What Does Flour Do in Baking

Almost every baking recipe you come across is going to start with some amount of flour. While it’s just something we tend to do without thinking, have you ever stopped to wonder why flour is the base? Is it truly the glue holding the family of ingredients from cupcakes to bread.

Hi, there! My name is Michelle, and I have been baking for the past ten-plus years. I love every aspect of it, including learning more about the in-depth function of my ingredients. Today, we’re digging deep into the world of flour to see what it does in baking.

Who’s ready for school? (And spit out that gum while you’re at it!)

What Does Flour Do in Baking?

Flour is essential for baked goods. Without it, you will just have a liquid bowl of ingredients that won’t come together to create something delicious. That said, flour can be described as the structure for baked goods. 

When flour combines with wet ingredients, it begins combining and thickening, which is essential for your baked treat. But it’s so much more than simply bringing wet and dry ingredients together in harmony.

Flour + water = gluten formation. A strong gluten framework is necessary for allowing baked goods to rise. Baked goods would come out flat, dense, and lifeless without the gluten network, as none of the essential gases would form or be trapped inside the dough. 

So, the next time you’re watching your birthday cake rise in the oven, you have flour to thank for that. 

Does the Type of Flour Matter?

The type of flour can matter. However, most of the time, you can get by by using all-purpose flour. In fact, most baking recipes will call for that as it is the most common type of flour to have in one’s pantry.

Why does all-purpose flour work so well? Well, all-purpose flour is a combination of hard and soft wheat. Hard wheat has high gluten (best for bread), while soft wheat has low gluten (best for cakes). With the best of both worlds, all-purpose flour can take on just about anything. 

Another flour that can be used almost anywhere is self-rising flour. With self-rising flour, you have the added benefit of baking powder and salt already added to the flour. So, that means a few fewer steps for you during the mixing step. 

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to the recipe. For example, if the recipe calls for cake, bread, rye, or corn flour, you should probably use it. There is a reason why some recipes work better with specific types of flour. For instance, cake flour has low amounts of gluten to create a soft, crumbly, and desirable cake texture.

Other Applications

While flour is used in baking mostly for the structural component, there are still other uses. 

Flour can be used as a thickening agent for things like sauces. So, if your delicious raspberry breakfast waffles call for homemade fruity syrup, then you will likely need to add flour to thicken it up.

On the other hand, flour can also be applied to surfaces to prevent sticking. This is incredibly handy when baking something, such as a pizza, where you need to roll the dough on your surface. Dough is sticky, but dusting with flour will make sure everything is easy breezy.


Now you know the great purpose that flour has in baking. Never forget it, and use the type the recipe calls for. To learn even more about what flour does in baking, check out these commonly asked questions by people just like you.

What is flour used for?

Flour is used in many applications. It can be found in all kinds of products, from cakes to cupcakes, crackers to bread. It can also be used as a “duster” for countertops, cutting boards, etc., so that nothing sticks. It acts as a great thickening agent for a roux or sauce, too.

What happens if you put less flour in a cake?

If you’re going to put less flour than called for, you have to be extra careful. It should be a very small amount. This can create a more tender texture. However, too little flour will cause the cake to crumble and ultimately collapse. Flour is essential for cake – don’t forget.

What does adding more flour do to cake?

On the other hand, adding too much flour can cause a cake to become incredibly heavy and dense. Sometimes, a gummy texture is created, which is highly undesirable. Needless to say, follow the amount called for in your cake recipe.

What does salt do in baking?

Used in baking, salt is mainly used as a flavor enhancer. It can also ensure that your treat is not overly sweet. However, recipients should not be able to taste a salt flavor (unless you’re making something like a salted caramel cupcake, obviously).

Final Words

Flour is undeniably an important ingredient in your baked goods. It provides the structure necessary for baked goods to form and rise. Without it, you would end up with a major flat baking fail. Follow the recipe’s suggestion for the type of flour to use for the best results.

Did you know what flour did in baking? What type of flour do you use most often?

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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