLOUR is the following: Cake Flour is made using a wheat variety called rosella, the grain is stone milled and the bran and germ are sieved off. Cake flour has a lower protein level and the least amount of gluten of all wheat flours, so delivers a delicate and tender crumb and crust. It’s ideal when making sponge cakes, genoise, and some cookie batters. Cake flour has a creamy colour and should be refrigerated or frozen to retain freshness. It can be purchased from specialty food suppliers and fine food outlets. Alternately, if you can’t find cake flour and your recipe calls for it, substitute plain (all purpose) flour, simply subtract two level tablespoons of flour for each cup of flour used in the recipe.
    That is from THE authority for Aussie amateur cooks and mums, the Australian Women’s Weekly.
    Hope that helps.

  9. viraj viraj
    June 21, 2010    

    Hi…wanted to know a substitute for gelatin…to use it in a cheeze cake.

  10. June 21, 2010    

    “AGAR-AGAR Also called agar, kanten, Japanese gelatine, Japanese moss and Ceylon moss, agar-agar is an Asian product extracted from dried seaweed. Neutral in taste and with a more efficient thickening power than gelatine, it’s used for many Asian fruit puddings, jellies and other gelatinous desserts. It can be found in Asian markets and should be stored in a cool, dry place.”

    Source: http://www.cheftalk.com/forum/thread/4213/substitute-for-gelatin

  11. Troy - New South Wales Troy - New South Wales
    August 9, 2010    

    Thanks for that!
    So for those of us in Australia and New Zealand, Cake Flour is the same as Self Raising flour?
    Also, thanks for the Cake in a cup recipe, am about to try it now…!

  12. Trinisoul Trinisoul
    August 25, 2010    

    Ah…..thanks for the tip Wolf. This has been driving me crazy for months.

  13. maggie maggie
    August 27, 2010    

    Hi to all who left comments on cake flour, many thanks and they were a great help.

  14. August 29, 2010    

    thanks for the information,this is a great post, gonna keep you bookmarked and visit often.

  15. September 14, 2010    

    yes wolf cake flour is cake flour…the south african snowflake cake flour brand is available online to the uk.just google South African products uk.i think Hunters is a supplier. theres is also a south african store in stratford,london who stock it.xxx

  16. October 29, 2010    

    I’m still confused. I see recipes that say use Cake Flour with added Baking Powder. Does that mean that I needs to add baking powder to self-raising flour so that the cake rises more than usual? I don’t think so. Does cake flour typically already contain baking powder?

  17. Too_Much Too_Much
    November 12, 2010    

    Thanks for this brilliant and helpful post. Im from SA, now living in UK and their flour here is not great. Something about having to be unbleached. anyway it doesnt rise like in SA so I normally mix self raising and plain flour to get to simolar textures like I had in SA!

  18. Rochelle Rochelle
    December 10, 2010    

    I’m still confused as to what the correct substitute is. Has anybody actually used any of these ‘Cake Flour’ substitutes yet? Can you please let me know how they went? Thanks heaps. :)

  19. Do It Yourselfer Do It Yourselfer
    January 18, 2011    

    I need to find a substitute for US All-purpose Flour that works properly. I also live in South Africa.

  20. Mrs. T Mrs. T
    April 27, 2011    

    I too am confused on the ‘cake flour’ vs ‘ self-rising flour’. I’d like to make a pound cake which calls for ‘cake flour’. I usually use ‘self-rising flour’ for just about everything I bake. Will it be okay for the pound cake? TY

  21. Bud Bud
    June 3, 2011    

    OMG, Thank you! Cake Flour! That’s the answer! Now to take over the world… heh… ha ha… ah ha… AH HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!!

  22. Confused Confused
    June 11, 2011    

    Hi there, i am terribly confused. I bake bread and i notice some recipes which are from america call for using ‘all purpose’ flour as opposed to bread flour sometimes. PLEASE tell me where we can get this ‘all purpose’ flour in south africa or if there is a suitable substitute. From what i’ve researched, their all purpose flour is basically the same as our cake flour, but i want to make certain.

  23. Madison Madison
    June 15, 2011    

    I`m a 12 yr old girl making a layered, 3 different flavored, 3 tiered cake for my dad for his 55th birthday and when I looked at the ingredients it said cake flour. I didn`t know what cake flour was, so when I searched to find out this popped up and it was really helpful. THANKS!

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