Homemade 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.

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

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.

vanilla sheet cake

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

homemade cake flour substitute in fine mesh sieve

homemade cake flour substitute

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

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

168 Comments

  1. This is so helpful! Thanks Sally!

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

  2. I only have best for bread flour and live too far away from town to justify a trip for one thing. Is there any way to adjust bread flour so it behaves like all purpose? Then, perhaps, I could make another adjustment to make the all purpose into cake flour. Thank you.

  3. We mill our grain… When using soft white wheat, do I still need to use the corn starch, or is soft white suitable as cake flour?

  4. 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.

    1. Hi Katherine! No, for best results in this substitution, I recommend sticking with cornstarch.

  5. 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 🙂

  6. Hi Sally,
    I need to cake flour so what using unbleached all purpose flour or all purpose flour for vanilla Cupcakes, Please let me know

    Thanks

    1. You can use either– I usually use unbleached.

      1. thank a lot

  7. Rodney Chapman says:

    Hi Sally…concerning the flour…I have a chocolate chip cookie recipe that calls for 2 cups of all-purpose flour but I’d really like to make these cookies real soft. Would it make much difference in the softness of these cookies if I use 1 cup all-purpose flour and the other the cup of all-purpose flour reduced by the 2 tablespoons as you suggest and replaced with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch?

    1. Hi Rodney, I add corn starch to many of my cookie recipes to keep them extra soft! Without knowing what recipe you are using I can’t recommend an exact amount. But as an example you can see how I add it in my Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

  8. Hi Sally, I live in Australia and the only cake flour I can find is the lighthouse brand. I have used it once on your champagne cake rolls and the result was eggy, I don’t know whether it was the brand or not..Do you have any info on this brand? If not, all good
    Btw, love your recipes

    Reza x

    1. Hi Reza, Unfortunately I’m not familiar with that brand. Instead of purchasing it can you use all-purpose (I believe it’s just call plain in Australia) and cornstarch to make your own as described here?

      1. Okay, thats fine thanks!

        Reza x

  9. You state to use AP flour when making a chocolate cake because it has cocoa in it and then say use cake flour when making a Red Velvet cake which also has cocoa in it. Which is correct? Sorry I am confused but your advice contradicts itself.

    1. Hi Susan! There is much less cocoa powder in red velvet cake than chocolate cake (in my recipes, at least). More cocoa powder lightens the batter, so it’s best to stick with AP flour in chocolate cake since the cocoa powder is so light.

  10. Quin renner says:

    Hi Sally!
    So excited to make my own cake flour so I don’t have to buy some for one recipe. I’m hoping to make an angel food cake from scratch but your angel food cale recipe requires 1 cup and 2 tbsp of cake flour. Any recommendations there?

    Thank you!
    Quin

    1. Hi Quinn, You can make two cups and save the leftover for your next recipe!

  11. Theresa Munn says:

    For the Cream Cheese Pound Cake recipe I have Philadelphia brand Cream Cheese Spread. How can I use this instead of the 8 ounce full fat cream cheese? I expect the regular all purpose flour would make up for the extra liquid I believe the spread would
    create. Can you help me with this problem?
    Theresa

  12. Hey! is corn starch and corn flour the same thing? If not, can I use corn flour?

    1. Yes! They can be used interchangeably.

  13. I would like to use King Arthur Gluten free flour. Should I still mix it with cornstarch?

    1. Hi Cara! I don’t have much experience making a cake flour substitute with GF flours, but I would assume yes.

  14. 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?

  15. Wouldn’t it be easier to put 2 tbsp of cornstarch into a 1 c measuring cup and then spooning the flour on top of it to fill the rest of the cup?

    1. Same result, different way of getting to it! Absolutely.

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

    1. Yes, that’s best.

  17. Lori A Fewster says:

    Would other flours or starches work the same way? I have food allergies in my home with some so I don’t bake with regular flour or corn starch. If the shifting cuts down on the gluten, I could probably use it but can tapioca or potato starch be substituted?

    1. Hi Lori, I have not successfully used a flour other than all purpose to make a suitable cake flour substitute. Let me know if you try one!

  18. Hi Sally,
    I’m having a hard time finding flour right now, but I do happen to have pastry flour. Would that work as a cake flour substitute for a vanilla cake since it is also lower in protein?

    1. Hi Ellen, 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.

  19. Joanne Miley says:

    Recently, I’ve been trying a variety of Irish soda bread recipes; none as good as store bought Katie Reilly’s so far in my opinion, and in doing so I came across a recipe that suggests using cake flour. I’m wondering if perhaps this is the secret incredient to KR’s bread? I’ve been tryiing to duplicate that specific recipe but the package mix doesn’t give you ratio increments of the dry ingredients and there a jillion recipes online for Irish Soda bread. So before my “waist” line expands anymore, and before I waste my time and $ on yet another disappointing recipe, can you tell me if using cake flour in this type of bread will make a difference?

    1. Hi Joanne! I don’t recommend cake flour in a soda bread recipe– it’s too light. Though maybe others have had success based on the ratio of other ingredients. Let me know if you test anything with my recipes!

      1. Joanne Miley says:

        Thank you! I thought the same thing but I haven’t been satisfied with the texture of my breads thus far; too crumbly! I have used some of your recipes in the past and do enjoy them:)

  20. 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!

      1. So I can use the same ratio for 1/4 cup as 1 cup?

  21. 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!

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

  24. 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!

  25. Hannah Riels says:

    Thanks Sally! During this quarantine, my local grocery store is all out of flour of any kind. I gave this cake flour recipe a try on your red velvet cake and it worked perfectly! The cake turned out light, moist, and delicious. Great replacement!

  26. 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!

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. Mary Strauss says:

    My recipe for pound cake calls for 3 cups flour. I’m going to use your substitution method because I don’t have cake flour. If I sift the flour and volume is larger, do I use the entire amount or just take the three cups and leave the rest?

    1. Hi Mary, sift the measured all-purpose flour and cornstarch together twice. From that, measure 1 cup. Do that 3x so you have 3 cups. Sorry if I’m misunderstanding your question!

  30. If I only have bread flour in hand, would a similar method work to get me to all purpose?!

    1. It wouldn’t. Bread flour contains a higher level of protein. You need lighter all-purpose flour to make the DIY cake flour.

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