Trying out a new baking recipe only to find you don't have cake flour? Use a cake flour substitute instead!
However, you must keep in mind that substituting cake flour isn't as easy as substituting regular flour because of its unique characteristics. Thus, allow me to share my favorite cake flour alternatives and how to use each of them correctly.
What Is Cake Flour?
I understand that not all home bakers are familiar with how different cake flour is from regular flour or all-purpose flour. They just know that when the recipe requires cake flour, they should use cake flour. I was the same way when I was still a beginner home baker.
So how different is cake flour, and why can't you just pick any flour to replace it in your recipes?
Low Protein, High Starch
As flour milled from soft wheat, cake flour contains 6% to 10% protein and around 72% to 74% starch. This low protein content means that gluten formation is slower than when you use flour, such as all-purpose flour, with more protein content.
It's for this reason that cake flour is the perfect choice for those who want to produce fluffy or airy, light-textured baked goods.
Excellent Water-Absorbing Properties
As a type of finely milled flour, cake flour is sometimes referred to as super-fine and extra-fine flour, which means it has extra-fine soft crumbs. This texture makes it easier for the flour to absorb water or any liquid ingredient faster than most other flour types.
As such, any baking recipe using cake flour will result in a taller, fluffier baked good.
Distributes Fat Evenly
Speaking of a taller baked goodie, that is also thanks to the cake flour's ability to distribute fats in your ingredients evenly and quickly. Meaning that there will be no chunks and clumps of fat (butter) that can otherwise affect the cake's set-up time.
7 Best Cake Flour Substitutes
Now that you're aware of the most important properties of cake flour, let's get on to the fun part: replacing it in your recipes! That said, here are six of my go-to substitutes for cake flour that I recommend you use in your cake recipes and other recipes requiring the flour:
1. Self-Rising Flour
Self-rising flour also has low protein content, making it one of the best cake four substitutes you can easily find in your local grocery store. In fact, you might already have one in your pantry if you love making biscuits and Southern dishes.
I also love its soft texture, so I don't have to worry about adjusting the amount of liquid added to my recipes. Even better, replacing cake flour with self-rising flour is easy, as one cup of cake flour is equivalent to one cup of self-rising flour.
Apart from being a low-protein flour type, self-rising flour also contains baking powder and salt. It means you won't need to add baking powder and salt to your recipes.
Best for just about anything.
2. Tapioca Starch or Cassava Flour
If your main reason for needing a cake flour substitute is you're serving someone who can't consume anything with gluten content, cassava flour or tapioca starch is highly recommended. Not only is it gluten-free, but cassava flour also has low protein content.
With its soft, powder-like texture, fat distribution won't also be a problem, ensuring you'll have fluffy baked goods.
Cassava flour also has a nutty flavor, but you won't have to worry about it, as it's too mild even to be noticeable when cooked and combined with other ingredients. And, if you're baking brownies or any baked good with nuts, cassava flour can help enhance that flavor.
The only issue with cassava flour is that it absorbs more liquid. But, of course, I have an easy solution to this that most of you already know.
Simply add more water or any of the liquid ingredients included in your recipe to ensure you serve baked goods with a fluffy, delicate texture. I can't really provide an exact amount to add, as this will depend on your recipe. My only advice is to add the liquid gradually as you mix your batter.
You can also replace cake flour with a lower amount of cassava flour, which is ¾ cup for every cup of cake flour, then add more if you need to. In my case, though, I find it's easier just to follow a 1:1 substitution ratio and tweak the amount of the liquid ingredient, as I mentioned above.
Best for just about anything.
3. Gluten-Free Flour Blend
Another substitute for cake flour perfect for your gluten-free baking needs is this flour blend you can purchase in your local grocery store or online.
Yes, you guess it right; this flour combines various types of low-protein flour. Most products use white or brown rice flour, oat flour, potato flour, almond flour, coconut flour, and potato starch.
It's why I make sure I check the label before purchasing or using one, especially if I have guests who have food or ingredient allergies.
Most of these flour blends have a fine, soft texture, which I would say is close, if not similar, to wheat flour. They also have a particular flavor and aroma but won't overpower your ingredients or throw off the balance of flavor.
One thing I want you to note is that these flour blends won't work for all recipes requiring cake flour. The combination of flour will produce different textures, depending on your recipe; some might have a chewy texture, while others can have a tender crumb.
Hence, I only choose to use a flour blend product for my gingerbread, muffin, cornbread, quick bread, and cake recipes.
To substitute cake flour with a gluten-free flour blend, follow the packaging instructions for replacing whole wheat flour.
Best for cakes, muffins, cornbread, quick breads, and gingerbread cookies.
4. All-Purpose Flour and Cornstarch
Yes, all-purpose flour has high protein content, so you will need another ingredient for it to work perfectly as a cake flour substitute, especially if you need to make baked goods with a fluffy crumb. However, adding cornstarch to plain flour can help slow down gluten formation.
What am I trying to say? Well, it means that using a combination of flour and cornstarch will help you produce light-textured, fluffy baked goods like when using cake flour.
Of course, you can't simply mix flour and cornstarch; there is a correct way of making this homemade cake flour substitute. That said, here's what I do:
- In your measuring cup, measure one cup of all-purpose flour.
- Once leveled, remove two tablespoons of the measured flour.
- On top of it, add two tablespoons of cornstarch.
- Level the flour-cornstarch mixture to ensure you have one cup of your homemade cake flour substitute.
- Place your sieve over one clean mixing bowl.
- Carefully dump the flour-cornstarch blend and sieve.
- Discard whatever remains of your homemade cake flour substitute in your sieve.
- Place your sieve over your empty mixing bowl and repeat steps 5 to 6.
That's it! You now have your own cake flour substitute that you can use to replace the same amount of cake flour your recipe calls for.
Just one thing I want you to keep in mind: while you can prepare this homemade cake flour substitute in big batches and store it in an airtight container, I don't recommend it.
I found that the freshly prepared flour-cornstarch mixture works better than the stored version. After all, you will only need around two minutes to prepare this homemade cake flour substitute.
Best for cakes, donuts, quick breads, and muffins.
5. All-Purpose Flour and Arrowroot Powder
You probably already know that corn starch is an ingredient you shouldn't use when baking for individuals with corn allergies.
The good news is you can replace it with arrowroot powder, as it functions similarly to corn starch. Meaning that instead of adding two tablespoons of cornstarch in the homemade cake flour recipe above, add arrowroot flour to the all-purpose flour.
The only difference is that the powder will add more moisture to the recipe, making it the best substitute when baking a moist choco cake or a moist brownie.
But I have two main issues with arrowroot powder that you need to make a note of. One is that it's a bit more expensive than the most common flour, like all-purpose flour and cake flour. Another is that it cooks more quickly, so only opt for this flour blend if you're baking at low temperature or following quick-bake recipes.
Best for low-temperature and quick baking recipes.
6. Pastry Flour
Do you have leftover pastry flour from your last pie crust, cookie, or tart baking project? Then use it to substitute cake flour by simply adding the same amount to your recipes!
Pastry flour is made from well-milled wheat grains and has a protein content that's in the middle of all-purpose flour and cake flour, specifically, around 8% to 9%.
This characteristic makes it the perfect choice for recipes that also list leavening agents, such as baking powder and cornstarch, as an ingredient.
However, you can add an eighth of a teaspoon of leavening agent, even if the recipe doesn't call for it. Doing so ensures you serve baked goods with an almost similar light, fluffy texture as when you use cake flour.
Best for pastries, cakes, muffins, cookies, and cinnamon rolls.
7. Bread Flour
Bread flour is wheat flour commonly used in many baking recipes like bread and pizza crusts that you can also use to replace cake flour in some of your baking recipes. It's made from hard wheat instead of a soft type, so it has more protein than all-purpose flour and cake flour.
Still, you can add half or three-fourths of the amount required in your recipe to produce baked goods with a delicate texture instead of a dense one.
Best for quick breads, cupcakes, cakes, and scones.
Replacing Cake Flour Without Worries
With my list of substitutes for cake flour and tips, you surely won't scratch your head thinking about what to use in your favorite recipes. No longer will you need to think of another baked goodie to prepare for your guests or wait for another day or two, even a week, to try out that new recipe.
You Might Also Like:
Top Cake Flour Substitutes
Option 1: Best Cake Flour Substitute
- If your baking recipe calls for one cup of cake flour, replace it with one cup of self-rising flour. Make sure not to add baking powder to your batter mix.
Option 2: Best Gluten-Free Cake Flour Substitute
- For your gluten-free baking recipes requiring a cup of cake flour, replace it with a cup of cassava flour. Mix the ingredients and add a tablespoon or two of water if the dough seems too dry. Continue doing so until you have the right dough consistency.
Option 3: Best Substitute for Cake Flour When in a Pinch
- Prepare your DIY cake flour by placing a cup of all-purpose flour in your measuring cup and then removing two tablespoons. Then add two tablespoons of cornstarch. Add this homemade substitute to your recipe that needs a cup of cake flour.
You can find the video in the post above. If you don't see a video, please check your browser settings.