Sifting Through Options: The 7 Best Cake Flour Substitutes 

 Last Update January 25, 2024

By Jenny Zhang

Home / Guides / Sifting Through Options: The 7 Best Cake Flour Substitutes

When it comes to baking, cake flour holds a revered spot in the pantry of any connoisseur of the oven's arts. Known for its fine, silky texture and lower protein content, cake flour is the secret behind the tender crumb of your favorite sponge and chiffon cakes. But what happens when the recipe calls for cake flour and this key player is missing from your pantry shelves? In the world of baking, adaptability is as crucial as precision.

In this post, we will share the best cake flour substitutes, and each alternative brings its own charm to the table, transforming your baking journey with a flick of the whisk. Whether it's the ubiquitous all-purpose flour, the health-conscious whole wheat, or the adventurous almond flour, there’s a substitute for every baker's need.

What Is Cake Flour

Cake flour, some called cake and pastry flour, is finely milled flour. It is also a low-protein flour, typically containing around 7-9% protein, finely milled from soft wheat. This low protein content means less gluten formation, perfect for creating cakes with a fine, tender crumb and a light, airy texture. It's fine granules absorb more liquid and rise more effectively, enhancing the delicate structure of baked goods. Often bleached, cake flour undergoes a process that alters the protein structure, further softening the flour. This characteristic makes it the flour of choice for delicate cakes and pastries with a desired soft, fine texture.

cake flour substitutes

All-Purpose Flour

All-Purpose Flour

All-purpose flour is a highly versatile and readily available cake flour substitute, especially when the latter is not on hand. This substitute all-purpose flour is adaptable in many baking recipes, making it a go-to option for many bakers. Its ability to step in for cake flour ensures that baking endeavors can continue seamlessly, even without this specialized ingredient.

When using all-purpose flour as a substitute for cake flour, a general guideline is to replace each cup of cake flour with one cup of all-purpose flour minus two tablespoons, which should then be replaced with two tablespoons of cornstarch (or arrowroot powder if cornstarch is not available). This DIY cake flour blend aids in replicating the reduced protein content and finer texture characteristic of cake flour. Sifting them together ensures a uniform mixture.

All-purpose flour is particularly effective in recipes where a slightly denser, yet still tender, texture is acceptable. It's a great alternative for cakes, cupcakes, and even some delicate pastries. The key is to not overmix the batter, as all-purpose flour develops gluten more readily. All-purpose flour is an excellent choice for bakers seeking a straightforward, no-fuss substitute without compromising too much on the texture and quality of their baked goods.

Pastry Flour

Pastry Flour

Pastry flour is an exceptional substitute for cake flour, particularly suited for recipes requiring a delicate yet structured texture. It strikes a balance between all-purpose and cake flour with its moderate protein content, offering a tender crumb without being overly delicate.

When substituting pastry flour for cake flour, use a one-to-one ratio, as their textures and densities are quite similar. This makes pastry flour ideal for recipes like muffins, scones, and tender cakes, where a fine, soft texture is desired, but a slightly more robust structure is beneficial.

Pastry flour's unique property lies in its ability to create baked goods that are lighter than those made with all-purpose flour yet not as airy as those with cake flour, making it a versatile middle-ground option. It’s particularly effective in recipes where the balance of tenderness and structural integrity is key. Pastry flour is an excellent choice for bakers seeking an alternative that closely mirrors cake flour's properties while adding strength to their creations.

All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour 

Gluten-Free Flour Mix is a stellar alternative to cake flour for those adhering to gluten-free diets or catering to gluten sensitivities. These mixes typically combine gluten-free grains and starch like rice flour, almond flour, and tapioca or potato starch, designed to mimic traditional wheat flour's texture and binding qualities.

When substituting for cake flour, use a one-to-one ratio. However, it's important to select a gluten-free mix specifically formulated for baking, as these often include xanthan gum or similar binders that help replicate the structure provided by gluten.

Gluten-free flour is particularly suitable in cakes, muffins, and other delicate baked goods where a light, airy texture is desired. The key to success with these mixes lies in precise measuring and following recipes designed for gluten-free baking, as they account for the different moisture absorption and binding qualities. For individuals looking for a gluten-free alternative that maintains the quality and texture of their baked goods, a gluten-free flour blend proves to be a valuable substitute.

Bread flour

Bread flour, known for its high protein content — typically around 12-14% — is primarily designed to develop strong gluten networks. This results in a more elastic dough, ideal for breads that rise high and have a chewy texture.

Using bread flour can significantly alter the outcome in cake baking, where a fine, tender crumb is the gold standard. If one opts for bread flour in cake recipes, understanding and accepting the changes in texture is key. The cakes will likely be denser and less fluffy than those made with cake flour. However, this doesn't mean the results can't be delicious. Certain cake types, such as pound cakes or fruitcakes, may benefit from the sturdiness and heft bread flour offers.

To better adapt bread flour to cake recipes, consider adding ingredients that increase tenderness and moisture. For instance, incorporating more fat, like butter or oil, can soften the flour's strong gluten bonds. Similarly, increasing sugar or eggs in the recipe can improve moisture retention, yielding a softer texture.

Self-rising flour

Self-Rising Flour

Self-rising flour can be an effective cake flour substitute in specific baking scenarios, particularly because it includes added leavening agents. This variety of flour consists of a mixture of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. When using self-rising flour as a cake flour substitute, adjusting the recipe by omitting any additional baking powder and salt is important.

A direct one-to-one substitution is generally effective, but bear in mind that self-rising flour will produce a slightly denser texture compared to cake flour. This substitute is ideal for recipes like scones, biscuits, and some cakes where a rise is essential, but a lighter cake flour texture isn’t critical.

Self-rising flour proves to be a convenient choice, particularly suitable for simpler and less delicate baked goods. It simplifies the baking process by combining multiple ingredients, making it a great choice for quick and easy baking projects where convenience is as valued as flavor and texture.

Whole Wheat Flour

Whole wheat flour, though not a common cake flour substitute due to its denser nature and higher protein content, can be used in specific baking situations. It's made from the entire wheat kernel, which means it's richer in nutrients and has a more robust flavor compared to the finely milled, soft wheat cake flour.

When using whole wheat flour as a cake flour substitute, it's generally recommended to use it in a one-to-one ratio, but be aware that it will yield a heavier and more textured product. It works best in recipes where a denser, heartier cake is acceptable, such as in carrot cakes or spice cakes. Sometimes, mixing whole wheat flour with all-purpose flour can help lighten the texture while retaining some of the nutritional benefits.

Additionally, increasing the leavening agent slightly can help offset the density. Choosing whole wheat flour is an excellent option for individuals searching for a healthier, fiber-rich alternative in their baking, considering the denser texture aligns with their culinary preferences.

Making Your Own Cake Flour

Creating your own cake flour substitute at home is an easy and effective way to achieve light, fluffy baked goods. Start with one cup of all-purpose flour. Remove two tablespoons of the flour and replace them with two tablespoons of cornstarch. This substitution lowers the protein content, mimicking the properties of commercial cake flour. Sift the mixture several times to ensure it's well-blended and aerated. This process helps to distribute the cornstarch evenly and produces a finer, lighter texture in your cakes. 

Jenny passionately advocates a holistic and natural approach to health and well-being. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and years of working in food sciences, specializing in organic & natural products. She is committed to helping others embrace a balanced, natural lifestyle that fosters well-being. Jenny believes that a harmonious balance between nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking the full potential of one’s well-being.