Cake flour is a must-have staple in any eager baker’s pantry. However, when you always expect it to be there, you can be shocked to find that you’ve run out, or you don’t have enough to make your next baked good.
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When you’re ready to bake, with all of your materials and ingredients laid out in front of you, the last thing you want to do is pack them away again. Similarly, you don’t want to have to take a trip to the store just to get cake flour.
So, is there any way that you can substitute something else for cake flour while still getting the desired effect.
We know that you’re regretfully looking at the all-purpose flour thinking about whether it’s worth it - just this once.
Today we’ll be looking for the best substitutes for cake flour so that you don’t have to go without your baked goods.
What is cake flour?
Cake flour is a type of flour that is low in protein. In fact, it only contains around 7 to 9 percent of protein which is considerably less than other types of flour.
Cake flour is incredibly fine in consistency, making it ideal for baking as you won’t get as many of those annoying lumps.
The less protein in cake flour is in correlation with the formation of gluten. The lower the amount of protein in the flour, the less gluten is formed during the baking process. The less gluten your baked good includes, the softer and fluffier its consistency will be.
No one wants a dense cake, do they? So, using cake flour takes your baked goods to a whole new level.
Differences between types of flour
You might be wondering whether you can substitute all-purpose flour or even bread flour for cake flour. It’s all the same thing, right? Unfortunately, this is wrong.
Yes, using a different type of flour will work to create a cake or other baked good, but it won’t be nearly as good as if you used cake flour.
Flour is the main ingredient in many baked goods, so it is imperative that you use the correct type of flour depending on what you are making.
Cake flour is finely milled and ideal for all baked goods. The low amount of protein found within this flour makes cakes light and fluffy in texture, giving cakes their desired moist consistency.
All-purpose flour is used for other recipes such as to make sauces thicker. There is a medium amount of protein found in all-purpose flour nearer to 10 percent.
This will make a moderate amount of gluten which can be used for cakes, but is not as desirable as cake flour.
All-purpose flour is a good middle ground for all recipes. If you don’t want to have many types of flour in your pantry, all-purpose flour should suffice at a push.
Bread flour, on the other hand, is high in protein and therefore makes lots of gluten in the cooking process.
This creates a stiff texture which is ideal for baking bread but not much else. Can you imagine a cake being as hard as bread? No, thanks!
Is cake flour always best for baking?
To make things more confusing, cake flour is not always the best type of flour to use for baking. For example, chocolate cake needs more protein to be able to hold its shape, so all-purpose flour is best in this instance.
The reason for using all-purpose flour in chocolate cake is due to the fact that cocoa powder is already used within the recipe.
Cocoa powder is incredibly fine and dry in consistency, so using cake flour alongside this would leave the cake so flimsy that it would all sink into itself.
Banana bread and carrot cake are similar issues, as they include wet ingredients. Due to this, you’ll need a stronger flour to make up for the wetter ingredients.
Vanilla cake, funfetti cake, white cake, red velvet cake, and other fluffy cakes are ideal for using cake flour.
Substitute for cake flour
Realizing too late that you don’t have enough cake flour to make your baked goods is a terrible feeling that can ruin your entire day.
However, all hope is not lost as it is actually reasonably easy to make a substitute for cake flour.
If you’re an avid baker, you should have these ingredients already in your pantry. All you need is two ingredients that are cheap and easy to obtain. We bet that you already have them at the back of your cupboards.
- All-purpose flour
Measure out how much all-purpose flour that you need to make the cake. This is simply the amount of cake flour that should be in the recipe.
Remove two tablespoons of all-purpose flour from this amount and put it back in the container.
Replace the two tablespoons of flour with two tablespoons of cornstarch.
Mix these two ingredients together in a separate bowl away from the rest of your ingredients.
Sift the flour and cornstarch mixture into a clean bowl three times. This will make sure that the two ingredients are properly mixed together so that the cornstarch doesn’t all remain in one area of the cake.
Sifting it three times will also add plenty of air into the flour which can mimic the consistency of cake flour and make your cake fluffier.
Measure how much you need for the recipe. We know that you’ve already measured the correct amount of flour out for the recipe, but aerating it by sifting can add more volume and create more flour than you need.
Discard any leftover of the flour mixture and continue baking just as you would with cake flour.
As you can see, you have several options for a cake flour substitute. Homemade cake flour may be the easiest option as long as you have the necessary ingredients described above. You may also want to try almond flour, arrowroot powder, spelt flour, or oat flour in your baking recipe. Wheat flour and self rising flour can do in a pinch.
Why does cornstarch turn all-purpose flour into cake flour?
Cornstarch is incredibly fine and contains almost no gluten whatsoever. So, adding this to all-purpose flour reduces the amount of gluten in the flour and makes it more similar to the amount of gluten in cake flour.
You don’t want to put too much cornstarch into the all-purpose flour because it will make the amount of gluten in the flour too low. This will leave you with a cake that sinks into itself, creating a dense and undesirable cake.
What if you don’t have cornstarch?
It isn’t imperative that you use cake flour for all cakes. In fact, many people have substituted all-purpose flour for cake flour without using cornstarch and were left with perfectly pleasant cakes. If you have no other choice, you can use all-purpose flour in lieu of cake flour.
We would recommend that you still sift the all-purpose flour two or three times to add more air into the mixture. This will put more air into your mixture and leave you with a lighter cake.
Some people don’t even notice a difference between a cake made with cake flour and a cake made with all-purpose flour.
As we’ve mentioned before, some cakes even call for all-purpose flour because they need some more structure than cake flour would give them.
You might be able to tell the difference between the end results of a cake being made from cake flour to one made with all-purpose flour, but it won’t ruin your cake by any means. If you have no other choice, just opt for all-purpose flour and add cake flour to your grocery list.
Can you make cakes with bread flour?
Making a cake with only bread flour will leave you with a chewier result that has the consistency of bread or pizza dough.
It’s not desirable and won’t leave your cake craving satisfied. While you can make a cake with bread flour, we wouldn’t recommend it.
However, if bread flour is the only type that you have in your pantry, you can mix it with a few other ingredients to get a reasonable result.
- Bread flour
- Baking powder
Measure out how much flour you will need for your recipe, but using bread flour instead.
For every 100 grams of flour, remove 20 grams of it and replace back in the tin. For every 100 grams of flour, remove a further 3 teaspoons of it and store away again.
To make it easy to follow, we’ll be wanting to use 100 grams of flour for our recipe. However, if you need 200 grams, simply remove 40 grams and then 6 teaspoons of bread flour from the bowl.
Replace the 20 grams of bread flour removed with 20 grams of cornstarch.
Replace the 3 teaspoons of bread flour with 3 teaspoons of baking powder.
Mix these three ingredients all together and sift three times to ensure it's completely combined. Use within your cake recipe for reasonable results.
Using bread flour as a substitute for cake flour is not going to leave you with the optimal results, even with adding cornstarch and baking powder.
However, these two ingredients will help to reduce the amount of protein in the bread flour and leave the cake with a softer texture.
If you want to give your cake the best chance, keep sifting a few more times to aerate the flour even more. This will give your cake more height and leave it fluffier.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I substitute all-purpose flour for cake flour?
You can make a cake flour substitute with a mix of all-purpose flour and cornstarch. The cornstarch will help to inhibit the formation of some of the gluten in the all-purpose flour. This means that you can have a cake that is just as tender as it would be if you had purchased cake flour.
To use this you need to measure so that every cup of cake flour that is called for, you should measure up one level cup of all-purpose flour, then remove 2 tablespoons from that measurement and add in 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to replace them.
Then whisk to combine the two. Delicately sift the flour and cornstarch mix. You need to do this to ensure that the cornstarch is thoroughly combines with the flour for the mix to be light, airy and dry.
Is cake flour the same as plain flour?
Cake flour and plain flour is different to all-purpose flour as it have a gluten level that is much lower than all-purpose flour. Cake flour will typically only have 8% (at most) gluten content whereas all-purpose flour will have a 12% (at most) gluten content level.
When you add liquids to flour and then knead the mixture these proteins will link together which makes the dough tougher.
Cakes are made with a lower protein cake flour generally, and therefore they will have a finer and more tender crumb than those that are made with all-purpose flour.
It is possible to substitute all-purpose flour instead of cake flour unless the cake is one that is supposed to be extremely tender, such as an angel food cake in which cake flour will yield much better results overall.
If you do wish to use plain flour as a substitute you should also use cornstarch in the mixture to help lower the gluten content’s effects.
Can I substitute bread flour for cake flour?
Much like the reason that substituting all-purpose flour for cake flour can be a risky business, bread flour has a similar problem. You see, cake flour has its low protein content, all-purpose flour has a higher protein content which makes a harder dough, but this can easily be tampered with using cornstarch to help make your cakes a little lighter and fluffier.
Yet, bread flour is even harder, with a higher protein count than both cake flour and all-purpose flour. This does make it perfect for bread as it provides a harder texture which is something you want from bread.
However, this does mean that it is not really suitable for cakes. While you could give it a try and make an attempt and using cornstarch with it, it is unlikely that it will yield the results you are looking for.
What is cake flour made of?
Cake flour is a fine flour that is finely milled from soft winter heat, it has one of the lowest protein (gluten) counts, lower than all-purpose flour and many other flours. It is finer, lighter, and softer than many other flours.
It is also bleached so that the color is even paler and the grain is not so dense. If you compare cake flour to all-purpose flour you will notice in the visuals that it is very different.
The bleaching of the flour in cake flour means that the flour repels liquids, binds fats and stabilizes gas bubbles produced in the rising process.
These are the features that give a rising cake more fluffiness, a more tender texture and that cakey feel that you seek, especially in cakes that have a high sugar count in their recipe.
We hope that our article has helped you to make a cake even if you had run out of cake flour and forgot to purchase anymore.
Cake flour has the least amount of protein in any cake and therefore produces the fluffiest, softest cakes.
However, you can use all-purpose flour and bread flour instead if this is all you have in the pantry. All with the help of your new best friend - cornstarch.
Cornstarch will help you to reduce the amount of protein in these heavier flours to still create a soft cake.
If you’re really in a pinch, you can use all-purpose flour without any cornstarch and your cake will still be a fan favorite.
We’ve made plenty of cakes with all-purpose flour, and they have turned out just fine. However, cornstarch will amplify this and take your cake to another level.