If all you have on hand is all-purpose flour, we’ve got you covered. I mean, unless that’s literally all you have on hand. In which case you can make uh… crackers?
Save yourself that extra trip to the store with this simple hack will create a cake flour substitute so you can get on your merry way making the cupcakes or the cake you want.*
What Is Cake Flour?
Cake flour is a finely ground flour that contains less gluten than all-purpose flour (6-8% vs 10-13%). It’s great for high-ratio cakes (cakes where the sugar is greater or equal in weight to the flour) since it’s lighter than all-purpose and when you bake with it, it produces goods with soft, tender layers and a lighter, finer crumb.
Because of its lower protein/gluten content it’s really big in Los Angeles. Kidding. It’s not. It’s still a carb. Also, don’t use it to make bread.
If you are going to use it in a recipe to replace all-purpose flour, it will change the final product, and I highly recommend weighing it. One cup of cake flour weights 4.5 oz, whereas one cup of cake flour weighs 4 oz.. (If you don’t have a scale yet, I spent $10 on this kitchen scale almost ten years ago and it still works.)
Cake Flour Brands
There are a handful of brands that make cake flour, but these are the most common. Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite and why!
- Swans Down
- Pillsbury Softasilk
- King Arthur Cake Flour – unbleached only
- Bob’s Red Mill Cake Flour – unbleached only
If you’re looking for a gluten-free cake flour, this one is well-reviewed, though I have not personally tried it.
How to Make a Cake Flour Substitute
Fluff your flour with a knife, spoon, or measuring spoon. Spoon the flour into your measuring cup and scrape off the excess with a flat edge (the back edge of a knife will do, but I’ve also used the other handle of the spoon).
Remove 2 tablespoons of flour for every cup you’re using.
Replace with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. (2 cups = 4 tbsp. cornstarch. 1 cup = 2 tbsp. cornstarch.)
Whisk the cornstarch and flour together and sift the mixture five times so it is completely blended.
Doing this it helps prevent some of the gluten forming in all-purpose flour and creating a stiffer structure (that’s what gluten does – it creates a matrix that results in tough cakes but great bread. Whoa.). That’s because cornstarch and sugar absorb some the liquid in the recipe so the flour doesn’t hog all of it.
*Adding cornstarch will change the starch makeup of your cake and as Stella Parkes points out, it may end up absorbing too much moisture and be denser than you would prefer. So, I would recommend using this in a pinch, not as a way to never buy cake flour again. And probably not for an angel food cake.
Let’s Eat Cake Recipes With Cake Flour
- Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes
- Red Velvet Cupcakes
- Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Pina Colada Cupcakes
- Zombie Cupcakes
How to Make a Cake Flour SubstitutePrint Recipe
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
- Fluff flour with spoon and spoon into measuring cup. Scrape off excess with knife.
- Pour into bowl and remove two tablespoons of flour. Place back in flour bin.
- Add two tablespoons of cornstarch to flour.
- Sift mixture five times.
- Use as directed in recipe.
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Oh my goodness! How did I not know this little baking secret? Filing this away for the future, thanks!
Clever! A perfect substitute for lack of flour!
How neat that you can make your own cake flour at home. Great for if you’re in a pinch and don’t want to run out to the store for a recipe that calls for it.
Jenni LeBaron says
This is great. I especially appreciated learning what makes cake flour different. I had no idea how it could make all the difference in the texture.
Such a great informative post! I never tried making cake flour myself – cheaper than store-bought for sure!
I have a question my cake flour was expired so I have to use all purpose flour but I don’t have any cornstarch what should I do now?
Rebecca Swanner says
If you don’t have cornstarch, you can remove use 1 cup of flour minus 2 Tbsp. as a sub for 1 cup of cake flour (but it won’t be as close).
Lesley Brayson says
Thank you for this great tip!!