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. Hi Sally! Is there any creative way to sift without a sifter lol? I can’t find cake flour anywhere and I’m needing it for your vanilla 2 layer cake and yellow sheet cake for my youngest’s birthday this week. Also on an unrelated note I have to tell you your sugar cut outs have become a birthday tradition for my kids- they pick a theme and I order a special cookie cutter then the birthday kid’s siblings and I decorate the cut outs for birthday week. It’s fun for everyone. Wouldn’t be a bday without SBA! ♡

    1. Yes! I often use a fine mesh sieve. I link to the one I own in the section above called “Items You Need.”

  2. I have been to 3 different stores in the past few days and cannot find cake flour. Even King Arthur web site is out of stock. I usually use KA, but I am going to use your method. Amazon has it, but you have to buy 6 boxes and I do not need 6 boxes. Thank you for having this on your web site.

  3. Hello! Can pastry flour be substituted for all purpose flour in making this cake flour substitute?

  4. Hi Sally! So for your homemade strawberry cake, do I still use 2 and 1/2 cups of homemade cake flour substitute or do I use less?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lisa! Yes, for our strawberry cake recipe, use 2 and 1/2 cups of this cake flour substitute.

  5. Hi Sally! I only have bread flour, and I am supposed to make a german chocolate cake today. Can I displace the bread flour with more corn starch to get the result I need?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lizzy, Unfortunately no. Bread flour contains a higher level of protein. You need lighter all-purpose flour to make the DIY cake flour.

  6. Is this recommended for sponge cakes? Tried it but my cake deflated when I took it out of the oven

    1. Hi Mary, delicate cakes like sponge cakes would definitely benefit from using real cake flour. This cake flour substitute is great in a pinch for sturdier cakes. But it’s always best to use the real thing!

  7. What would be the difference between cake flour and pastry flour?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mercy, Cake flour has even less protein than pastry flour. This is a good article that you might find helpful: https://www.thekitchn.com/good-question-p-1-8151

  8. Would using substitute cake flour in your angel food cake recipe work well? Thanks in advance!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Natalie, For the angel food cake in a pinch you can use this cake flour substitute. But real cake flour is ideal.

  9. Thank you! This is very helpful, especially since I only need 1/2 cup of cake flour for a jelly roll cake.

  10. What do you recommend if I am using gluten free all purpose flour? It is a 1:1 ratio to regular flour. Would you still utilize the method you describe here for DIY gluten free cake flour?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lindsay, We haven’t tested making a gluten free cake flour substitute. If you try it, let us know how it goes!

  11. Hi Sally,
    Thanks for the tips you provided. I have a two part question. What is a good brand of pastry flour to use and can you combine cake and pastry flour in one recipe?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Latetia, We enjoy using King Arthur brand flours. Cake or pastry flour would depend on what your specific recipe calls for. They are similar but do have a different protein content. This is a good article on the difference if you are interested: https://www.thekitchn.com/good-question-p-1-8151

  12. Sally for the cake to have an even stronger vanilla flavor how much more extract do you recommend?
    I made the cake and it was delicious. My family truly loved it. I think I’ll make this for my birthday.

  13. I have my grandmothers shortbread cookie recipe and it calls for swans down flour which is not available where I live What can I use instead to get the same taste and texture that grandma got using swans down flour

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sharon, This is a good substitute for Swans Down Cake Flour!

  14. Pauline Christmas says:

    SALLY, CAN I MAKE MY OWN CAKE FLOUR USING THIS RECIPE AND STORE IT FOR WHEN I NEED IT? HOW LONG CAN IT BE STORED FOR? AND IS FREEZING IT ALRIGHT? HOW LONG CAN IT BE STORED IN FREEZER?

  15. This was a great article. I do wonder if the consistency of the cake will come out the same because on the ingredient list of store-bought cake flour it says that the flour is “finely milled” to get that light, airy texture.

    With combing all purpose flour and cornstarch it is only displacing a small portion of the all purpose flour. I have a cake that I make with cake flour and it comes out perfect with store-bought cake flour. It will be an interesting experiment to see if the outcome is different.

  16. Thank you for this post. I love having proven substitutions available. Because it’s so inconsistent a method, I hate measuring flour. Would you please consider publishing the gram weights in parenthesis alongside the volume measurements? Just for the critical flour part. Sugar – who cares? Since adapting all my recipes to gram weights from imperial measurements, especially for flours, recipe results have become more consistent. After years of weighing, I know that most flours fall within the range of 127 to 130 grams per cup. Gluten free flours are all over the map, depending on ingredient ratios. Being that rice flours are more dense and heavier than wheat flours. Thank you.

    If you reply, do so to my email address please.

  17. Samantha Koskey says:

    If I need 2 and 3/4 cup how would I go about doing the 3/4cup?

    Thank you

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Samantha, there is about 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch needed for every 1/4 of flour — so you’ll need 1.5 tablespoons of cornstarch for the 3/4 cup. Hope this helps!

  18. I have just seen you explain what Cornflour is in the UK. Can I just say that is incredibly helpful, I’ve spent so much time trying to figure out the difference between US and UK baking ingrediants.

  19. I made the lemon blueberry cake with cream cheese frosting. It was delicious, close to out of the oven. Hours later and the next day, I found it to be very dense. Thank you for your many suggestions. I will use cake flour, watch the moisture, and the amount of mixing. I used my fresh frozen blueberries. I find that the longer the blueberries are frozen, the more ice crystals that form. I tried to remove, because I knew the moisture would not be good.
    Thank you

  20. Hi Sally

    All I can find in the stores around here is Cake and Pastry flour combined.

    The smallest size bag is 2.5KG (about 5#) for $6 Cdn. Or would I be better off just making my own?

    Thanks

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Barb, pastry flour isn’t quite as light as cake flour. You can use it as a substitute in recipes calling for cake flour, but the baked good won’t taste quite as light.

  21. I’m using a recipe that has 2 3/4 cup of cake flour, how would I turn the 3/4 cup all purpose flour into cake flour?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Angela! To measure 2 3/4 cups, we would go through this process three times to make approximately 3 cups of cake flour substitute, then from that measure the 2 3/4 cups.

      1. Ok thank you!

  22. I used this for Sally’s red velvet cake and the cake is terrible. The texture is not normal and as if it was baked with cornstarch. Not worth it.

  23. Hello,

    I’m in the U.K. and can’t seem to find cake flour without raising agents, all I can find is self-rising sponge flour. Would you advise using this self-raising sponge flour but eliminate the baking powder and baking soda or use your cake flour substitute with all-purpose (aka plain) flour?

    Thanks

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jenifer! We would use the cake flour substitute instead of the self-raising. Our recipes would need further testing to use self-raising flour.

  24. Hi Sally could I substitute a different starch here (tapioca, potato)? I have a corn allergy.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Julie, we haven’t successfully tested that swap in many cake recipes. From my understanding and experience, cornstarch is the best choice. I recommend just purchasing cake flour if you can’t use the cornstarch.

  25. Can i use this for chiffon cake? Or would actual cake flour be better?

    1. Hi Allison, real cake flour would be better for a chiffon cake.

  26. Thank you. This helped me in a time crunch for my moms birthday! God bless you!

  27. It would seem simpler to put 2 Tbsp of cornstarch in a measuring cup, then fill the remainder with AP flour, lol.

    1. Absolutely. Both ways work of course!

  28. Just wondering, if I usually swap my all purpose flour for a gluten free 1 to 1 flour, would I make a “cake flour” just the same or is there no point in adding the cornflour for gluten free baking? thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Laura, We haven’t tested making a gluten free cake flour substitute. If you try it, let us know how it goes!

  29. Thanks Sally. This is great to know. I have been staying away from cake flour recipes — until now!

  30. Which brand of cake flour do you use?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Maria, we like using Swans Down and Softasilk cake flours (not working together — just genuine fans!)

      1. Lisa RoBago says:

        Can you help me understand what you mean by not working together? I just don’t know what it refers to.

      2. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        It just means we’re not being paid by either company to promote their products 🙂

      3. Lisa RoBago says:

        Thanks for the clarification.

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