Cake flour and flour: what is the difference and can you use them interchangeably?
All featured products are curated independently by our editors. When you buy something through our retail links, we may receive a commission.

What is the difference between cake flour and flour, and can you use one in place of the other?

It’s a common occurrence nowadays: You need to stock up on all-purpose flour but the dreaded “out of stock” notification rears its ugly head. Cake flour, however, does happen to be available, but you’re skeptical whether it is a worthy substitute.

After all, for successful baking results, accuracy and precision are paramount (you would not want to confuse baking powder for baking soda, for example).

So, will cake flour drastically affect the meal you had planned?

Cake Flour

Jessie Sheehan’s One-Bowl Lemon Snacking Cake

If you have cake flour, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on if you have a sweet tooth), its intended purpose, like the name suggests, is to create spongy, fluffy, airy cakes. While swapping it in for recipes that call for all-purpose flour won’t necessarily render your dish inedible, it may make it unrecognizable and unpalatable both visually and texturally.

Essentially, if you’re craving a nice, thick, chewy loaf of bread, cake flour ain’t gonna cut it.

When you open the bag, you’re likely to notice a difference from all-purpose flour immediately. Cake flour has a lighter, softer consistency due to the use of a soft wheat grain combined with a special milling process that makes it extra fine, and may also be brighter in color due to bleaching.

(What about bleached flour versus unbleached flour, you ask? While you’ll find that both cake flour and all-purpose flour can carry either distinction, bleached flour essentially means that the flour was chemically treated in order to speed up the flour’s aging process which improves baking results, so it’s a process that’s ideal for cake flour’s purposes.)

Though these factors result in less protein and gluten in cake flour vs all-purpose flour, nutritionally, and for those with dietary sensitivities, it’s not significant enough to consider switching from AP to cake flour. If you’re in that camp, stick with almond flour and its gluten-free brethren instead of any type of wheat flour. (Also good to know: Pastry flour is very similar to cake flour but contains slightly more gluten.)

OXO POP Container Set, $29.95 at Williams Sonoma

The perfect way to store your flour, no matter what kind.
Buy Now

If your recipe calls for cake flour and you don’t have any, you can make a homemade cake flour substitute by sifting all-purpose flour with cornstarch.

All-Purpose Flour

All-purpose flour (or AP flour) is a bit coarse in texture compared to cake flour. As a linchpin ingredient in an infinite amount of recipes—including cookies, brownies, quick breads, pie crusts, and yeast breads—there’s a reason why people stock up on it in the midst of a pandemic.

Related Reading: This Brilliant Flour Substitute Makes Ridiculously Tasty Chocolate Chip Cookies

Aside from those who abstain from gluten, it’s a must-have in any serious home cook’s kitchen at all times from baking to its use (in small doses) as a thickening agent in stews and gravy, or for breading fried chicken and other savory ingredients destined for a date with hot fat. 

One thing that both flours have in common is a shelf life of about one year. With the amount of options you have to use them, there’s no excuse to let them sit around for longer.

Cake Flour vs AP Flour in Recipes

Now that you know the difference between the two, here are our favorite ways to put them both to use:

Cake Flour Recipes

Easy Chiffon Cake

strawberry shortcake layer cake recipe


With endless possibilities for filling, frosting and topping combinations, the humble chiffon cake may be the sweetest blank canvas in the culinary world. Master it and your future dessert offerings will be the hit of any party. Get our Easy Chiffon Cake recipe.

Japanese Souffle Pancakes

This trendy spin on a breakfast classic may look impossible to execute, but with the help of cake flour, it’s a cinch. The key during prep is separating the egg yolks from the whites. Try your hand at making them and you may never look back at the old school version. Get the Japanese Souffle Pancakes recipe.

Lemon Pound Cake

vanilla bean pound cake


Renowned pastry chef François Payard shares his secrets when it comes to a classic lemon pound cake. In addition to cake flour, it calls for quite a bit of butter and heavy cream, but in good news for your waistline, it keeps well in the refrigerator or freezer so it can be enjoyed across multiple sittings. Get the Lemon Pound Cake recipe.

Easy Cherry Cobbler

Finally! You can clear out that random can of cherry pie filling stashed away in the back of your pantry. This easier-than-pie cobbler recipe takes full advantage of cake flour’s potential. It’s a perfect and simple final note to a laborious multi-course meal. Get the Easy Cherry Cobbler recipe.

Orange Angel Food Cake with Strawberries

Orange Angel Food Cake recipe


Angel food, arguably the lightest and fluffiest of all the cakes, will soar to new heights of flavor with the addition of orange juice and zest. Topped with fresh strawberries, who wouldn’t want another slice? Get our Orange Angel Food Cake with Strawberries recipe.

All-Purpose Flour Recipes

Easy Pizza Dough

pizza dough recipe


Routinely looking at a two hour delivery window for your favorite local slice? Why not DIY your pie? Crafting the dough is quite simple if you have all-purpose flour, milk, and dry yeast on hand. Make it red, make it white, whatever your pleasure. Sprinkle it with your favorite toppings (and avoid paying several bucks extra for the privilege). Get our Easy Pizza Dough recipe.

Buttermilk Biscuits

fluffy buttermilk biscuit recipe


With just a few ingredients required, this is a flour-based side dish you definitely want in your arsenal. They’re easily frozen, but be sure to cut the biscuits while the dough is fresh and use a layer of plastic wrap or wax paper to keep the biscuits separated for hassle-free defrosting. Get our Buttermilk Biscuits recipe.

Easy Pie Crust

paleo pie crust recipe


It is indeed easy to assemble to this buttery, flaky base (don’t forget to use ice water!) that serves as a blank canvas for all your delicious pie needs. Use it as a foundation for sweet apple, pumpkin, cherry, and pecan filling but don’t rule out hearty, savory creations like chicken pot pie. Get our Easy Pie Crust recipe.

Simple Pita Bread

ground beef gyro recipe


Whether stuffed with your spiced meat of choice or a freshly fried falafel, this 6-ingredient recipe yields a versatile and satisfying pocket. Try adding a dollop of yogurt, pickled red onions, and/or fresh herbs such as dill or parsley to complete the meal. Get the Simple Pita Bread recipe.

Fresh Pasta Dough

Fresh Black Truffle Pasta recipe


Don’t just rely on the mass-produced dried offerings at the store. While hardcore pastaiolos prefer to use super fine “00 flour” for homemade noodles, you’ll be just fine going the all-purpose flour route. Get a little creative with shapes and sizes to pair with the multiple sauce options you can also make from scratch. Get our Fresh Pasta Dough recipe.

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread recipe


There’s no reason to limit this bread to St. Patrick’s Day, especially if you’re low on dry yeast or out of it completely. Using all-purpose flour, baking soda and baking powder, you can whip up a satisfying loaf of belly-filling carbs in no time at all. Get our Irish Soda Bread recipe.

Jalapeño-Corn-Beer Quick Bread

jalapeno beer cornbread recipe


The genius of beer bread is that you can forego using yeast (an item that’s particularly difficult to procure nowadays) without sacrificing that quintessential yeasty flavor. (Not to mention baking with booze is always a treat.) The resulting texture is relatively dense which makes it a perfect accompaniment to chili and tomato soup. Get our Jalapeño-Corn-Beer Quick Bread recipe.

Related Video: Try This No-Knead Bread Recipe Too


David is a food and culture writer based in Los Angeles by way of New York City. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, CBS Local, Mashable, and Gawker.
See more articles