Difference between Cake Flour and Regular Flour

Updated on June 23, 2017

Not all of us have a stock of different kinds of flour in the pantry. So, if a recipe specifically calls for cake flour, can you use regular flour? And what happens if you do? In this article, find out what makes the two types of flour different and if they are interchangeable or not.

Descriptions

Cake Flour
Angel food cake, made from cake flour

Cake flour or “soft flour” is made from soft wheat. It has a protein content of 7-9% and is very fine, satiny, and white, which can all be attributed to a chemical process called chlorination or bleaching.

Artificial bleaching uses chlorine, bromate, or peroxide. It breaks down gluten and gives the flour molecules the ability to efficiently bind fats and repel liquid. This is why using cake flour in baked products results in a light and fluffy crumb.

As the name suggests, cake flour was originally intended for cakes (specifically sponge cakes and angel food cakes). Nowadays, however, it can be used for any baked product such as bread, muffins, or rolls if you want an airy texture.

In countries where bleached flour is banned (e.g. the United Kingdom and Australia), cake flour undergoes a natural bleaching process instead. In this case, cake flour is specifically labeled “unbleached” and is not as soft as the bleached version.

regular flour
Different kinds of bread made with regular flour

On the other hand, regular flour, commonly called “all-purpose flour,” is made from a combination of hard and soft wheat. It has a protein content of 10-13% and can be bleached or unbleached.

Because regular flour has a relatively high protein content, using it in baking results in a tough and chewy texture. The crumb is also well-structured because it is dense.

As the name suggests, regular flour or “all purpose flour” can be used for many different purposes. In fact, it is the most common type of flour because it is intended for general household use. It can be used as a thickener in sauces and soup or in baking breads, pastries, and many other things.

Cake Flour vs Regular Flour

What, then, is the difference between cake flour and regular flour?

Cake flour is made from soft wheat. It has a low protein content of 7-9% and is very fine, white, satiny, and soft because it goes through an artificial bleaching process. On the other hand, regular flour is made from a mixture of soft and hard wheat, so it may not be as soft as cake flour. It has a high protein content of 10-13%. It can be bleached or unbleached.

Cake flour was originally intended for cakes like angel food cake and sponge cake, but it can really be used for anything if you want a fluffy or soft texture (hence the name “soft flour”). Conversely, regular flour is intended for general household use (hence the name “all-purpose flour”). It can be used for sauces, soups, and baked products.

So are they interchangeable? It depends on what you are making and your preference. For instance, if you want your cake to be chewy, then using regular flour would help you achieve your goal. And if you want your bread to be airy, then go for cake flour.

Comparison Chart

Cake FlourRegular Flour
Made from soft wheatMade from a combination of soft and hard wheat
Fine, white, satiny, and softNot as soft and satiny as cake flour
Has a protein content of 7-9%Has a protein content of 10-13%
Results in an airy and soft textureResults in a dense and chewy texture
Originally made for cakes such as angel food cake and sponge cake but can be used for most baked products that call for airy and fluffy textureMade for general household use; can be used for soups, sauces, and baked goods
Usually bleached (except in countries where bleached flour is banned)Can be bleached or unbleached