Cake flour can be a wonderful ingredient when used in the right recipes, or it can dramatically destroy the most delicious dish planned. It is very finely milled wheat flour that has a low protein content and low gluten levels. This makes it ideal for most cakes, as its name implies, but a poor choice for things like cookies. In other words, it’s debatable whether it is a good idea to substitute this flour in recipes that do not call for it, except perhaps cake recipes.
The simple answer to how a person uses cake flour is to use it in recipes where it is called for. These are typically cupcake or cake recipes. Since the flour can occasionally be lumpy, it’s a good idea to use a sifter and sift it before measuring, though bakers differ on whether this step is necessary. Sifting might provide more accurate measurements and result in a better cake or cupcake, but many bakers claim their results are delightful without it.
Some more cakelike cookie recipes may also work with cake flour. The average hard cookie like the classic tollhouse, peanut butter or snickerdoodle isn’t likely to benefit from using cake flour. In fact most bakers will notice a distinct difference when dough is mixed, and when cookies are formed they have a slippery or melting texture that makes things difficult. The end taste and texture are quite different too.
Cake flour is usually completely inappropriate for other baking needs, such as bread. Bread benefits from glutinous flour which helps make kneading possible. Given the low gluten content of most cake flours, their use in bread is not at all recommended. Choosing bread flours would be more likely to create better dough.
There are some suggestions that cake flour will substitute for all-purpose flour if an additional two tablespoons of flour are added per each cup. Cooks disagree on whether this suggestion is workable. Many find it’s simply easier to stick to the flour recommended by the recipe.
One suggestion that is interesting concerns how to create cake flour from all-purpose flour. A combination of two tablespoons of cornstarch and .75 cups of flour can substitute for one cup of cake flour. Sifting is recommended to produce the best blend.
Sweet treats naturally spring to mind when the talk turns to this fine flour, but there is at least one other common food that can be made with it. Many people swear by using cake flour in gravy because it dissolves quickly and is likely to produce fewer lumps than all-purpose flour. Again the low protein content and low gluten tends to help improve gravy recipes, though many people also get good results with all-purpose flour.