Flour- Here I am talking specifically about wheat flour. Now of course there are many other types of flours such as nut flours and flours ground from seeds. Some types of flours available are: barley, buckwheat, chickpea, corn, oats, potato, rice, rye, and soy.

But here in my recipes I use only a few of the main wheat flours: All Purpose, Cake Flour, Bread Flour, Pastry Flour and at times, Whole Wheat Flour.

A whole grain of wheat, sometimes called a wheat berry, is composed of three layers:
The bran
The germ
The endosperm

The bran is the layer where you’ll find most of the fiber, and it’s the hard outer shell of the kernel. The germ is the nutrient-rich embryo that will sprout into a new wheat plant. The endosperm is the largest part of the grain (83 percent), making up most of the kernel, and it’s mostly starch.

White flour is made from the endosperm only, whereas whole-wheat flour combines all three parts of the wheat berry.

All-purpose flourhas a 10-12% protein content and is made from a blend of hard and soft wheat flours. They can be bleached or unbleached. And whether it is bleached or not, it is interchangeable in your recipe without much difference. You will notice I use AP flour a lot in cake recipes that I find need more strength and structure. Good for making cakes, cookies, breads, and pastries.

What’s the deal with Bleaching?
Why do they do it?
Flour needs age to soften it so it can be used for baking and cooking. Unbleached flour will age naturally in a few months but bleaching the flour makes it ready within weeks. Time is money, and it is cost effective for a big company to keep product moving rather than tying up warehouse space, being vulnerable to critters and bugs over months rather than weeks. So bleaching the flour accelerates the natural aging of the flour.
Bleached flour has less protein than unbleached. Bleached is best for pie crusts, cookies, cakes, quick breads, pancakes and waffles. Use unbleached flour for yeast breads, Danish pastry, puff pastry, strudel, éclairs & cream puffs.

Cake flour generally has 7% – 8.5% protein. It is beached so therefore weakens the proteins and results in a more delicate flour, in turn offering more delicate products like chiffon and angel food cakes.
** To make your own version of a softer Cake Style Flour: Measure out 1 cup (125g) of all purpose or plain flour. TAKE OUT 2 Tablespoons (15g) and return it to the bin. Next add 2 Tablespoons of Corn Starch (15g).

Sift this mixture 2 times through a fine mesh sieve and you now have 1 Cup of Cake Flour to use in recipes calling for such.
For those weighing your recipes- 110g All Purpose or Plain Flour + 15g Cornstarch

Pastry flour contains 8.5% – 9.5% protein. It is used in delicate cakes and pastries, pie crusts, cookies and muffins. Absorbs less liquid in recipes. It is from soft red winter or soft white winter wheat for use in biscuits, pancakes, pie crusts, cookies, muffins and brownies.

Bread flour has a 12-14% protein content and is made from hard wheat flour. The high gluten gives it shape and structure. Good for making breads and some pastries.

Self-Rising flour has 8-9% protein and contains soft flour similar to a cake or pastry flour plus baking powder and salt. I do not use this type of flour.
Note: If you do choose to use self rise flour you run the risk of it being stored too long both in the market and in your own pantry, causing the baking powder to lose its power and your baked goods will not rise. * I do not use self rising flour and I do not recommend you use it in my recipes.  However, many of you will insist, and so if you DO use it here please note that you may not get the exact result that my recipes are intended to come out as.  Self rising flour has approximately 1 –  1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and roughly 1/4 teaspoon of salt  and per 1 cup of flour.  So if you decide to use self rise in place of my specified ingredients, please adjust the baking powder and salt accordingly.

Whole Wheat Flour– protein levels are higher for whole wheat flour than white flour, but about 3 to 4 points of that percentage is in the germ and the bran, so it doesn’t add to the dough strength. Whole wheat flour is brown in color, and is derived from the complete wheat kernel (the bran and germ). When used in bread baking, it gives a nutty flavor and a denser texture when compared to all-purpose flour. Bread does not rise as high in whole-wheat breads, which is why a mixture of both whole-wheat and white flour is often used when baking.

*Many people ask if they can substitute whole wheat flour for white flour in recipes and the answer is not exactly 100%. Wheat flour is heavier and more dense than all white flour and will absorb alot more liquid than white flours. So while it is always a better idea to stick to the recipes as they are written, if you do decide to give it a go, reduce the total flour amount by ¼. For example if the recipe calls for 1 cup of white flour, you will use ¾ cup of wheat flour

1 cup AP flour= 125g
1 cup Bread Flour= 130g
1 cup Pastry and Cake Flour = 120g
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour= 130g


In the UK self raising flour is called self raising flour. It consists of flour, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and cream of tartar. It can have other ingredients to improve the carbon dioxide eg tartaric acid, calcium phosphate, no salt!!! It is genrally called baking powder. It is heavier than cake flour.
Plain flour has no leavening = All Purpose, is heavier than cake flour

Cake flour plain = Extra fine flour 00 grade without leavening, either made by McDougals or Home Pride
Cake flour self raising = Extra fine 00 grade with leavening also made by McDougals/ Home Pride
Extra fine 000 grade used for making sauces, custards, gravy
dusting fish for frying. Looks almost like corn flour/corn starch

Quickest acting baking powder in the UK is Dr Oekter which is activated when wet even at room temperature.
In the USA Rumford’s baking powder contains calcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate and corn starch which is an anti caking agent.

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  1. Hi Gretchen,
    So if d recipe calls for cake flour 90 gm as for vegan carrot cake n if I make d flour by weight measurements den I have 114g(apf) plus 20 gm(corn starch) which is total 134 gms..so I would jus take 90 gms out of dat rite?

  2. Hi Gretchen, hope corn flour and cornstarch are the same?
    Can’t wait to try your the chiffon cake that calls for cake flour and no where here in Australia.
    Fan from your past lives.

    1. Hi Ann,
      Yes dat is same.dunno which part of d world u r in but I get only corn flour n no cornstarch or I can say dis is Wat dey call it in my country. N I hv made Gretchen’s version of Cake flour with corn flour dat n it turns out perfect.but just a caution Cornmeal is not cornflour. Cornmeal has Lil small granules but cornflour is just powder like all purpose flour.hope dat helps.
      Hope dis helps.

      1. yes – it is white powdery, very fine. That is cornstarch.
        CORN MEAL is different, Im not sure what you guys calls cornmeal, but that is different and it is course and usually yellow

  3. Hey Gretchen,

    I was wondering about substituting oat flour for all purpose flour as so many people right now (including in my family) do not want to eat gluten.

    Would you substitute in a 1:1 ratio? Could I then make ‘cake oat flour’ by mixing it with cornstarch?

    Any ideas? 🙂

    1. Hi Eva the trouble with a gluten free flour (such as oat or any of the others) is that THERE IS NO GLUTEN! LOL Gluten is what makes our cakes and breads spongy and elastic. Without it you have a dense solid lump of….welll…..LUMP! Gluten free baking is not so simple as taking out a gluten flour and replacing it with a NON gluten flour. In order to achieve the lightness, elasticity and pliability that a glutenous flour offers you have to add more ingredients to the mix – such as Xxanthan Gum, Arrowroot, Potato starch (just to name a few) I am not schooled in Gluten free baking- it is a whole other league and very different than what I have been classically trained to do, that being said- I have to get my feet wet and start to learn this since it is no longer a trend – but a necessity. Stay tuned- as soon as I get my 400+ video/recipes reblogged and filmed, I have great plans to delve into Vegan Baking and Gluten Free too!

  4. Hi Getchen!!!!!!!!!!!
    I live in Greece…I am from Canada…so o know what cake flour is…I have looked here in Greece..and could not find any…but I kept searching reading the lables and such. I did find a flour, agiou georgiou..Number 2, soft flour it is called…the protein in it is 8.9 grams it says..per 100 grams. s this what we are looking for in a cake flour…you say %…as does any where else I have read…this flour says grams …
    Thx Gretchen …you are truly awesome…

  5. Hi Gretchen.
    I stay in Germany and here flour is a big problem. If the receipe says for both cake flour and all purpose flour is it ok if I use only 1 flour that is 405 mehl . As you mentioned substitution in your country 405 is a cake flour and 550 is all purpose flour. But I find it difficult when I bake the cake as it comes out a bit dense. Please advise.

  6. Here in Italy we don’t have all purpose flour, and I always wondered what kind of flour it was. I would have never imagined it is a blend of hard and soft wheat flour.
    Here in Italy bleaching the flour is forbidden, so we only have unbleached flour. I recently read a very interesting book which explains the chemistry behind the pastry and it says that bleached flour has a different absorption of liquid so when we follow an American recipe we probably should have to do some adjustments. What do you think, in your experience?

    1. WOW Yes! Excellent that you have researched this and you are 100% correct! Great job! WHen flour is bleached it lowers the protein content thus prohibiting the same amount of liquid absorption. Although AP flour (bleached or not) will absorb more than a Cake Flour, you are correct that you may have to make some adjustments with the liquids in a recipe when using a different flour than the recipe asks for.

  7. Hi Gretchen,

    Thanks for this wonderful blog!! You rock!

    I have a recipe that calls for 3 c AP flour and .33 c cornstarch, can I simply use 3.33 c cake flour?



  8. Hey Gretchen, Where I am from I cannot find the bread flour in any retail shops. Is there any way I can add gluten to all purpose flour and make burger buns or bread. I have tried to make with all purpose, ckae flour, self raising flour in every attempt it tunrned out to be all hard. I would be really grateful for your help. Thanks!

    1. Hi Mary thats a bummer – I wish all the flour types were readily available! perhaps if you had a local bakery or breadery they may sell you some? I do not have experience in making my own bread flour – sorry

  9. What brand of AP flour is good to use. I use Softasilk cake flour for all my recipes but when I use it to make red velvet cupcakes I have a runny mixture.

    1. Yes probably because cake flour does not absorb as much liquid as all purpose flour does and why most of my recipes with the high liquid content use all all purpose or a blend of cake flour and all purpose flour
      I typically use gold medal unbleached all purpose flour

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