It’s difficult to know what to do when a recipe calls for a type of flour you’re not familiar with or don’t have at home. The last thing you want to happen is to have all the ingredients ready apart from the flour.
You might find that some recipes call for cake flour whilst some call for self-rising/raising flour. Some might even call for self rising cake flour, which makes everything more confusing, so what’s the deal with it?
Cake flour and self-rising flour are not the same. Cake flour is finely milled flour with low protein content, which means that it allows for a soft and light texture. Self-rising flour has the addition of salt and baking powder to help it rise. Cake flour does not have any added ingredients.
These two flour types shouldn’t be interchanged as they won’t yield the same results on their own. Cake flour has a lower protein content, is finely milled, and is commonly bleached. Self-rising flour, on the other hand, is somewhat similar to all-purpose flour, but it has added ingredients to help it rise.
If a recipe calls for either of these types of flour and you don’t have it, don’t worry as there are solutions for you. You can make good substitutes for both of these flour types (more on this further down).
What’s The Difference Between Cake Flour And Self-Rising Flour?
If you’re still thinking they’re similar or want to use one instead of the other, here’s a little more detail into what’s so different about them so you can understand why they shouldn’t be swapped.
Cake Flour Contains Less Protein
Most cake flour contains a lower protein content than other types of flour. Depending on the brand, a bag of cake flour can contain anywhere from 7-10% protein. A 7-8% protein content is optimal. Other types of flour, whether it’s all-purpose, self-rising, or bread flour, can contain anywhere from 10-15% protein.
The reason the protein content of the flour is so important is that it’s the difference between a chewy cake and a light and soft cake. The protein in the flour is what creates gluten, so using a higher protein flour will create more gluten in the cake batter, which can cause it to have a tougher or chewier texture.
An aim when making cakes is to minimize gluten development. This is done by using a low protein cake flour and by trying to mix the batter as little as possible. Don’t be mistaken though, you do still need gluten. This 7-10% protein content is needed to produce a cake with enough structure to rise during baking.
A high protein flour is important in bread dough rather than cake recipes since gluten is what allows the dough to be elastic and rise properly.
Cake Flour Is Bleached
Many people like to avoid bleached flour for the majority of applications since it can be associated with potential health issues.
However, the bleaching of cake flour actually has its benefits. It helps the cakes rise for longer, stay moist, keep a nice crumb, and can even inhibit browning slightly, which is great for preventing overbrowning.
Self-rising flour, on the other hand, is found both bleached and unbleached. Unlike cake flour, which can be difficult to find unbleached, you should be able to find both types of self-rising flour in your local supermarkets. Keep in mind that this will depend on where you live.
Cake Flour Is Milled Finer
Cake flour is one of, if not the most finely milled flours in most countries that it’s available.
This fine mill allows the flour to create a more delicate, lighter texture than regular flour, which is great for making cakes.
Self-rising flour isn’t milled as fine since it’s used for more applications than just cake.
Self-Rising Flour Contains Additional Ingredients
Whilst cake flour is just that, flour, self-rising flour is regular flour with a few added ingredients.
In order to stand up to its name and be ‘self-rising’, the flour contains baking powder (and salt) to do the job.
These additional ingredients are the reason why self-rising flour can’t always be used in place of cake flour or regular all-purpose flour.
Can You Use Cake Flour Instead Of Self-Rising Flour?
If you’re making a cake and have cake flour instead of self-rising flour, you’ll still be able to get great results. Since cake flour is made specifically for cakes, it will work just as well in place of self-rising flour (if not better), but you need to make sure that you’re adding some baking powder to your batter so it can rise.
Whilst a recipe might call for self-rising flour and no additional leaveners, if you’re replacing it with cake flour you’re going to need to improvise by adding some of your own baking powder to make up for the lack of it.
For every cup (120g) of flour used in a recipe, use 1 ½ tsp of baking powder. Make sure to incorporate this baking powder evenly into the flour first by using a sieve.
From here, you should follow the recipe as normal and if everything goes as to plan, the cake will bake properly and you’ll be happy with the results.
Can You Use Self-Rising Flour Instead Of Cake Flour?
Using self-rising flour instead of cake flour is a bit tricky since it’s so different. Due to it often being higher in protein and containing baking powder, it may cause some problems if used in the wrong recipe.
If the recipe you’re using asks for cake flour and baking powder as a leavener, the self-rising flour will likely work in a similar way, but it may not give you the same results.
Firstly, since it’s higher in protein, you should expect the cake to have a different texture. This will generally be firmer and chewier.
Secondly, the amount of leavener in the flour might not be the same as what’s in the recipe. You might require more or less baking powder, or you might need a different leavener completely.
So, using self-rising flour in place of cake flour is very risky, but it might work if it suits the recipe right. If you do try this, try not to get your hopes up too much as your cake might not be as perfect as you’d like to imagine.
The Difference Between Self-Raising and Self-Rising Flour
Not everyone notices this, but self-raising flour and self-rising flour aren’t exactly the same thing. Whilst they might sound the same and serve a similar purpose, they’re can’t be used interchangeably either.
Self-raising flour is used in the UK, whilst self-rising is used in the US.
Since these two are used in different countries, they have different purposes. Many UK homes contain both plain flour (also known as all-purpose) and self-raising flour. Plain flour is used for plenty of different applications, but self-raising flour is usually just used for cakes.
Self-rising flour doesn’t seem to be very popular in the US. It may occasionally be used for cakes, but it’s also used to make flaky biscuits.
These two flours also contain different ingredient ratios. Self-raising flour generally contains slightly more baking powder, but self-rising flour has the addition of salt, which is great for biscuits and not so great for cakes as it can add too much salt.
How To Make A Cake Flour Substitute
If you’re in a pinch because you don’t have any cake flour, you don’t have to worry. You can make a substitute that’s not quite the same, but it replicates the lower protein of cake flour, which results in a softer and lighter cake.
All it involves is mixing some all-purpose flour with cornstarch. This acts as a way to lower the protein content, which helps you avoid a chewy cake
Here’s what you’ll need for a cake flour substitute:
- 120g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
Take these ingredients and mix them together before sifting them together once or twice. You want them to be evenly incorporated and ready to use in your cake mix.
How To Make Self-Rising Flour
Making self-rising flour really couldn’t be easier than this. Almost everyone has these ingredients at home, so you shouldn’t have any difficulty with this.
Here’s what you’ll need for making self-rising flour:
- 120g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp fine kosher salt
You want to mix and sift these ingredients together a few times to make sure the baking powder and salt are evenly dispersed amongst the flour. This is important for you to get the best results.