Are you an avid baker who’s always on the lookout for ways to take your baked goods to the next level? If so, you’ve probably heard of the two main types of flour used in baking: cake flour and plain flour.
While they may look similar, they have distinct differences that can significantly impact the texture and taste of your baked goods.
As a result, it’s crucial to understand the differences between cake flour and plain flour and how they perform in various baking applications.
Let us take a closer look at the characteristics of these two types of flour, explore their differences, and provide tips on when and how to use them in your baking.
No matter what level of baker you are, take your baking game to the next level with this handy guide on cake flour and plain flour.
Understanding Cake Flour
Let’s start with the basics. Cake flour is milled from soft winter wheat and has a very fine texture.
This flour has less protein, and it is softer, finer, and lighter than all-purpose flour. Furthermore, it is bleached, which results in a paler color and a thinner grain.
Cake flour has a lower protein content, producing less gluten. You know that chewy, elastic texture in bread that we all love?
Well, that’s not ideal for cakes. We want cakes to be light, soft, and tender, with a fine and close crumb. And that’s exactly what cake flour can provide.
The first time I baked a cake using cake flour, I was amazed by the difference it made. It may sound silly, but it was almost life-changing for me. Since then, I have been using cake flour religiously.
If you’re going through the effort of baking a cake from scratch, why not make it the best possible cake you can? I always keep cake flour in my pantry, ever since that first cake all those years ago.
Where Do You Get Cake Flour?
Although there are many different types of flour, including bleached and unbleached all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and pastry flour, cake flour stands out because of its unique purpose.
Fortunately, it’s easy to find, located right alongside other flours in the baking aisle of most US supermarkets.
If I Don’t Have Cake Flour, Can I Just Use All-Purpose Flour?
If you’re in a pinch, yes. However, if you’re serious about baking, I’d highly recommend keeping cake flour on hand.
If you use all-purpose flour, you’ll get a more open crumb in your cakes and cupcakes. It means that there will be more air pockets inside the cake.
In addition, they will be a little denser and chewier than usual. In my opinion, cakes made with cake flour have a light, soft texture.
Is Plain Flour The Same As All Purpose Flour?
Is there a difference between plain flour and all-purpose flour? It’s just that their names are different. Americans use all-purpose, whereas Brits and Australians use plain; it does not contain a rising agent, like self-rising.
What Is All-Purpose Flour?
All-purpose flour, referred to as AP flour in the industry, is a mild-flavoured, white flour made from the hard and soft wheat endosperm.
The bran and germ components of the wheat kernel are separated from the endosperm during the milling process of AP flour.
The oil contained in these components encourages spoilage; by removing them during the milling process, AP flour is more shelf-stable than other whole-grain flours.
Many sweet and savory dishes can be made using this type of flour, including layer cakes, chocolate chip cookies, muffins, quick breads, gooey brownies, buttery crusts for chicken pot pie, dredging fish for frying, and thickening rich sauces and gravies.
What’s The Difference Between Cake Flour And All-Purpose Flour
Let’s start by understanding the difference between cake flour and all-purpose flour. All-purpose flour and cake flour differ primarily in two ways:
In the end, it’s all about the protein content. The amount of gluten-forming protein in each type of flour is shown by its protein percentage.
In general, the higher the protein content, the “stronger” the flour is, since protein levels correlate with gluten-forming potential.
It makes sense to use a strong flour with a high protein content when making baked goods like bread. A robust glutinous web develops as the flour and liquid combine, resulting in chewy, bouncy bread.
Cakes, however, require a soft, fine, and tender crumb: we want a cake with a soft, fine, and tender crumb.
The key is to discourage gluten development, which can be done by using a flour with a lower protein content (as well as by avoiding overmixing, which further develops gluten, even with cake flour).
We use unbleached cake flour with a protein content of 10%, and all-purpose flour with a protein content of 11.7%. Because cake flour contains a lower protein content, it has lower gluten forming potential making it suitable for cakes.
An important factor determining a flour’s ability to absorb water is its particle size, or granularity. Particles with a finer texture absorb more quickly. Finely ground cake flour results in a moist, tender crumb.
In contrast, AP flour’s texture is largely determined by whether it has been bleached, which can soften it. There is a difference in the texture between unbleached AP flour and bleached AP flour. Bleached AP flour has a finer and softer texture.
Cake Flour Substitute
If you’re still skeptical, or if cake flour isn’t readily available in your area, you can create a reasonable imitation by substituting cornstarch for 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour.
All-purpose flour will be lighter when cornstarch is added since it has very little protein. It is white and powdery and may go by the name “corn flour” depending on where you are in the world.
The product is not corn meal, which is usually yellow and gritty. Mix flour and cornstarch together, then weigh it or lightly spoon it into a measuring cup and level it off. Don’t ever pack flour in a measuring cup!
Please keep in mind that this substitution won’t exactly be the same as cake flour, so you’ll still get better results, but not the exact same ones.
Cake flour and plain flour may look similar, but they have important differences that can affect the outcome of your baking.
While both types of flour are made from wheat, cake flour has a lower protein content and a finer texture, making it ideal for delicate baked goods like cakes and pastries.
Plain flour, on the other hand, has a higher protein content and a coarser texture, making it better suited for bread and other more robust baked goods.
While it is possible to substitute one for the other in some recipes, doing so can impact your baked goods’ final texture and flavor.
Therefore, it’s essential to choose the right type of flour for your recipe to achieve the best results.
All I want to say is you can confidently choose the right flour for your next baking adventure and enjoy perfectly textured and delicious cakes every time.