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What Is The Difference Between "All-Purpose Flour" And "Cake Flour"?

Last updated Nov. 4, 2018

The primary distinction between ‘all-purpose flour’ and ‘cake flour’ is in their manufacturing process. All-purpose flour is a more widely used flour option made from ground wheat kernel that has been separated from the bran and germ layers of the wheat grain through the milling process.


The art of baking demands significant attention to be given to the constituent ingredients as well as to their quantities, being dropped into the pan in a specific order to achieve the desired outcome. If you are new to this culinary stream, a variant of, or an unheard of, or similar ingredients, may tend to play confusion with your mind. One such difference that needs to be understood clearly well is that between ‘all-purpose flour’ and ‘cake flour’. At least one of these makes way into your ingredient list when you choose to bake nearly any delicacy.

The primary distinction between ‘all-purpose flour’ and ‘cake flour’ is in their manufacturing process. All-purpose flour is a more widely used flour option made from ground wheat kernel that has been separated from the bran and germ layers of the wheat grain through the milling process. Since a combination of hard and soft wheat is employed in the making, hence the name “all- purpose” was derived. Just as the term suggests, the flour finds a role in a huge range of baking preparations. On the contrary, cake flour possesses an extremely fine, silk-like texture that is a result of processing soft wheat alone. It finds application in most soft foods such as cakes, crackers, cookies, and a few bread types, as cake flour is believed to be rather weak on account of being made of soft wheat solely.

Another important distinguishing feature is the constituent protein. Gluten, being the principle protein form responsible for the flour’s elasticity contributes to the rise, texture, and ‘mouth feel’ of the final product. While cake flour contains seven to eight percent of protein, all-purpose flour is composed of a slightly higher ten to twelve percent proteins. This constituent protein is said to vary with climatic changes as well. Additionally, all-purpose flour is known to be richer in B vitamins as compared to cake flour and is often found on the market shelves in enriched forms as a result of nutrient fortifications.

Finally, all-purpose flour feels coarser while cake flour is finely ground and hence feels extremely soft. All-purpose flour may be bleached or unbleached (one that has natural bleach). Cake flour thus, may not rise and set as easily and is often said to be subjected to chlorination so as to aid in rapid moisture absorption, owing to the enhanced acidity. For cakes and pastries, cake flour is the ideal pick as it helps distribute fat evenly through the batter and tends to provide a good rise and set to the product in recipes that require a higher quantity of sugar. It hence adds greater volume and is said to be ideal in preparing fine textured baking delicacies.

A 2012 study published in The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture analyzed the effect of various wheat flour characteristics on the sponge cake quality and concluded that flours with small-sized particles, low absorption abilities, and pasting temperatures on the higher side are better suited for cake making. Since cake flour possesses all of these attributes, it plays a significant role in pastry and cake preparations.

Now that you are loaded with information that presents a troop of differences between the two flour types, it can help you achieve the best baking outcome, so long as you do not substitute one with the other.

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Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Nov. 4, 2018
Last updated: Nov. 4, 2018