Cake Flour Substitute

You only need two common ingredients– all-purpose flour and cornstarch– to make a homemade cake flour substitute. Sifting them together is key. Use this mixture whenever a recipe calls for cake flour.

ingredients for homemade cake flour substitute

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:

  1. Cake flour = low protein = less gluten = softest texture = great for vanilla cake
  2. All-purpose flour = medium protein = moderate gluten = suitable for anything
  3. Bread flour = high protein = more gluten formation = hardest texture = great for bread

Vanilla cake batter in a glass bowl

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.

slice of vanilla sheet cake on a pink plate

How to Make a Homemade Cake Flour Substitute

Step 1: Measure 1 cup all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons.

Step 2: Measure 2 Tablespoons cornstarch. Add to the flour. Cornstarch contains less gluten than flour, so it’s a wonderful tenderizing ingredient to help make cake flour.

Step 3: Sift together TWICE. Basically, sift into a mixing bowl once. Then run it through the sifter one more time. Sifting not only mixes the two ingredients together appropriately, it aerates the mixture so the consistency is similar to real cake flour.

Step 4: Measure 1 cup from this mixture. You’ll have about 1 cup anyway, but sometimes sifting can produce more volume since it’s adding air.

homemade cake flour substitute ingredients

homemade cake flour substitute in fine mesh sieve

homemade cake flour substitute in glass bowl

Items You Need

PS: Here’s the flour canister pictured above. I use these for my flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and confectioners’ sugar. They’re awesome!

homemade cake flour substitute in measuring cup

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 in glass bowl

Homemade Cake Flour Substitute

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup
  • Category: Baking
  • Method: Mixing
  • Cuisine: American

Description

You only need two common ingredients– all-purpose flour and cornstarch– to make a homemade cake flour substitute. Sifting them together is key. Use this mixture whenever a recipe calls for cake flour.


Ingredients

  • 1 cup (125g; 16 Tablespoons) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)*
  • 2 Tablespoons (16g) cornstarch

Instructions

  1. Start with 1 cup all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons (16g) so you have 14 Tablespoons total. (Use the 2 Tablespoons you removed another time. Just put it back in the flour bag/canister!)
  2. Add cornstarch to the 14 Tablespoons of flour.
  3. Sift together TWICE. Basically, sift into a mixing bowl. Then run it through the sifter one more time. Sifting not only mixes the two ingredients together appropriately, it aerates the mixture so the consistency is similar to real cake flour.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Notes

  1. Basically you need 14 Tablespoons (3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons; 109g) 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.
  2. 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

149 Comments

  1. Thank you for this wonderful tip Sally! Cake flour does create the softest texture! I was wondering if you could post a recipe for Homemade Caramel Cake in the next month or so with all your tips and tricks! I would love to make homemade caramel cake for my 25th birthday October 8th! It’s my favorite cake as well as butter pecan pound cake with homemade cream cheese icing! My great aunt always makes the homemade caramel cake and I would love to surprise them with the one I make! Also, my mom and I make your homemade caramel sauce for ice cream and cheese cake all the time! We actually have some in the fridge now Thank you in advance and let me know what you think about the homemade caramel cake!

  2. I always follows your recipe note instructions for making DIY cake flour in my recipes because storebought cake flour is so expensive. It always works out perfectly for me! 🙂

  3. Thanks Sally. It’s good to know I can sub cake flour for all purpose in certain recipes. I’ve got a box of cake flour and want to start using it.

  4. Here in Germany we don’t have cake flour. In all German rezepes that need that special texture flour (all purpose) and starch (traditionally made from potatoes) are both in the ingredient list. I once learned from a miller that I should use the cheapest flour for fine cakes because of the low protein content .
    Thanks to you I now know the ratio of the two ingredients for all the American recipes.
    Greetings from sunny Munich
    Christine

  5. I made a cake for my husband using this flour/cornstarch combo and he said the cake was just awesome! he loved the texture. He likes fluffy cakes and I’m a dense brownie person.

    1. I’m so happy this DIY cake flour worked for you! Thrilled it resulted in a fluffy cake 🙂

  6. Hi Sally. Little question. I absolutely love you measuring cup. Would you happen to remember where I can purchase them? Also, when I get ready to bake, I always go to you blog. Your a great teacher. I live way out in country, not near any stores. I cannot drive because of my vision, I see fine but can’t pass dmv eye tests. Anyway, this cake flour recipe helps me out. Instead of waiting till I get to a store. Can I use this recipe all the time when a recipe calls for cake flour? If so, why buy cake flour anymore? Your awesome, again, I just made your cookie recipe, salted vanilla, toffee.

  7. Michelle Botticelli says:

    Hi Sally I’m a Newby gluten free , soy free, dairy free and nut free baker , and just love your recipes and thorough explainations. I was wondering if I double sifted gluten free cake flour which has no gluten if I would get the same consistency as homemade cake flour? Ps: I made your Apple Cider Donuts with Gf flour and they were Amazing.

    1. Hi Michelle! The consistency would be similar, yes, but gluten free flours will never been 100% identical to regular flour. I hope this helps!

  8. Hello Sally
    Can you make the cake flour in advance and store until needed?

    1. Sure can! Nice to have it prepared and on-hand.

  9. They turned out so yummy! The cake is wonderful on its own with a little butter for a morning treat. Will definitely make again!

  10. The substitute worked perfectly! I had never used cake flour/cake flour substitute before, but I used it to make your Coconut Cake and it was lighter and fluffier than any cake I’ve had before…thank you Sally!!!

  11. Why not just put the 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in a 1 cup measure, spoon in the flour, level off and the proceed with the sifting.

    1. Hi Marci! You can definitely do it that way too! Essentially you want 14 Tbsp of all-purpose flour and 2 Tbsp cornstarch. Then sift them together.

  12. NANCY ANNE MARTIN says:

    Perfectly explained! You saved my Tomato Soup Cake. Thank you!

  13. This is so helpful! Thanks Sally!

    1. In Australia, corn starch is the same as corn flour.

  14. Thank you!!! This is what I’m looking for. I’m surely making this. By the way, can I use rice flour instead of corn starch? Thanks again.

  15. This a great tip to make cake flour. Do you have to purchase cake flour instead of making it, with this recipe. Is there some other ingredient in the store bought brands? I would think this recipe should be cheaper to use.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Dotti, yes using this recipe in place of store bought cake flour should be less expensive 🙂

  16. hi , if i need 3 cups of cake flour , does that mean i must add 3 cups of all purpose flour , remove 6 tablespoon of all purpose flour and add 6 tablespoon of cornstarch?

  17. Do I store this flour in an airtight container?

    1. Yes, that’s best.

  18. Hi! I have a recipe that calls for 1/4 cup of cake flour. Do you recommend me making 1 cup of this recipe and then pulling out 1/4 cup or are there measurements I can use to just make 1/4 cup of cake flour? I really don’t want to make more than 1/4 cup because I doubt that I’ll use this recipe again for a while.

    1. Whichever is easiest for you!

  19. Making my husband a 60th birthday cake, but in the time of a pandemic–no cake flour! I am lucky to just have flour. Thank you so much!

  20. Like everyone, baking more and more. Is there a guide for when to use all
    Purpose flour versus bread flour? I made the most amazing bagels this morning using Sally’s recipe. Would bread flour be better for pizza dough?

    1. Bread flour creates a chewier dough/bread, so you can usually use it in yeasted bread recipes. Use it as a 1:1 substitution for all-purpose flour.

  21. What about the other way around? My red velvet cake recipe calls for all purpose flour but for the first time ever I only have cake flour on hand, of course. You mentioned cake flour doesn’t combine well with cocoa powder and the red velvet cake does have cocoa powder in it but only 2 tablespoons. Do you think a 1:1 substitution of cake flour for all purpose would work in this situation?

    1. Hi Breanne, I’m unsure of what recipe you are using but my Red Velvet Cake uses cake flour!

  22. Hi Sally! If I have left over cake flour made by this method, and I save it for another time, do I need to sift it again, or will it be good to go right away?

    I’ve been having a lot of fun making several of your cupcake recipes! I just made your confetti sprinkle cupcakes (which unfortunately I don’t think turned out that well – my daughter turns 6 months tomorrow, so my husband and I will test them then!), and so it’s the first time I’ve ever used cake flour, let alone made my own!!

    1. I would re-sift it, yes! It’s always best to use pure cake flour in cakes if the recipe calls for it, but this is a nice substitution if you’re in a pinch!

  23. I can not find cake flour here in Italy so this helped tremendously for your yellow birthday cupcakes!. They came out fluffy and not too dense- just right. I’ll definitely use this recipe again for future baking. Thank you!

  24. Thank you Sally! This pandemic put a crimp on my style for a friends birthday cake I wanted to make. 4 different stores and no cake flour in sight! Now I can whip up my own and make her a beautiful strawberry cake (from your recipes of course!) to drop off and hopefully brighten her day.

  25. Have you used this substitution in any of your recipes? Do they turn out the same way, or is there a tradeoff that you’ve noticed?

    Thanks in advance for the reply!!

    1. It’s best to use real cake flour in recipes that call for it because you truly get that lighter texture and cakier flavor, but you can use this substitution if you’re in a pinch. The results are pretty close.

  26. When baking for coworkers I use King Arthur’s gluten free 1:1 flour. I’d like to use that when making cake flour, since it’s already gluten free think I should add less corn starch?

    1. Hi Amber, I haven’t tested this recipe with gluten free flour but let me know if you try it!

  27. Brittany W. says:

    Hi Sally – can I use this technique to make this homemade cake flour a day in advance before using it to bake?

    1. Yes you can, Brittany!

  28. Wow! This is very helpful since every baking ingredients have been out of stock. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.

  29. Kathy Shumate says:

    Hello Sally,

    I’m trying to make my jewish apple cake less dense, can I use cake flour instead?

    Kind Regards
    Kathy S

    1. Hi Kathy, It’s difficult to say without knowing your recipe but you can give it a try. I do use all purpose flour in my Glazed Apple Bundt Cake. You might also find my post on How to Prevent a Dry or Dense Cake helpful.

  30. Never knew the difference between flours so I really appreciate it! This is great info – thank you:)
    b.b.

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