You only need two common ingredients– all-purpose flour and cornstarch– to make a homemade cake flour substitute. Sifting them together is key.
As my baking experience grows, I use cake flour more and more in my baking. There’s no denying that cake flour produces the softest, most tender cakes and cupcakes. I try to keep my kitchen stocked with this crucial ingredient, but sometimes I quickly run out when I’m recipe testing. So in a pinch, I make this super easy cake flour substitute.
Let’s back up for a minute though.
What is Cake Flour?
Cake flour is a low protein flour that’s milled into a fine consistency. It contains about 7-9% protein, while all-purpose flour, a harder flour, has anywhere between 10-12%. What does this mean for baking? You see, protein content is directly related to gluten formation. Cake flour’s lower protein means less gluten is formed as you mix the batter together. Less gluten formation equates to a softer, fluffier texture.
Bread flour has a high protein content, which means more gluten forms during the mixing process. Super basic breakdown:
- Cake flour = low protein = less gluten = softest texture = great for vanilla cake and vanilla cupcakes
- All-purpose flour = medium protein = moderate gluten = suitable for anything, from chocolate chip cookies to pizza dough
- Bread flour = high protein = more gluten formation = hardest texture = great for artisan bread and bagels
What Does That Mean for Baking?
Cake flour’s soft, tender texture directly translates into your baked good.
However, some recipes simply can’t withstand fine cake flour. Chocolate cake, for example, already has cocoa powder– which is a VERY fine dry ingredient. The combination of cake flour and cocoa powder usually results in a flimsy cake. Additionally, carrot cake and banana cake contain additional wet ingredients (the fruits or veggies), so cake flour isn’t really ideal. You need a stronger flour like all-purpose flour.
I stick to cake flour when making vanilla cake, white cake, pineapple upside-down cake, red velvet cake, and other cakes where a fluffy texture is favorable. I’ve been successful substituting cake flour for all-purpose flour to create a softer funfetti cake. Make a 1:1 substitution with no other changes to the recipe.
How to Make a Homemade Cake Flour Substitute
Step 1: Sift 14 Tablespoons (110g) all-purpose flour and 2 Tablespoons (16g) cornstarch together two times.
Step 2: Measure (spoon & level) 1 cup from this mixture. You’ll have about 1 cup anyway, but sometimes sifting can produce more volume since it’s adding air.
Step 3: Now you have 1 cup of cake flour that you can use in most recipes requiring cake flour. If the recipe requires more than 1 cup cake flour, you can do this process in bulk, but I find it’s better to make each cup of cake flour separately.
Note that delicate baked goods meant to have an extraordinary light texture like angel food cake and white cake should ideally use real cake flour. If you’re in a pinch and don’t have cake flour for other recipes, use this substitute!
Items You Need
- All-Purpose Flour
- Sifter/fine mesh sieve
PS: Here’s the flour canister pictured above. I use these for my flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and confectioners’ sugar. They’re awesome!
If you’re purchasing cake flour, though, I’m happy to share my favorite brands. I love Swans Down and Softasilk. (Not working with either, just a genuine fan!) I use unbleached when I can find it, otherwise I just stick with bleached. Both brands provide quality results for a good price. You can find cake flour in the baking aisle next to the all-purpose flour.
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Homemade Cake Flour Substitute
- Prep Time: 2 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 2 minutes
- Yield: 1 cup
- Category: Baking
- Method: Mixing
- Cuisine: American
You only need two common ingredients– all-purpose flour and cornstarch– to make a homemade cake flour substitute. Sifting them together is key. Delicate baked goods meant to have an extraordinary light texture like angel food cake and white cake should ideally use real cake flour. If you’re in a pinch and don’t have cake flour for other recipes, use this substitute.
- 14 Tablespoons (110g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)*
- 2 Tablespoons (16g) cornstarch
- Sift flour and cornstarch together in a large bowl. Repeat so the mixture is sifted twice. Sifting not only mixes the two ingredients together appropriately, it aerates the mixture so the consistency is similar to real cake flour.
- Measure (spoon & level) 1 cup from this mixture. You’ll have about 1 cup anyway, but sometimes sifting can produce more volume since it’s adding air.
- Now you have 1 cup of cake flour that you can use in any recipes requiring cake flour. If the recipe requires more than 1 cup cake flour, you can do this process in bulk, but I find it’s better to make each cup of cake flour separately.
- You need 14 Tablespoons (3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons; 110g) of spoon & leveled all-purpose flour. Sometimes it’s easier to measure 1 cup (16 Tablespoons) then remove 2 Tablespoons than to individually measure 14 Tablespoons. Alternatively, you could measure 3/4 cup flour then add 2 Tablespoons.
- Cornstarch is extra fine and lowers the gluten formation in the all-purpose flour, similar to cake flour. In the UK, cornstarch is referred to as corn flour. Make sure you are not using cornmeal. They are completely different ingredients.
Keywords: cake flour
Reader Comments & Reviews
Thank you! For those of us eating gluten free, it’s nice to be able to make a cake flour. I haven’t found a gluten free cake flour to purchase. This is great! I use a lot of your recipes with gluten free flour!
This recipe saved me thanks so much!
Thank you for this explanation on the differences between flours! For layer cakes (3 layers) decorated with fondant, do you recommend cake flour or AP flour? Thank you!
Hi Angie! It really depends on the specific recipe. For example, we don’t use cake flour in chocolate cake, since it is already such a light cake with the cocoa powder. We also don’t use cake flour in recipes like carrot cake, which are much heavier and need the “support” of all-purpose flour. It’s best to use the specific type of flour called for in the recipe. Hope this helps!
Hi Sally! I LOVE your strawberry cake recipe and have made it maybe 10 times in the last handful of years. I use your cake flour recipe. This February I need to make the strawberry cake gluten free. I am wondering, how can I convert this cake flour recipe to a gluten free cake flour recipe. I have plenty of all purpose gluten free flour on hand!
Hi Medina, We’re so glad you love this recipe! We haven’t tested making a gluten free cake flour substitute. If you try it, let us know how it goes!
I started using weight (grams) instead of volume and it is so much more accurate. Also the bread turns out the same each time I make it. This really takes the guessing out of how much ingredient I have.
I make a lot of bread but I also make a few cakes and I have the same results.
Can I use this method with cornstarch for gluten free flour? I’m gluten sensitive and would really like to make these cookies.
Thanks so much!
Hi Laura, We haven’t tested making a gluten free cake flour substitute. If you try it, let us know how it goes!
Hi Laura, I just asked a similar question and I am wondering how it went for you!
I am allergic to corn is there anything I can substitute for the cornstarch?
Hi Julie, we haven’t tested it, but arrowroot powder should work. Let us know if you give it a try!
Julie we have children & grandchildren who, like you, are allergic to corn. We found potato starch & tapioca starch work well for many recipes. Good luck!
Hey! In my home we only ever have bread flour on hand. (Idk why, we use it for everything and it always seems fine.) Recently I’ve been wondering if it’s possible to substitute that into cake flour? By adding more cornstarch perhaps? Thanks in advance.
Hi Rey! Unfortunately no. Bread flour contains a higher level of protein. You need lighter all-purpose flour to make the DIY cake flour.
Can i use this for your red velvet cake
Hi Shamseah, yes, you can use this cake flour substitute for red velvet cake.
Hi there, do you need to add baking powder to this substitute to make it rise? not sure if we have the snowflake flour here in New Zealand.? thanks.
Hi Sue, we do not recommend adding baking powder to this cake substitute. It’s best to add the leavening agents separately based on what is called for in a particular recipe.
Hi! When you say “ purpose flour”is it the unbleached or bleached one? Is there a difference in taste ? Thanks.
Hi Mela, we prefer to used unbleached all-purpose flour when possible, but either will work just fine.
I like the idea for the substitution, would arrowroot work just as well in place of cornstarch?
Hi Kathryn, We haven’t tried it but it should work. Happy baking!
Should pound cakes be made with bleached , unbleached or cake flour
You can also use tapioca starch instead of arrowroot or cornstarch. I’ve tried all three and they work fine. I prefer the tapioca starch myself, but all three have basically the same results.
Good morning, is there a difference between cake flour and cake and pastry flour?
Hi Yvette, pastry flour has a slightly higher protein percentage than cake flour, so a combination of the two would produce a flour with a higher protein percentage than pure cake flour. For recipes that call for cake flour, it is best to use pure cake flour if possible.
I don’t think cake flour even exists in New Zealand but I’d love to make your strawberry cake the way it was intended. I’ll give this method a try!
Thanks for the homemade cake flour recipe, my banana bread/cake turned out perfect, there’s only 3 of us adults in the house, but the banana bread was gone by noon, w/ a pot of coffee, and I made the banana bread at 7am!!
I was wondering what your thoughts are on King Arthur’s unbleached/unenriched cake flour? Thanks!
Hi Nav, I use that often these days because it’s more and more available in stores. I really like it!