What’s the Difference Between Cake Flour and All-Purpose Flour?

When it comes to baking a cake, recipes typically call for all-purpose flour or cake flour. That leaves many home bakers wondering, “What’s the difference? Can they be used interchangeably?” 

The main difference between cake flour and all-purpose flour is the protein content. Cake flour hovers around 7-9%, while all-purpose contains up to 12%. The lower protein content leads to less gluten formation, resulting in a tender and crumbier cake.

Hey! How’s everyone doing? My name’s Michelle, and boy, do I love cake! Cake has always been a favorite treat of mine, and I have made plenty. I was recently shopping with a friend who was curious about cake and all-purpose flour, so I decided to explain it to her – and now I’m going to explain it to you all, too.

Keep reading to find out the difference between cake and all-purpose flour (plus some other handy info!).

Cake Flour vs All-Purpose Flour: What’s the Difference

These two types of flours look identical. If you mix them with the rest of your ingredients, you’ll notice that your batter looks and feels exactly the same. But they’re not “twins.” There is a significant difference between these two types of flour.

It all comes down to the protein content.

Cake flour is a low-protein flour that contains anywhere from 7% to 9% protein. All-purpose flour has a higher protein content, containing 10% to 12% protein.

OK, great. But what does that have to do with anything?

The lower the protein content, the less gluten formation occurs. This means that your baked goods – such as cake – will end up with a finer, tender, and crumbier consistency. This is ideal for certain cakes, such as vanilla or angel food.

It’s not great for all types of cake, though, which makes things a little confusing. For denser and more robust cakes, such as a double chocolate cake or carrot cake, all-purpose flour is the better option. It will be able to hold the structure and leave you with the ideal texture.

Can You Use Cake Flour Instead of All-Purpose Flour?

The best way to answer this is kind of. Let me explain.

You can swap cake flour for all-purpose flour in any recipe. The results will be incredibly similar. The only noticeable difference will be the texture. Goodies made with all-purpose flour (that call for cake flour) will end up slightly less tender and light but still scrumptious.

It’s NOT recommended to sub-all-purpose flour in recipes that call for cake flour, though. The cake flour will not provide enough gluten or structure to succeed. Thus, you may end up with an overly flaky treat or a goodie that can’t hold its shape. 

How to Make Cake Flour

Did you know you can make cake flour if you don’t have any on hand? That’s right – with just two ingredients, cornstarch, and all-purpose flour – you can make cake flour. It’s a cinch! Here’s how to do it:

  • Grab a large bowl and a whisk
  • Place ¾ cups and two tablespoons of all-purpose flour into the bowl
  • Add two tablespoons of cornstarch
  • Whisk until incorporated
  • Use your DIY cake flour in your recipe
  • Enjoy an incredibly light and crumbly cake!

Who knew making DIY cake flour was such a breeze? 


Basically, cake flour and all-purpose flour aren’t the same things, and you should use the flour that’s called for in your recipe. Want to learn more about this fascinating topic? I’ve added a couple of frequently asked questions that might pique your interest!

Can you substitute all-purpose flour for cake flour?

You can use all-purpose flour instead of cake flour in a 1:1 ratio. You can also whisk the all-purpose flour with some cornstarch to create a DIY cake flour that works like a charm. Note that you should not substitute cake flour for all-purpose flour as it won’t provide enough structure.

Is it better to bake with cake flour or all-purpose flour?

That depends on what you’re baking! If you’re making a treat (not just cakes!) and want it to be unbelievably tender and light, you’ll want to use cake flour. Opt for all-purpose flour if your goodie needs some added support and structure, such as dense cakes, cookies, and pizza dough.

What can I use if I don’t have cake flour?

If you don’t have any cake flour in your arsenal, you can also make your own by adding cornstarch to the mix. You can use arrowroot powder or tapioca starch if you have no cornstarch. Lastly, use all-purpose flour, but expect a slightly denser result.

Cake Flour and All-Purpose Flour are similar, But Not the Same!

Cake flour and all-purpose flour have different protein contents. Because cake flour has under 10%, it provides a tender and more lightweight goodie. All-purpose contains more protein, up to 12%, creating a denser and more structured treat. 

Which flour do you typically use?

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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