Kitchen Confidence

How to DIY Cake Flour and Self-Rising Flour

By • October 9, 2013 • 13 Comments

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Spare yourself an extra trip to the grocery store and make cake flour and self-rising flour at home.

Cake Flour from Food52

A lot of us keep a bag of all-purpose flour kicking around, a faithful old friend that we lean on for pancakes, muffins, and everything in between. More devoted bakers might even have a few wildcards in their baking arsenals, like whole wheat pastry or spelt flour. But only in the most organized and well-stocked of home pantries will you find a bag of the self-rising variety, or cake flour in its kitschy, outdated packaging.

If you didn't plan quite so far ahead, you might get tripped up on a recipe that calls for one of these vaguely esoteric flours. Don't want to make another trip to the grocery store? Never fear. Both are easily faked at home, using ingredients that you probably have on hand.

Cake Flour

Cake flour has a lower protein content (8%) than its all-purpose cousin (11%), which means your batter won't develop as much gluten and your finished product will be lighter and softer, with a finer crumb. Sometimes higher-protein flour is a good thing, like when you're baking a sturdy loaf of bread -- but if you're whipping up an airy chiffon cake or a delicate angel food, your recipe might call for cake flour.

Cake Flour from Food52

You can replicate it by measuring out the same amount of flour that your recipe calls for, replacing all-purpose flour for cake flour. Next, remove two tablespoons of flour for every cup of flour you're using, and replace each of those tablespoons with cornstarch. So, if your recipe calls for 2 cups of cake flour, measure out 2 cups of AP flour, remove 4 tablespoons, and add 4 tablespoons of corn starch. If your recipe calls for 3 1/2 cups of cake flour, you'll remove 7 tablespoons, and so on and so forth.

Whisk together your flour and cornstarch, and then sift. A lot. About five times, actually. Since we're aiming for lightness, you want your hacked cake flour to be very-well aerated, with the corn starch completely integrated. Sorry, it wasn't my idea -- Alice said you have to.

Self-Rising Flour from Food52

And voilà, cake flour!

Self-Rising Flour

Next up: self-rising flour. This variety already has salt and baking powder mixed into it, so recipes that call for it typically won't require additional salt or leavening. It's a very big deal in Southern cooking, especially in biscuits, and it's also pretty simple to replicate: for every cup of self-rising flour that your recipe calls for, measure out one cup of all-purpose flour and add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder.

So, if your recipe calls for 2 cups of self-rising flour, you'll measure out 2 cups of all-purpose flour, and add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder.

Cake Flour from Food52

Whisk everything together, and then sift. That's right, about five times total. Aeration, you know. Alice's orders.

Keep in mind, however, that certain cult-following brands of self-rising flour such as White Lily and Presto are similar to cake flour in that they're milled from softer wheat and have a lower protein content than all-purpose. If your recipe calls for one of these flours, or you feel like being a total over-acheiver (unlikely, since this particular kitchen hack is an exercise in laziness), use your DIY cake flour instead of all-purpose in the above conversion. Your unthinkably fluffy, mile-high biscuits will thank you.

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Tags: kitchen hacks, kitchen confidence, self-rising, flour, cake, cake flour, baking, how-to & diy

Comments (13)

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10 months ago Regine

I myself use a different formula for cake and self rising flour that always deliver superior results. 1 cup cake flour = 3/4 cup all purpose + 2 tbsp cornstarch. 1 cup self rising flour = 1 cup all purpose flour + 11/2 tsp baking powder. I omit the salt but if I must I put only 1/8 tsp. I bake all the time and these formulas always work for me. Also, I don't like cake flour due its acidific aftertaste and what I think is a powdery texture, and i have made cakes that ask for cake flour and then made then a second time using my formula. The cakes made with the combination of AP flour and cornstarch is superior in terms of texture and taste.

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9 months ago Jen Monroe

Looking forward to trying your version--thanks Regine!

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10 months ago Lisa

What about pastry flour? I use to have a local source for it, but no longer. Someone told me that pastry flour was similar to cake flour. Can anyone clear that up for me?

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10 months ago Jen Monroe

Pastry flour is similar, but not identical, to cake flour -- it's also low-protein, but the protein level usually sits somewhere between those of cake flour (8%) and all-purpose flour (11%), and it's slightly starchier. If you're in a pinch, using a 50/50 mix of cake flour and all-purpose flour makes a good pastry flour substitute.

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9 months ago Lisa

Thanks Jen!

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10 months ago Angela R

Can someone make a large batch of something like this and keep it in the pantry? Kinda like keeping a bag of the premade stuff?

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10 months ago Jen Monroe

Absolutely!

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10 months ago tee

Wow, this is great I can't wait to try it out and of course take photos.

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10 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Very helpful, even for this old-school type who cannot imagine a pantry without cake flour (but finds herself without enough on occasion, and appreciates being spared a trip to the grocery). Quick question, though . . . . does the cake flour conversion work when measuring by weight, not volume? Yes, I know that most recipes in the US are by volume, but being lazy to the core, I much prefer using a scale; typically I convert based on the nutrition information on the box. (Those labels with the calories, fat content, etc., always include both volume and grams; simple arithmetic is all one needs to make the conversion.) Thank you! ;o)

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10 months ago Jen Monroe

Ooh, that's a good question. I imagine the conversion would work just fine, as long as you keep the proportions the same, but perhaps more seasoned bakers could chime in?

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10 months ago Annette J

I am always surprised at some of the cultural cooking differences between countries, in the UK every shop that sells flour will have at least two varieties (and often more) - plain and self-raising

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10 months ago amysarah

Thanks for the translation. From what I gather from a couple of baking books published in the UK, self rising flour is more frequently used there as well.

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10 months ago Monica M

Great tip on the self rising flour. I remember looking in the past and not being able to find the amount of baking powder to flour ratio!