What is Cake Flour: Uses & Substitutes | Bob's Red Mill
What Is Cake Flour?
Baking 101 on April 22, 2018 by

What Is Cake Flour?

Cake flour is a light, finely milled flour with a lower protein content than all-purpose flour. Cake flour is milled from soft wheat and contains the lowest amount of protein when compared to other flours, around 5 to 8%. For comparison’s sake, all purpose flour is usually 10 to 13% protein, which can produce good results for almost any recipe. However, the low protein and high starch content in cake flour helps create the lightest, most delicious cakes possible!

what is cake flour

We love cake flour because, well duh, it is used in cakes and other light, airy baked goods, and of course these are our favorites to make! If you have stumbled upon one of the many delicious cake flour recipes out there, you may be wondering what exactly cake flour is, what it is best used for, and whether or not you can create it if you don’t have it in your pantry right now! As total flour geeks, we at Bob’s Red Mill have done years of research into all of the ingredients and processes that go into our flours, and cake flour is no different. So buckle up, because we are about to take you on a delicious journey through cake flour!

What Differentiates Cake Flour?

The thing that differentiates all flours from one another is something you’ve probably heard about a few times this year: gluten. Gluten makes up the protein content of flours, and every type of flour has a different protein content. In your baked goods and doughs, the gluten protein content helps the flour bind all the ingredients together. This means that the higher the protein content in your flour, the more dense and sticky the dough or batter will be. You can imagine that a flour often used in cakes and light-textured products would logically have a low protein content. And you’d be right! As mentioned, cake flour ranges between 5-8% protein, whereas all purpose flour ranges between 10-13% protein.

Working with Cake Flour

If you already have cake flour and are planning to bake your cake, there are a few things to consider. Cake flour is milled to an extra fine consistency (in fact, cake flour may be referred to by some as extra fine or super fine flour), which allows it to absorb a lot of water. This results in a fine crumb and a soft, tender texture. The extra water absorption also allows your batter to rise a little taller with cake flour, so this type is perfect if you want to create a tall, fluffy cake! Just make sure that your recipe has enough water or liquid in it to account for this extra absorption, and your most delicious cake recipes will be smooth sailing! Cake flour also helps with the even distribution of fats in your cake, which will help eliminate any clumps or chunks of butter, and it makes sure that cakes set up a little faster than other flours, which is why you can get a beautiful, tall cake from it!

baking with cake flour

Where to Buy Cake Flour

Of course, we believe we carry the best cake flour around, and if you live in America, you can most likely find ours and other brands in your local grocery store. If you’re in Europe or Australia, it might be a little trickier. Cake flour is often bleached, which leaves it a little chlorinated as well as slightly acidic. This is banned in Australia and Europe, so you’ll want to look for a soft wheat flour. You can also use our cornstarch (referred to as corn flour in the UK) hack above, or you may be able to find unbleached cake flour in a specialty store. At Bob’s Red Mill, our cake flour is unbleached because we love to keep things natural!

Most cake flour does not contain a rising agent, so you will still need to combine it with a leavening ingredient like baking powder or baking soda, but you may see a brand or two that does advertise self rising cake flour, which is also okay. If you do use self rising brands, just make sure that you do not also incorporate any additional rising agents into your recipe, as this may create some issues. Most cake recipes only call for a single rising agent.

Can You Substitute Cake Flour?

Because of cake flour’s low protein content, it is not recommended to use cake flour when another type of flour is called for, even all purpose. Baking is so scientific that a seemingly small change like this could drastically affect your end result. If you are making pancakes or bread, for instance, you will have very different results if you substitute cake flour. On the other hand, if you are out of cake flour and have a recipe that calls for it, it is possible to simulate cake flour with some other ingredients.

You will always get the best results if you use actual cake flour, but if you don’t have any on hand, then you can replace it with all purpose flour mixed with cornstarch. For every cup of flour you are using, remove 2 tablespoons of the flour and replace that with an equal amount of cornstarch. For instance, if your recipe calls for 3 cups of cake flour, you can use 3 cups of all purpose flour minus 6 tablespoons, and replace that 6 tablespoons with cornstarch. This will simulate the lower protein content in cake flour and still give you a light, tender cake. The cornstarch serves to prevent some of the gluten formation, which is what makes the all purpose flour seem more like cake flour in this substitution. Cake flour comes highly sifted, and it is recommended to sift it again, so with this substitute a minimum of five sifts is advised for those fluffy, airy cakes that we love!

substituting baking flour

Cake Flour Substitutes & Other Flours You May See

If you are hoping to substitute for cake flour and you have something else on your shelf, you may be able to make it work, but there are some flours that are not ideal for this purpose. We will talk about a few of them here!

  • All Purpose Flour - We already discussed this one, and it’s most likely what you have in your pantry already. The key here is that the protein content is about 3-5% greater than that of cake flour, so you’ll need to cut it with that cornstarch to artificially lower the protein. This flour is great to keep around for almost any recipe, though! It is versatile and produces decent results in almost any type of baking.
  • Whole Wheat Flour - Whole wheat flour is made by milling the entire wheat grain, instead of just the endosperm like most flours. This flour has a higher gluten content, coming in around 14%, so not surprisingly, we would not recommend substituting whole wheat flour for cake flour.
  • Self Rising Flour - Self rising flour is actually a mixture of all purpose flour and a rising agent, typically baking powder, and a dash of salt, so you will not need to add as much of either of these to your recipe. Self rising flour has a low protein content, so it can be a good cake flour substitute, as long as you account correctly for the remaining ingredients. This flour is ideal for biscuits and is a Southern staple!
  • Pastry Flour - Pastry flour is a compromise between all purpose and cake flour, with about 8-9% protein content. They say that a good pastry flour substitute is a mix of all purpose and cake flour, actually. This would be a good alternative to cake flour (probably the best one of all) but is rarer than either cake or all purpose flour!

cake flour substitutes

There’s really only one important thing to remember when baking a cake: let us try some at the end! Okay, that was a joke, but there are a lot of little intricacies to making delicious, tall, fluffy cakes, and cake flour is only one of them! We recommend doing your best to use the real thing whenever possible, but that does not mean your cake will not be delicious if you end up needing to substitute! We will even taste test for you, if you need it!

43 Comments

  1. Carol Bodmer
    Can I use a burnt pan instead of 2 round pans when using Bobs Red Mill recipe for Buttery yellow cake? Should I also grease and flour the pan or just grease the pan?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Carol! We haven't tested it in a bundt cake but I bet it would work! Since bundt pans have a more intricate design and tend to stick more, I would suggest buttering and flouring the pan for best results. The bake time will also increase. I would suggest between 45-55 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick or cake tester.
      Reply
  2. shabu
    I wish to know more about
    Reply
  3. Debbie Gaughan
    How do I figure correct amount of additional water to use for cake flour V's flour?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Debbie, there are no set ratios but if your recipe specifically calls for Cake Flour it should be already adjusted accordingly. Happy baking!
      Reply
  4. Barbara hepburn
    Barbara hepburn
    I would love a cake and mini cupcake recipe for your cake flour
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Barbara! There are recipes for both German Chocolate Cupcakes and for Buttery Yellow Birthday Cake that could be baked as cupcakes or mini cupcakes :)

      Bob's Red Mill: Super-Fine Unbleached Cake Flour
      Reply
  5. Tami Goodman
    Here in Las Vegas...It doesnt seen to matter what type of flour I use...Everything comes out tasting like corn cake... or corn bread...I've given up. Didn't have this problem on the east coast....☹
    Reply
  6. Emily
    I don't see your cake flour for sale on your website at the moment. When will it be available to purchase again?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Emily, unfortunately our Cake Flour was just recently discontinued.
      Reply
  7. Jim
    Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! I just started baking and I love your cake flour, I have made pie dough that was fantastic and a pistachio cake that we loved. Please tell me that you are going to bring back your cake flour. That way you can tell Emily and me "Hey Emily we are bringing back our cake flour and are going to give some to you and Jim for being great bakers!"
    Reply
  8. Myra Byanka
    Is it just me, or does cake flour have an aftertaste when baked? It seems the two cake recipes I've made with it, it leaves a faintly metallic taste in my mouth, and no, it's not due to too much baking powder or soda.
    Reply
  9. Tee
    I use your AP flour for my baking needs There are some recipes that call for cake flour
    If you discontinued your cake flour what would be the alternative if I don’t want to use the cornstarch mix?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Tee, our Unbleached White Fine Pastry might be a good alternative. Here's a link to the product. Enjoy!

      Bob's Red Mill: Unbleached White Fine Pastry Flour
      Reply
  10. Claudette
    Do you plan to bring your cake flour back? If you do bring it back, will you offer an organic and non-organic version? What was the reason for the discontinuation of the cake flour?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Claudette, a lot of thought and review happens before we discontinue a product. It's likely there are a few things that played into the ultimate decision to discontinue our Cake Flour and it likely will not be returning to our product line. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes. If you have more questions please feel free to reach out to our Customer Service team at 1-800-349-2173 or [email protected]
      Reply
  11. Tomoko
    I'm so disappointed to hear that your cake flour has been discontinued and not coming back....
    Reply
  12. Phoebe
    What is the protein content (not just the range) for Bob's Red Mill cake flour?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Phoebe - our Super-Fine Cake Flour was between 8-8.5% protein. Unfortunately it has now been discontinued.

      We always list a small range for protein percentages in our flour. As agricultural products, small variances in nutritional profiles can vary from crop to crop. If you have any further questions our Customer Service team is happy to help. They can be reached at 1-800-349-2173 or [email protected]
      Reply
  13. Sarah Stapelmann
    I can't seem to find Bob's Red Mill Cake Flour on the website. I have pastry flour but really wanted cake flour for my husband's birthday cake. I've found BRM cake flour on Amazon but for a ridiculous price. Does BRM still offer Cake flour or just pastry flour?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Sarah - Our Cake Flour has recently been discontinued. We do still offer some pastry flour options. Here's a link!

      Bob's Red Mill: Pastry Flour
      Reply
  14. Heather Hickman
    where is the super fine cake flour? Sad sad sad I am almost finished with my last bag and was shocked I don’t see it
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Heather - Unfortunately our Cake Flour has been discontinued.
      Reply
  15. Lisa Grregerson
    Dear Owners, I am "famous" for my layer cakes. Delicate crust, tender crumb, every bite will dance on the tip of your tongue and melt in your mouth. Positively delicious. I have been using your cake flour for years. None compare. With all of the "exotic" flours you folks make, why discontinue the CAKE FLOUR? More importantly, can you bring it back? My local grocery stores could never stock enough of this fine product. :-) King Arthur, Swan's, AZURE, Bob's All-Purpose ... None Compare to your cake flour. Perfect protein, perfect gluten. Please, pretty please, return this product to your line of products.
    Reply
  16. Shannon
    Will this be coming back in stock? This is a wonderful product!!
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Shannon - Unfortunately no. Our Cake Flour has been discontinued.
      Reply
  17. Jessi
    Can i use your Gluten Free 1-to-1 Flour and the cornstarch conversion to make a GF cake flour?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Jessi! We haven't tested adding additional Cornstarch to our Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour. It's great to use as-is in cake recipes, without adding additional ingredients. If you do try it, we'd love if you shared your results.
      Reply
  18. Mallory
    If your baking flour the same as the cake flour? Or a good alternative since you no longer sell cake flour.
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Mallory, cake flour is a light, finely milled flour with a lower protein content than all-purpose flour. Cake flour is milled from soft wheat and contains the lowest amount of protein when compared to other flours, around 5 to 8%. For comparison’s sake, all purpose flour is usually 10 to 13% protein, which can produce good results for almost any recipe. However, the low protein and high starch content in cake flour helps create the lightest, most delicious cakes possible.

      Reference the blog post here to find alternatives (like Pastry Flour) and how to make your own.
      Reply
  19. Patrick
    Very disappointed that cake flour is discontinued. :(
    Why dozens of flours made from grinding exotic nuts that I would never use, but not something as basic as cake flour?
    Reply
  20. BARBARA L CLARK
    BARBARA L CLARK
    If I use the Pastry Flour when the recipe calls for cake flour will I need to take out 2 TBLS of the PF and replace it with cornstarch then sift the mixture 5 times? The information on the Pastry Four site and this blog is confusing on this point.
    Reply
  21. Jace
    I am deeply disappointed to discover that you discontinued your cake flour. And it was a year ago, so it's not like I can stock up. I'm about to start selling home baked goods, and now I have to find another flour of the same quality. Again, I am deeply disappointed. I hope it comes back, but I know it isn't likely. :(
    Reply
  22. Stephanie Chandler
    Stephanie Chandler
    Another professional baker here who is VERY, VERY DISAPPOINTED that the Cake Flour has been discontinued!! In agreement with other reviews, Bob's Red Mill Superfine Cake Flour was hands down the absolute best. Perfect grind, protein, gluten, and absorption rate for the most amazing texture a cake has ever seen. Plus, it was unbleached. Serious bakers will rejoice if you bring this back!
    Reply
  23. Crystal
    After a brief break from baking, I went to pick up right where I left off and went on a mission to find Bob's Red Mill flours. I was highly disappointed to find you've discontinued the cake flour! I had been using Bob's Red Mill exclusively and with great result. It's very disappointing when picky bakers can't find their staples. Your cake flour was my go-to. I truly hope you consider bringing this back. Personally, I would drive far & wide to pick up just a couple bags. It was great stuff.
    Reply
  24. Kimani Smalls
    Adding to the list of supporters wanting the cake flour to be brought back please :)
    Reply
  25. Isabella
    I'm super sad to see you've discontinued your cake flour. I used this religiously for years and nothing else compares. I truly hope you consider bringing this back; the pastry flour does not yield the same results.
    Reply
  26. E
    Please bring back the super fine cake flour :(
    Reply
  27. Doug
    I got a neighbor's recipe for a wonderful orange Bundt cake, which calls for all-purpose flour. I made it and, like hers, it came out delicious but a little coarse -- like it's halfway to cornbread. So I made another cake last night with your Pastry Flour that I had stored under vacuum seal in the freezer. (It had a 'best by' date of Dec 2020, but I figured it was stored well.) The cake cooked up lovely, fast, and *TALL*, about 1" above the rim of the pan. I carefully set it out to cool, and this morning it was 2/3 of its original height. I cut in to it, and it was dense as pound cake. Any idea what happened? Flour too old? Too cold? (It came right from the freezer.) Should I have adjusted the amount of flour and/or baking powder?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Doug, we would suggest always using fresh, room temperature flour. Depending on the type of cake recipe, it could be a few things aside from the flour. If there's a butter + sugar creaming step, it's possible to beat in too much air causing a big rise and collapse. The oven temperature could also be too high causing a big initial rise, but an un-done interior that then shrinks/sinks. If you have more questions, please feel free to email us at Cust[email protected]
      Reply
  28. Livia
    Adding my name to the list of disappointed customers who are not happy the cake flour was discounted! Please bring it back!
    Reply
  29. Ellen
    A sponge cake recipe I made recently called for cake flour, but I had none. I used whole wheat pastry flour instead, 1 for 1, but although the texture was great and the cake was delicious (I find more and more that white all-purpose flour tastes like nothing.....), I think the amount of flour I used wasn't quite right because the cake sank a bit. Can you tell us please how to substitute whole wheat pastry flour for cake flour?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Ellen! Whole Wheat Pastry Flour is a bit heavier than Cake Flour, which has a very low protein percentage. The substitution recommendation will depend on your recipe. Email us at [email protected], we're happy to help troubleshoot.
      Reply

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