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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29 Responses to “What Is Cake Flour?”

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  1. 29
    Traditional South African Koeksisters | Luv Cake Blog Says:

    […] cake flour 30ml baking powder 2ml salt 50g butter 375ml […]

  2. 28
    Baking Chick | Marie Marius – Moist Devil’s Food Cake Says:

    […] makes the cake really silky and light. Here is an interesting article I found about cake flour from Dizzy Dee if your interested in learning more about cake […]

  3. 27
    Madison Says:

    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!

  4. 26
    Confused Says:

    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.

  5. 25
    Sophia Says:

    Then get off this site then

  6. 24
    Bud Says:

    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!!!!!!!!

  7. 23
    Mrs. T Says:

    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

  8. 22
    Do It Yourselfer Says:

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

  9. 21
    Ceramic Mixing Bowls | BOWL COLLECTIBLES Says:

    […] add air to make cakes fluffier and lighter.It also loosens the lumps that are present in the flour and is helpful in extracting the weevils from the flour.Sifting makes the […]

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