Difference between Cake Flour and Pastry Flour

January 14, 2017 by Editorial Team

If you come across a recipe that requires pastry flour, can you use cake flour instead? Tough question, right? Pastry flour and cake flour seem like they are the same, but they actually have different uses and contents. This article will focus on the difference between the two.


Cake flour is a white, fine-milled, silky flour produced from soft wheat. It undergoes chlorination which makes the flour somewhat acidic. The bleaching process allows the flour molecules to hold and distribute fats more effectively, making the baked product set faster.

It has about 7% to 9% protein content in general, but the exact amount may vary depending on the brand or manufacturer. Low protein content means a low gluten level, which is why it is an ideal ingredient for light cake recipes like angel food cake and chiffon cake (thus the name “cake flour”). It can also be used for any baking recipe that calls for a high amount of sugar and liquid because it prevents the product from collapsing. Using cake flour results in a noticeably delicate, tender, and airy end product; cupcakes and muffins will have soft and even crumbs.

Cake flour usually comes in a box. It is widely available in grocery stores and baking stores.

Pastry flour is a white flour made from soft wheat that contains a high amount of starch but low protein. Its protein level of 9% to 10% produces low gluten when worked in a batter.

Pastry flour, as the name suggests, is specially formulated for pastry recipes. In some places, however, it is also known as “cookie flour” or “cracker flour,” and is used for cookies and other baked goods like pancakes, pies, brownies, and bread. Additionally, it is an ideal ingredient for recipes that require leavening elements like baking powder or baking soda. Using pastry flour results in a delicate but chewy end product.

Pastry flour is not commonly sold in grocery stores but can be found at specialty stores.


Both types of flour contain a high amount of starch but a low level of protein. However, cake flour has a lower protein level (7%-9%) than pastry flour (9%-10%).

Cake flour is best for light-textured cakes like chiffon and angel food cake, while pastry flour is best for pastries, pancakes, brownies, and pies. Cake flour is also great for baked goods that require a high amount of sugar and liquid, while pastry flour can also be used for products that need leavening agents like baking soda and baking powder. Since both have low gluten level, they produce soft and delicate baked goods.

Cake flour is readily available in supermarkets but pastry flour can usually be found at specialty stores.

Comparison Chart

Cake FlourPastry Flour
Has a protein content of 7%-9%Has a protein level of 9%-10%
Best for light cake recipes; can also be used for recipes with a high liquid and sugar contentGreat for pastries and cookies; also used in recipes that require leavening agents like baking soda and baking powder
Widely available; can easily be found at grocery storesNot usually found at supermarkets; can be found at specialty or baking stores