Are you thinking of baking a cake this summer afternoon? And of course, you want it to be oh melt-in-the-mouth, super-soft in texture and with an airy crumb! Have you thought of using cake flour instead of the regular all-purpose flour? Cake flour will give your cake the fluffy and light consistency, thanks to its low protein content, which means it is low in gluten too. Cake flour is used for cakes [well, of course!] but do you know you can use it for deliciously light pancakes, soft crumb muffins, biscuits, scones, waffles and in many more recipes? Cake flour is quite easily available if you are in the US. Well, I have not seen a departmental store that does not carry a cake flour brand. But if you are based somewhere where it is not around, there are other alternatives to it. We will come to the alternatives in a bit.
What is Cake Flour?
All flours almost look the same, so what is different about cake flour? The difference lies in the percentage of protein found in this flour. The cake flour is made out of soft winter wheat and is very delicately pounded and powdered. It is very low on protein about 6-8% and is high in carbohydrates, making it one of the weakest flours around and giving your cake the feathery texture.
Cake flour made itself into the American supermarkets in the early 1920s and has been sticking around ever since. It is bleached making it look duller and much less grainy than
the other flours. Cake flour is quite versatile in its use. You can, of course, bake that tender wedding white cake, the regular cake or a warm pie using cake flour. Or if you do not want to toil for a huge family cake, how about baking a quick batch of yummylicious tender muffins. Also, try your hand at making choco-chip, butter or sugar cookie with cake flour, it turns out awesome! Cake flour has nutritional value as well. It is low in sodium, cholesterol and saturated fats [Source: Bakerpedia]. Well, now while gorging on that Lemon cake which you made for the house party becomes a bit guilt-free, doesn't it?
Cake Flour vs. All-Purpose Flour: What’s the Difference?
Ok so have you been thinking all this while, why not use the all-purpose flour, I know about it and can see it everywhere? Well, you are not wrong in thinking that. The fact has it that cake flour is as easily available as all-purpose flour and due to its low protein composition, makes it low on gluten. All-purpose flour really holds up well in all baking situations-pancakes, waffles, cupcakes, cakes but if you want that buttery melt in your mouth cake layers always reaches for the cake flour. Again, the less percentage of protein in the flour makes all the difference which again is derived from the type of wheat that has been used to arrive at the finished product.
How will you decide which flour to use for which baking need? The Food Network essentially gives a basic idea about this. Cake flour is the quintessential ingredient for, well, all types of cakes. If you are looking for that extra moist tenderly layered cake, go for cake flour. Cake flour goes through a bleaching process, which makes it weaker while increasing its capacity to take in sugar and water bringing out the moist texture. If you are looking to make bread rolls, flaky biscuits, pizza base or pasta, the all-purpose flour is your hero! Read Jessica Gavin as she breaks down the uses of all kinds of flour quite well here. Or if you are making dinner rolls or a fancy poppy seed bread which requires the dough to ‘rise’, use bread flour or all-purpose flour instead.
How to Make Cake Flour?
Ok by now we all know that cake flour is available in every supermarket in the baking aisle. But what if you want to make it yourself at home or just decided to bake and do not have it around? It's not hard to do-it-yourself, just keep in mind that you need to do the measurements meticulously.
These are the things you need to make the cake flour at home:
- All-purpose flour
- A measuring cup and a tablespoon
Step A: take a cup of all-purpose flour
Step B: take 2 tablespoons of flour out of it
Step C: put 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into the flour and whisk it very well and bingo! Your cake flour is ready to use.
Yes, it is really that easy to make your very own cake flour at home. Make sure you sift this mixture well enough for the ingredients to get together. Did it cross your mind why did we add cornstarch to the flour? Because the cornstarch will restrict the creation of gluten in the all-purpose flour and the result is similar to that of the store-bought cake flour.
Cake Flour Alternatives and Substitutes
By now you almost know by rote that it's easy peasy to make your cake flour at home by using cornstarch. But keeping in mind the fact that a few may avoid cornstarch, let's see how to substitute this. Potato starch is a very viable alternative, if your cake flour recipe needs 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, you can put 2 tablespoons of potato starch in it. Or you could think about alternatives like rice flour, arrowroot or even tapioca starch.
Interestingly, there are a few alternatives to cake flour as well. Have you heard of pastry flour? Pastry flour is comparably low in protein [about 8.5%-9.5%] and can be used for
cookies, muffins, and cakes or the tenderness. You can also consider using Almond flour, but because it is high in protein content, it would either need a combination of other flour or add eggs to get the perfect texture. Jessica Gavin explains the nutritional value and ways to use almond flour here.
Another unconventional substitute for cake flour could be 1 pound of White Rice Flour and 1/2 cup of Tapioca Flour whisked together in place of 2 cups of cake flour or any other flour. This substitution idea is courtesy Geri Peacock of the gluten-free Cherbourg Bakery in Columbus, Ohio.
The Last Bite
Really, we have talked so much about using cake flour for the layered tender cakes and other baked goodies that we are a pro at where and when to use it now. We almost know all the nitty-gritties of it by now. So, what are you waiting for? Let's get to work NOW! How about a small tea party with friends with rich fruit cake or muffins to go with the lemon or vanilla tea! Or maybe a layered cake surprise for an upcoming shower for a friend! It sounds like a delectable idea!