Difference between Cake Flour and All-Purpose Flour

January 14, 2017 by Editorial Team

Almost every household probably has a jar of all-purpose flour in its pantry. It’s the infamous flour that can be used not only in baking but also in cooking (sometimes even in arts and crafts!) However, we sometimes come across “cake flour” in recipe books and food blogs. Can you use all-purpose flour as a substitute? Will you achieve the same results if you use all-purpose flour instead of cake flour? Are they different? This article will discuss the difference between the two.


Cake Flour vs All-Purpose Flour

Cake flour is a white, fine-grained, satiny flour made from soft wheat. It is a chlorinated flour, which means it undergoes a bleaching process during the manufacturing. This chlorination process makes the flour acidic. It also gives the flour the ability to hold high amounts of liquid and distribute fat efficiently, allowing the baked product to set rapidly with an even texture.

Additionally, cake flour has a high amount of starch, but low level of protein (about 8% to 10%). Because low protein levels also means low gluten levels, baked goods made with cake flour are very soft and delicate. This type of flour is best for light-textured cakes (thus the name cake flour) like sponge cakes, white cakes, angel food cakes, and mooncakes. It can also be used for muffins and cookies.

Cake flour is widely used in the U.S. It can be found at groceries and supermarkets.

all-purpose flour

On the other hand, all-purpose flour, or “plain flour” is, as the name suggests, a type of flour that can be used for almost any cooking or baking recipe. It is produced from a mixture of hard wheat and soft wheat. It can be unbleached or bleached.

Additionally, all-purpose flour has a mid-level protein content of about 9% to 11%. Its protein or gluten level creates a soft but structured crumb. This versatile flour can be used for cakes, cupcakes, yeast bread, biscuits, cookies, waffles, pancakes, and pastry. It can also be used for making sauces and soup.

All-purpose flour is readily available in supermarkets.

Cake Flour vs All-Purpose Flour

What, then, is the difference between cake flour and all-purpose flour?

Cake flour is produced from soft wheat, whereas all-purpose flour is made from a combination of soft wheat and hard wheat. Cake flour also has a lower protein level (8% to 10%) than all-purpose flour (9% to 11%). Cake flour is bleached or chlorinated, while all-purpose flour can be unbleached or bleached.

Because of its low protein level, using cake flour creates delicate crumbs. All-purpose flour results in soft but structured crumbs. As the names suggest, cake flour is best for cakes, whereas all-purpose flour can be used for almost any cooking or baking recipe that requires flour. Both are readily available at grocery stores.

Comparison Chart

Cake FlourAll-Purpose Flour
Has a protein level of 8% to 10%Has a protein level of 9% to 11%
Produced from soft wheatMade from hard wheat and soft wheat
BleachedCan be bleached or unbleached
Results in delicate crumbsCreates structured but soft crumbs
Perfect for light cakes, cookies, and muffinsCan be used for almost any cooking or baking recipe; great for cakes, cupcakes, cookies, sauces, and soup