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, I’ve started weighing out my flour when I bake cakes. If I were to substitute this for cake flour in one of your recipes, would the substitution be by cups or by weight? Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sam, The difference in weight between the two is negligible – measuring by weight will always be the most accurate!

      1. Hi, I also have this question. I’m planning to bake your Strawberry Cake recipe and was going to use this cake flour substitute as I don’t have access to cake flour where I live. That recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups (285g) of cake flour. Here your recipe seems to suggest that 1 cup of this cake flour substitute weighs 125g, so 2 and 1/2 cups would weigh 313g! So should I 2.5x the quantities here for that cake, or instead weigh out enough to have only 285g of cake flour? Thanks!

      2. Hi Evie, I do suggest using real cake flour for that recipe if you can find it anywhere. If not, it would be best to use the weight measurement.

      3. I didn’t have any luck finding cake flour (not sure they sell it in my country) but I substituted for weight in the strawberry cake, using 250g all-purpose flour and 35g cornstarch, and it turned out fantastic! The cake was really soft and light – I’ll definitely use this cake flour substitute again. Thank you for all the helpful tips, Sally!

  2. Betty Breeden says:

    If I use cornstarch (2 tbsp) to make my own cake flour, do I still add the 2-3/4 tsp baking powder called for in the recipe for cupcakes?

    1. YES! Cornstarch does not have leavening(rising) properties

  3. Hi, what should I do if the recipe says to use cake flour plus cornstarch. Do I just not put the cornstarch since there is cornstarch already in the cake flour??

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shahid. It’s hard to say for sure without seeing the actual recipe, but it does sound like the recipe is calling for extra cornstarch beyond what is in the flour, so you should add it.

  4. Thank you for a very well prepared article. It was a pleasure to read it even with my poor English skills.
    In Poland, we have a different division of flours. Now I know how to adapt the American recipe to Polish “conditions”.
    🙂

  5. I want to make a coconut cake it has a lot of wet ingredients like coconut milk coconut cream coconut extract eggs should I stick with all purpose flour thanks

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rom, We do use cake flour for our coconut cake!

      1. Thanks this recipes is pretty ambitious It has me a little intimidated but I’m gonna give it a go go big or go home

  6. Thank you!!! I used it to make Japanese Cheese cake it came out good~

  7. Is there a ratio suggested if you only have high protein/bread flour available?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

  8. STEPHANIE M says:

    Not good. Turned my (should be) award winning pound cake into sweet cornbread. Ruined two cakes I’m making as a fundraiser so kick myself for investing in the ingredients. Was trying to cut costs so more of the money made could go to the family. Now I have to spend more

    1. Stephanie M. Cake flour should be used for only light cakes and not all cakes as per Sally’s blog. A pound cake is too heavy for cake flour. Every recipe I’ve ever seen for pound cake calls for all purpose flour. I’ve successfully used this cake flour substitute whenever a recipe calls for cake flour.

    2. Corn starch does not taste like corn at all. Are you sure you didn’t accidentally use cornmeal instead?

    3. Sounds as if you used cornmeal, not cornstarch. Cornstarch is similar in texture to baby powder/dusting powder. You would not get a cornbread-like texture or taste from ANY amount of cornstarch in a recipe, let alone the small amount needed to make DIY cake flour.

  9. If I used this, or actual cake flour, to make scones, would they be less crumbly. I’m hoping for scones that will hold together well enough to use them in a breakfast sandwich instead of a biscuit. If not, would an egg or more butter do the trick??? Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Cake flour (or this substitute) will actually make your scones more delicate, the opposite of what you’re trying for! All purpose flour is best for a sturdy scone. We love the texture of a flaky scone, but let us know if you do any experimenting for a more hearty texture. We would love to hear how it goes.

  10. This recipe turned out perfect! I added almond extract & vanilla and it was the best pound cake I ever had. The texture & consistency of the cake was perfectly moist & smooth without being crumbly. Thank you for this recipe! I will be making it often!

  11. I live in Australia and we don’t have cake flour or corn starch here. We do have self raising (which has baking powder already added) and plain flour and also corn flour which is like a very fine flour. Do you have any idea if this is the same as your corn starch. I thought perhaps you may have visited Australia and might know.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Bev! Corn starch and cornflour are similar, but there are some differences between the two. We haven’t tested this DIY cake flour with corn flour, so we can’t say what the results would be. Unfortunately, self-raising flour is not the came as cake flour either. Perhaps you can try searching online to see if other Australian bakers have tried different DIY cake flour combinations? We’d love to know if you find one that works well!

    2. Alistair Thomson says:

      Hi Bev
      I’m in Australia too and have used cornflour instead of corn starch to make cake flour. Here’s an interesting Australian article about it.
      https://www.newidea.com.au/what-is-cake-flour-in-australia
      Hope this helps!

  12. Hi Sally,
    Can I make this cake flour in advance and store it in a zip lock bag for later use?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sarah, we don’t recommend making this homemade cake flour in advance. It will compress and lose the important light and airy texture.

  13. Would this flour work for cake recipes that use all purpose flour?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tahira! If a recipe calls for all-purpose flour, no need to use this substitute — you can just use the all-purpose flour. You only need to use this substitute if cake recipe calls for cake flour.

  14. Debbie l Patchey says:

    Hi Sally… I made your coconut cake for Fathers Day, which was divine !! Last week I made your yellow cupcakes with your buttercream chocolate frosting. The frosting was delicious but the cupcakes seems dense. I will be making approximately 50 cupcakes for a bridal shower in August. The bride wants cupcakes. I am in search of a moist cupcake from your recipes. What would you recommend? She likes vanilla and chocolate.

    Thanks, Debbie

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Debbie! These super moist chocolate cupcakes are a reader favorite as well as these simply perfect vanilla cupcakes. Here’s some tips to prevent dry/dense cakes or cupcakes that may be helpful for you as well. Happy baking!

  15. Mary Fraher says:

    Hi so I’m gonna try your vanilla cupcake recipe it asks for 1 and 3/4 cake flour. I have all purpose and cornflour. How much flour do I take out and replace with cornflour? Would it be 3 tablespoons?

  16. Hi Sally!! How do I do this for 3/4 cup flour? I’m trying to make my birthday cake for tomorrow. Thanks!!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Olive, we recommend making the cake flour as written, then measuring 3/4 cup from the final mixture. You can save any leftovers for future use. Happy birthday!

  17. HI Sally! I can’t have any corn, so I usually use tapioca flour as a straight replacement in my cooking and baking. I would love to try this cake flour substitute… Do you think tapioca flour will work well for cake flour in your One Layer Strawberry Shortcake cake recipe?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Heather! We haven’t tested this cake flour (or any of our cakes) with tapioca flour, but please let us know if you give it a try!

  18. Hi. I’m making a cake and it calls for 3 1/4 cups of cake flour. How much corn starch and flour should I use? Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jeannine, we’d recommend following the recipe four times to yield four cups of homemade cake flour substitute. Then, remove 3/4 cup to get you your 3 1/4 cups. You can save the excess flour for next time.

  19. Is there a shelf life for this cake flour ? I’m trying to make some Japanese pancakes but I Don’t need that much cake flour.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Andrea, we’re unsure of the full shelf life, but you can save the leftovers for the next recipe you’ll need cake flour for!

  20. I use an Italian 00 9% protein flour for all my baking and cooking. Read somewhere recently where European 00 flour was like a pastry flour but can be used for anything (including pizza, bread) and was also very similar to cake flour in texture. One cup of this 00 flour equals 120 grams which I think may be the same as regular flour. I’m gluten free and this is the only flour I can use that causes no reactions. Also not grown or harvested with Glyphosate. Are you familiar with this information?

  21. Noinaa Phifer says:

    Hi Sally. Thank you for the good tips. Can I use tapioca flour instead of corn flour when I make cake flour?
    Thank you.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We haven’t tested that, but please let us know if you do!

  22. Hi Sally,
    Since you stated that you used this cake flour substitute in your ref velvet cake, I decided to try it in mine
    My red velvet cake was dense

  23. Hi Sally,

    Whew weeeeeeee!!!! Just in time, I’m making emergency donuts and I needed cake flour desperately. You see, my car battery died hence the need for emergency comfort food.

    I saw your note about the canisters and I have 5 of them. I especially love the one for powdered sugar with the built in sifter. My only complaint is the plastic hinges have broken twice. However the latches still work and I handle them with care.

    I wish you well,
    Lynn

  24. Thanks, Sally! I chuckled when I saw the strainer used as a sifter. I thought I was the only one who uses this “hack!” I made your pistachio cake with cream cheese frosting last night for a friend’s birthday and added whole pistachios with some fresh flowers (including nasturtium) from my garden as a beautiful garnish in one corner. I made it in a 9×13 pan, cut it in half and made a two-tier cake. (It was a tad lopsided), but was a real crowd-pleaser 🙂

  25. Can I sub arrowroot for cornstarch

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Janett, We haven’t tried it but it should work. Happy baking!

  26. Hi Sally
    I made an almond cake using ‘self raising flour’ and a small amount of almond flour in the UK…it was nice but ..to make it lighter….could I replace any of my recipe with your homemade cake flour?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Simona, it’s hard to say exactly how that would turn out but you could certainly give it a try!

  27. BakersAddiction says:

    Hey guys! Here’s to make it easier for some: just weigh 234 grams flour, then zero out the scale and measure 36 grams corn starch, sift twice.

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