5 Most Common Types of Flour—and How to Sub One for Another

Pastry flour is a soft, low-gluten flour that’s designed for making biscuits, muffins, cookies, pies, and pastry doughs. It has a gluten content of around 8 to 10 percent.

Fast Facts

  • Made from soft white or soft red winter wheat
  • Gluten content 8 to 10 percent
  • Made for baking delicate pastries and cookies

There are different kinds of flour for different purposes: A baker wouldn’t use bread flour to bake cakes, for example. And she’d use pastry flour, which has a slightly more off-white color than cake flour, to bake biscuits, muffins, and cookies. So if a recipe calls for pastry flour and you don’t have any on hand, you can use one of these two substitutes instead.

When you’re taking on a baking project, there are many different types of flour at your disposal. In fact, at this very moment I have 6 different types of flour in my pantry. I’ve got the staples—all-purpose flour (AP), cake flour, and bread flour—then some fun additions: whole wheat flour, almond flour, cassava flour.

With a full pantry, spending money on pastry flour can seem silly, especially if you’re not going to use it often. Doesn’t all-purpose flour work well enough? Well, trust us: Pastry flour is worth knowing about (and using) if you like to bake. Keep reading for everything you need to know. Plus, we’ll also dish on cake flour.

Pastry flour is a low-protein, specialty flour ideal for baked goods. On average, pastry flour has an 8 to 9 percent protein count versus all-purpose flour, which contains approximately a 10 to 12 percent protein count. For pastries like biscuits, scones, pie crusts, and quick breads, a lower protein count means a lighter, flakier dough.

Protein count is equated with the amount of gluten in flour; the higher the protein count, the more gluten in your flour, which will result in a denser dough. As you mix dough, the gluten in the flour (aka the protein) binds together and becomes tighter. This is why it’s especially important to not overwork your dough—too much mixing will lead to a tough, chewy dough.

However, pastry flour is not ideal for all pastries: cinnamon buns, for example, generally have a soft but dense dough, which is best achieved by using all-purpose flour. So, it’s important to consider each recipe carefully. While pastry flour can transform challenging doughs like homemade puff pastry, it is not a one-size-fits-all ingredient.

Baking is arguably the most scientific form of cooking. Not enough baking powder and your cakes could come out flat. Too much flour and your cookies might be rock solid. Add to that 10 different types of flour staring you down in the grocery aisle, and it’s enough to make you want to throw in the tea towel.

While we’re willing to put a good amount of effort into our baking trials (after all, even when the results aren’t perfect, they are usually delicious!), a good understanding of the various flour types can give you a head start. You may be asking yourself: Do I really need to use cake flour for my cakes? What’s the difference between whole wheat flour and white whole wheat flour? How many types of flour do I actually need in my pantry? We’ll cut to the chase.

The primary difference between each type of flour is the protein content, which is determined by the type of wheat used to make it. Flour made from high-protein wheat varieties, called hard wheat, have 10 to 14 percent protein content. Those made from low-protein wheat varieties, called soft wheat or white wheat, have a 5 to 10 percent protein content.

More protein means more gluten, and more gluten means more strength. When it comes to baking, the amount of gluten is what determines the structure and texture of a baked good.

Now that we’ve had our science lesson for the day, let’s break it down a little further into the difference between the ten most popular types of flour.

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If you love to bake, you’re probably familiar with the qualities of most of the ingredients commonly used and how they affect the outcome of your desserts: How cold butter helps produce the flakiest pie crust, for example, or how moist brown sugar creates soft and chewy cookies as opposed to the crunchy ones produced by white sugar.

But even the most experienced home baker might get tripped up by all the varieties of flour out there. Without even getting into alternative flours such as amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat, wheat flours alone come in so many forms: All-purpose, whole wheat, semolina, pastry, and durum, to name just a few.

Which flour, then, should you reach for when baking? If you’re crafting a layer cake, some cupcakes, or even delicate cookies such as shortbread, you may not know whether to choose all-purpose flour or cake flour. But for these recipes, it’s a safe bet to select the latter.

Cake flour is perfectly suited for delicate desserts

If you’re setting out to bake a tender, fluffy cake, it’s almost always a good idea to pick up some cake flour at the supermarket, even if you already have some all-purpose at home. What’s the difference? Cake flour contains a substantially lower amount of protein than all-purpose flour: Ten percent as opposed to 11.7%. Less protein means less potential to form gluten, which lends baked goods a bouncy, chewy texture, instead of the soft, fluffy one you’d want in a cake.

Angel food cakes, layer cakes, and cupcakes are all excellent candidates for cake flour, as are “meltaway” type cookies such as shortbread, pecan sandies, and thumbprints. Just be sure to look for a recipe that specifically calls for cake flour; While all-purpose flour can be subbed 1:1 in any recipe calling for cake flour, the opposite is not true, and you might end up with a heavy, sunken cake or cookies that simply fall apart. And if you’re craving a light cake with a fine, even crumb — but don’t want to go to the grocery store — remember that you can make your own cake flour at home: Three quarters of a cup and 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour whisked with 2 tablespoons cornstarch does the trick nicely.

List of 5 Types of Pastry Doughs

There are five main types of pastry dough for creating pastries: flaky, shortcrust, puff, choux and filo. All of them are made primarily from flour, water and fat. However, these five types of pastry dough each have slightly different core ingredients, different ratios of ingredients and, ultimately, different uses.


Delicate and simple to make, flaky pastry is used for sweet or savory dishes that bake quickly, such as the common pie crust. With large pieces of butter mixed into the dough, flaky pastries are more easily made with a food processor or a specialized pastry blender. Requiring a delicate touch, this flaky pastry is easy to overwork, so make sure to pay close attention to the recipe directions.

Bite-sized golden beet and goat cheese quiches with pine nut crust

Made from a flaky pastry dough, this golden beet and goat cheese quiche is a delight in every bite. To ensure your dough has an even consistency, use a KitchenAid® food processor to mix in the pine nuts and salt into the flour.


Perfect for cooks who love to bake, shortcrust pastry is a stout dough used to make thicker pastries like tarts and cookies. This pastry won’t be as easily overworked as others as it takes about half of the fat to flour in its recipe, which binds the pastry together. For each of the four types of shortcrust, crumbles are a plus.

Lavender shortbread cookies

Simple yet elegant, these shortbread cookies epitomize shortcrust pastry dough. With golden-brown edges and the flavor of lavender mixed in with a KitchenAid® food processor, every taste of this cookie is the perfect bite.


Although similar in texture to a flaky pastry, puff pastry differs significantly in how much time it takes to make. It is traditionally formed by rolling dough over a rectangular shape of cold butter in the lamination process. Perfect for making pie crusts or meat pies, flaky puff pastry is the mark of a detailed baker. An easier version of puff pastry, called rough puff, can also be made with a stand mixer for a more hands-off and quicker approach.

Puff pastry waffles with whipped cream

Light, fluffy and mouth-watering, these puff pastry waffles are a lovely treat any time of the day. Use your KitchenAid® stand mixer and whisk accessory to whip up a sweet cream filling for this classic pastry dish.


Choux pastry, also sometimes called cream-filled pastry, has a crispy outer shell and a hollow interior to hold delicious sweet and savory fillings. Perhaps surprisingly, this light pastry dough begins with the addition of eggs. The thick, damp mixture then rises by steam which is what creates choux pastry’s outer shell.

Eclair cake

Combining the finest parts of eclair and cake, the flavors in this recipe will have you wondering why you never thought to combine the two before. With a KitchenAid® stand mixer, you can combine a fluffy cake mix and develop a sweet, creamy eclair filling.


A relative of the puff pastry, filo is made by layering a series of thin sheets of the pastry on top of its filling, such as in baklava or spring rolls. The unleavened dough is stretched into a paper-thin sheet, brushed with oil, then layered with more dough sheets and oil, so that when baked it crisps as opposed to puffing up.

Mini pistachio, walnut & honey baklava

The rich taste of honey and cinnamon meets its perfect complement in pistachio and walnut with this recipe. Create a baklava filling with satisfying flavor and texture by using a KitchenAid® Cordless Hand Blender.

What is a Pastry Beater And How is it Used to Make Pastry?

Pastry beaters or blenders are kitchen tools that are used for cutting butter into flour when creating pastry dough. If using a handheld version, you will need to press it into your butter and flour mixture over and over to create small pieces of butter coated in flour. The pastry beater from KitchenAid brand attaches to your stand mixer to make handmade quality pastry dough, with less effort.

What is the Most Popular Pastry?

The answer to the most popular pastry will depend not only on where you live but also whether you are looking for a sweet or savory pastry. For example, if you are looking to eat a sweet-filled pastry with your morning coffee, eclairs (choux pastry) are a popular choice, especially in France. In North America, the flaky pastry that forms the base of sweet fruit pies like a classic apple pie, or savory hand pies like empanadas might be the most popular.

Create More with KitchenAid® Countertop Appliances

Nothing is quite as exhilarating as watching the transformation of your fresh pastry dough in the oven. That’s why KitchenAid® countertop appliances were designed to help you create any type of pastry dough. Whether you need a KitchenAid® stand mixer or a KitchenAid® food processor to easily cut cold butter into flour, or KitchenAid® stand mixer attachments and accessories to help create delicious, fresh fillings, KitchenAid brand has the tools you need for inventive pastry making.

Expand Your Cooking Possibilities with KitchenAid brand

Have you ever considered the possibilities of pastry flour?

It’s a magical ingredient used in so many recipes to create deliciously light and flaky pastries.

But did you know it can be substituted with other flour varieties?

To incorporate this special element into your dishes without having to buy specialty ingredients, you can use alternative staples like all-purpose or whole-wheat flour.

This article will explain how to cook with pastry flour and give you the five best substitutes for it.

  • The 5 Best Substitutes for Pastry Flour 4 – Mix All-Purpose Flour with Cornstarch 5 – Almond Flour with Rice Flour
  • 4 – Mix All-Purpose Flour with Cornstarch
  • 5 – Almond Flour with Rice Flour

What’s Pastry Flour?

Pastry flour is a type of wheat flour with a lower gluten content than all-purpose flour.

It’s made from soft wheat, which helps keep pastries tender and flaky.

When used in baking, pastry flour has a finer texture than regular all-purpose flour and gives the final product a silky smoothness.

It also imparts a subtle nutty flavor to many baked goods.

For best results, pastry flour should be sifted before use and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator if you don’t plan to use it right away.

Try adding some to your favorite biscuit recipe to give them an extra boost of flavor.

If you’re looking for a substitute for pastry flour, there are several options available to you.

Here are the five best substitutes for pastry flour that can help you get the same results in your baking:

1 – All-purpose Flour

All-purpose flour is a pantry staple, a versatile option to have on hand for baking.

It’s made from wheat and milled to contain different amounts of protein, ranging from 10% to 12%.

This high-protein content helps the dough rise and gives it extra elasticity, making it your go-to choice for chewy breads and pizza crusts.

This same quality also produces flaky results in pastries as it develops multiple layers of buttery texture.

If you’re looking for an even finer texture for certain recipes like cake or biscuits, combining equal parts all-purpose flour with pastry flour will substitute nicely for an even softer outcome.

2 – Cake Flour

Cake flour is a type of soft wheat flour that produces exceptionally light and tender baked goods.

It is lower in protein than both all-purpose and pastry flours, so it absorbs less liquid and fats, which results in more delicate products.

Cake flour has a sweeter taste than other wheat flour, making it ideal for many types of cakes, muffins, cupcakes, and other desserts.

Its texture is also very fine and silky; this helps incorporate air into baked items resulting in lighter, more pillowy treats.

If you don’t have cake flour on hand but need it to make your favorite recipe, you can create a suitable substitution using equal parts all-purpose or pastry flour and cornstarch: blend until combined before measuring out the quantity you need according to your recipe instructions.

3 – Whole Wheat Flour

Whole wheat flour is a great way to add a bit more nutrition and complexity to almost any recipe.

This type of flour has higher protein content compared to traditional, all-purpose flour and provides an earthy and nutty flavor too.

It is usually milled from hard red winter wheat, and it boasts a finely ground texture that gives baked goods moisture, richness, and depth of flavor.

Although you wouldn’t want to use whole wheat in something like biscuit dough or pastries, it can be mixed with pastry flour in an easy one-to-one ratio in order to make subtle changes without detraction from fluffiness or lightness.

And don’t worry if you don’t want the full intensity of whole wheat- by using less of it in the mix with regular flour; you can still get some of the health benefits.

4 – Mix All-Purpose Flour with Cornstarch

When you mix all-purpose flour with cornstarch, you get a wonderful combination that can be used for many different recipes.

The proportion of flour to cornstarch is usually two parts flour to one part cornstarch; however, the ratio can be adjusted depending on the recipe you are using.

The resulting mixture has a more tender texture and lighter taste that improves baking results significantly.

If you’re looking for an alternative to pastry flour, try substituting this mix instead.

When used in cakes, cookies, or biscuits, it will produce a light, crisp result that can surprise even the most experienced of bakers.

5 – Almond Flour with Rice Flour

Almond flour with rice flour is an easy combination that can be used in a variety of recipes.

Instead of using only almond or rice flour, combining the two creates a delicious and versatile flour alternative.

With a taste similar to that of pastry flour, this mix delivers an additional richness to any recipe due to its natural sweetness from the almonds.

It also works well for many folks who have glycemic sensitivities because rice flour is generally lower in carbohydrates than other flour.

As far as texture, almond-rice flour makes for a slightly less light finished product but still has a great structure for baked goods like bread, cakes, and even pancakes.

If you’re looking for a nutritious alternative to regular pastry flour for your baking needs, simply substitute equal parts almond and rice flour together and enjoy the delicious results.


In conclusion, pastry flour is a great ingredient for baking, but it can be difficult to come by.

Luckily, there are plenty of substitutes that you can use instead that will still provide delicious results.

All-purpose flour, cake flour, and whole wheat flour are all great options to use if you’re looking for an alternative that tastes similar to pastry flour.

If you need something with higher nutrition or a unique flavor, try alternatives like almond-rice flour or all-purpose cornstarch.

Whichever you choose, you’re sure to love the results.


  • All-purpose Flour
  • Cake Flour
  • Whole Wheat Flour
  • Mix All-Purpose Flour with Cornstarch
  • Almond Flour with Rice Flour



Pastry flour can be stored in a cool, dry place, like a pantry, for six to eight months, assuming the package is tightly closed. If you live somewhere particularly warm or humid, you could seal the opened flour bag in a large plastic bag and keep it in the fridge.

Pastry Flour vs. Cake Flour

Cake flour is another flour with a low protein content, which is sometimes confused with pastry flour. And, they are quite similar. Cake flour usually has from 7.5 to 9 percent gluten, as compared with 8 to 10 percent for pastry flour. So you can see that there is indeed some overlap, depending on the particular brand.

While a professional baker might opt to keep both cake and pastry flour on hand, for the home cook, it won’t make as much difference. In practice, you could use pastry flour for cakes, as well as pastries. But don’t try to use pastry flour for baking bread, as it won’t develop the structure you need.

Pastry Flour Recipes

Use 120 grams of pastry flour in place of each cup of all-purpose flour in any of these recipes.

  • Cookies and Cream Cookies
  • Cinnamon Sugar Donut Muffins
  • Double-Crust Pie Dough

Best Substitute

Combine 1/2 cup each of all-purpose and cake flour. This will create a flour with a protein content that is very close to that of pastry flour. If you want a more precise match (and don’t mind a bit of measuring), use 3/8 cup of all-purpose flour and 5/8 cup of cake flour.

How to Cook With Pastry Flour

When trying to produce tender baked goods with a soft crumb, it’s important not to overdevelop the glutens. The more you knead, stir, or otherwise manipulate the dough, the more you will develop those glutens. So with a hard, crusty bread or pizza dough, you’re going to want to knead for a long time to develop those long, elastic strands. But with pastry dough, it’s the opposite. You only want to stir or mix long enough to combine the wet and dry ingredients, and then stop. Overmixing your pastry dough will cause it to become tough and dense.

And, as with all types of flour, pastry flour needs to be measured properly, and the way to do that is by weight. This is more accurate than using volume measurements such as cups, and helps make sure your recipes turn out properly. With pastry flour, a “cup” can range from 101 to 108 grams, depending on the brand. But when substituting pastry flour for all-purpose flour in a recipe, be sure to use the full 120 grams.

One common method for baking with pastry flour is to cut in solid lumps of fat, such as butter, lard, or shortening. This is the technique you’d use for flaky baked goods like making pies, pastry dough, and biscuits, as the lumps of fat are what create those layers of flakes within the dough.

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Most Common Types of Wheat Flour

As its name suggests, all-purpose flour suits many purposes and is the most widely available flour. With a protein content of 10 to 12 percent (depending on the brand), all-purpose is the best choice for a wide variety of baked goods, from simple-to-mix to spectacularly involved. It’s a combination of hard and soft wheat.

1 cup of all-purpose flour weighs around 4 1/4 ounces or 120 grams.

Cake Flour Explained

Cake flour is made from soft wheat and has the lowest protein or gluten content, generally from 5 to 8 percent. It is much finer than other flour and much whiter in color. Cake flour is the best choice for cakes, naturally, but it’s not essential for all cakes. It works best for super light and airy cakes like angel food and chiffon. (Rich pound cakes and other buttery desserts generally call for all-purpose flour.)

1 cup of cake flour weighs around 3 1/2 ounces or 99 grams.

1 cup of pastry flour will weigh around 3 3/4 ounces or 106 grams.

Self-Rising Flour

Made from softer wheat, self-rising flour includes a leavening agent (baking powder) and a tiny amount of salt. It’s used in many Southern recipes, and has a protein content of 8 to 9 percent.

1 cup of self-rising flour will weigh around 4 ounces or 113 grams.

Bread Flour

Sometimes referred to as a strong flour, bread flour averages 12 to 14 percent protein, meaning it has the highest gluten content of the wheat flours available in supermarkets. It’s generally used for making bread and rolls, and other yeasted baked goods.

1 cup of bread flour will weigh about 5 ounces or 140 grams.

Another Option

If you don’t have cake flour, use 2 tablespoons of cornstarch combined with enough all-purpose flour to make a cup. Your baked goods will be a bit tougher (due to the extra protein), but they’ll still be quite good. Use either substitute to replace 1 cup of pastry flour. Double or triple this substitute as needed to arrive at the amount of flour your recipe calls for.

Pastry flour is similar to regular flour but with 8 to 10 percent protein. King Arthur’s pastry flour, for example, has 8 percent protein. Other brands may have a little more.

So, why does any of this matter? Because the amount of protein in the flour you’re using plays a big part in how light or dense your baked goods come out. Flours with more protein make denser, chewier baked goods.

Flours with less protein make lighter, airier baked goods. Pastry flour is a relatively low-protein flour that has been specially formulated for use in things like scones and—as the name hints—pastries.

So, while a lot of hardcore bakers will swear by the necessity of pastry flour, most home bakers will probably be just as happy with the results they get from all-purpose flour. You can make perfectly good biscuits from all-purpose flour, and you’ll save money doing it that way. Specialty flours, like pastry flour, cost more—often a lot more.

During the milling process, a kernel of wheat is separated into its three components: the endosperm, the germ, and the bran. To make white flour, just the endosperm is milled. To make whole wheat flour, varying amounts of the germ and bran are added back in to the flour. Whole wheat flour tends to have a high protein content around 13 to 14 percent, but the presence of the germ and bran affect the flour’s gluten-forming ability. Because of this, whole wheat flour usually leads to super sticky dough and denser baked goods. The presence of wheat germ also makes whole wheat flour far more perishable than white flour. While white flour can sit in your pantry in an airtight canister for up to eight months, whole wheat flour will only stay at its best for up to three months.

Whole wheat flour is best used for: cookies, bread, pancakes, pizza dough, and pasta.

How to Use All-Purpose Flour as a Substitute for Other Wheat Flours

Because of its versatility and wide availability, all-purpose flour takes the central spot in most home bakers’ pantries. It’s a versatile flour, not just because it is used in so many recipes—it can also be used as a substitute for other types of wheat flour in a pinch.

Homemade Cake Flour

You can “make” cake flour at home by swapping out 2 tablespoons from each cup of all-purpose flour with an equal amount of cornstarch. Use this formula when you need cake flour for a recipe like this favorite birthday cake.

How to Make Self-Rising Flour

For a homemade version of self-rising flour when you don’t have any on hand, add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt to each cup of all-purpose flour.

Homemade Bread Flour

This specialty flour substitute requires an ingredient you probably do not have on hand, vital wheat gluten, so it’s not as easy a swap as the other homemade specialty flours. Replace 1 1/2 tablespoons per cup of all-purpose flour with 1 1/2 tablespoons of vital wheat gluten. An alternative substitute for bread flour is to swap it one for one with all-purpose flour. The bread may not rise quite as high, but you will likely still end up with a nice, tasty loaf.

Of course, many professional bakers don’t use these flour hacks, arguing that the crumb and overall texture will never be quite as good. But if you are baking for your friends and family, rather than for a panel of judges in a baking competition, chances are you will be just fine.

Hard vs. Soft Wheat Flour

First, it helps to understand what defines each type of wheat flour, and what distinguishes one flour from another. Most common flours are derived from wheat, either hard or soft, and choosing the right flour makes a big difference in how successful a baker you will be.

Of the two, hard wheat is higher in protein, and protein is what allows baked goods to develop gluten. The amount of protein—and thus, gluten—determines whether the texture, or crumb, will be soft and tender or hearty and chewy, or anywhere in between. Anything baked with hard (high protein) wheat is generally stronger and more dense (think bread). Soft wheat is lower in protein and produces a lighter, more tender crumb (think cakes). Of the flours available in most supermarkets, protein contents run from about 5 to 14 percent—a considerable range.

Milled entirely from hard wheat, bread flour is the strongest of all flours with a high protein content at 12 to 14 percent. This comes in handy when baking yeasted breads because of the strong gluten content required to make the bread rise properly. Bread flour makes for a better volume and a chewier crumb with your bakes.

Bread flour is best used for: artisan breads, yeast breads, bagels, pretzels, and pizza dough.

More Substitutes

If you are making bread, cakes, or other baked goods, there are flour substitutes you can use when a recipe calls for a type that you don’t have on hand. Learn how to use swap-outs for:

While you’re at it, take the time to learn how to store flour properly. Indeed, if you’re working on any number of recipes and run out of something, there are literally dozens of ingredient substitutions you can turn to—saving you from making a trip to the store.

Why Do You Need Different Types of Flour?

Why is my pantry stocked with so many different types of flour? First, because I love to take on new baking challenges, but mainly because each type of flour suits a particular purpose. Some of these are self-explanatory (I use bread flour to bake bread, all-purpose flour for flour tortillas); other more niche flours require a bit of explanation (almond flour for macarons, cassava flour for flatbreads). But how can you tell which flour is best for your specific project?

Each flour has its strengths and weaknesses. I’m here to break down everything you need to know about 2 specific types of flour: Cake flour and all-purpose flour. When should you use one and not the other? Should you only use cake flour in cakes? Don’t worry: I have answers to all your baking questions.

With an 8 to 9 percent protein content, pastry flour falls in between all-purpose flour and cake flour. It strikes the perfect balance between flakiness and tenderness, making it the go-to choice for pie crusts, tarts, and cookies. You can even make your own at home by mixing 1 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour with 2/3 cup cake flour.

Pastry flour is best used for: pie crusts, cookies, muffins, pancakes, cakes, biscuits, and bread sticks.

Shopping For Flour?

Pastry flour can be found in nearly every grocery store, either in the baking aisle or in a designated natural/organic aisle, as well as online. King Arthur’s Flour ($3, amazon.com), Bob’s Red Mill, and Arrowhead Mills have all created their own pastry flours.

Pastry Flour Substitutes

An easy DIY pastry flour can be made in your own kitchen—for 1 cup of pastry flour, combine ½ cup of all-purpose flour and ½ cup of cake flour. The protein from equal proportions of all-purpose flour and cake flour meet in the middle to create perfect pastry flour.

For gluten-free bakers, Jovial Foods has created a pastry flour made from organic ancient grains and organic brown rice flour ($5.50, jovialfoods.com). Blends by Orly also sells a certified-GF pastry flour which uses similar ingredients like brown rice flour, whole grain sorghum flour, millet flour, and long grain rice flour ($14, amazon.com).

What Does It Taste Like?

Foods prepared from pastry flour derive their flavor in a couple of ways: one, from the other ingredients, the sugar, salt, and fats that it’s combined with; and two, from the caramelization of starches that occurs when the dough or batter is cooked (i.e. when it turns brown in the oven). But the flour itself isn’t something you’d eat on its own.

The secret ingredients of self-rising flour are the baking powder and salt added during the milling process. It’s generally made from soft wheat with a protein content around 8 to 9 percent. You can make your own at home by mixing 1 cup pastry flour with 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt. Be careful not to substitute self-rising flour for other flours while baking! The added ingredients can throw off the rest of the measurements in your recipe.

Self-rising flour is best used for: pancakes, biscuits, and scones.

What Is Pastry Flour?

Pastry flour is a soft flour made from soft white wheat or soft red winter wheat. This lower protein content (the protein being gluten) and finer texture give baked goods a softer, finer crumb. Think about it this way: more protein produces longer strands of gluten and more elasticity. Combined with yeast, which is a powerful leavener, high protein flours produce large air bubbles, a more open crumb, and a chewier texture. Less protein, combined with weaker leavening agents like baking powder and baking soda, produces smaller bubbles and less elasticity so that the result is softer and more tender. Cookies, muffins, pastries, pancakes, biscuits, doughnuts, croissants, Danish and puff pastry, as well as pie doughs, are typical examples of what you might bake using pastry flour.

Almond flour is made by blanching almonds in boiling water to remove the skins, then grinding and sifting them into a fine flour. This gluten-free favorite is low in carbs and high in healthy fats and fiber. To replace wheat flour with almond flour, start by replacing the flours 1:1 and then add more of a rising agent (like baking powder or baking soda) to accommodate the heavier weight of the almond flour. Note: This will take a little experimenting.

Almond flour is best used for: cookies, muffins, pancakes, biscuits, and bread.

How to Convert Cake Flour and All-Purpose Flour

Protein content isn’t the only thing that’s different about these flours. As Cooking Light points out, “All-purpose flour weighs about 4.5 ounces per cup while cake flour weights about 4 ounces per cup.” (Remember, there is a right way to measure flour.)

Because of this discrepancy, you’ll want to use a bit more cake flour to make an accurate substitution for all-purpose flour. Add an extra 2 tablespoons per cup of cake flour to equal the quantity in 1 cup of all-purpose flour.

If you’re substituting all-purpose flour for cake flour, you’ll want to reverse these ratios: Use 2 tablespoons less AP flour per cup of cake flour, and add 2 tablespoons of corn starch per cup.

White Whole Wheat Flour

Not to be confused with bleached flour, white whole wheat flour is made up of the same components as whole wheat flour, but from a paler variety of wheat called hard white wheat. It has the same protein content as whole wheat flour at 13 to 14 percent, but it tastes slightly sweeter because of its lower tannin content. Whole wheat flour and white whole wheat flour actually have the same health benefits, so if you prefer the taste and texture of white bread, but want the nutritional value from whole wheat, then this is the flour for you.

White whole wheat flour is best used for: bread, muffins, pizza dough, and cookies.

All-purpose flour (sometimes called AP flour for short) should be a staple in your kitchen. Created from a mixture of soft and hard wheat varieties, it has a moderate protein content of about 9 to 11 percent. As the most versatile flour, it’s capable of creating flaky pie crusts, chewy cookies, and fluffy pancakes. If a recipe calls for “flour,” it most likely means all-purpose flour. (If you watched the video at the top of this article, yep, that homemade tortillas recipe calls for all-purpose flour.)

A note on “bleached” vs. “unbleached”: All-purpose flours that are labeled either “bleached” or “unbleached” will work wherever AP flour is called for. The main difference between these two types is in how they are produced. All flours will bleach (i.e. lighten) over time with exposure to air. Ones that are allowed to bleach naturally are labeled “unbleached.” To speed up the process, manufacturers will add bleaching agents such as chlorine dioxide and benzoyl peroxide— these flours are labeled “bleached.”

All-purpose flour is best used for: cookies, muffins, bread, pie crusts, pancakes, biscuits, pizza dough, and pasta.

00 Flour

Often referred to as Italian-style flour, 00 flour is made from the hardest type of wheat with a protein content of 11 to 12 percent. The “00” refers to the super-fine texture of the flour, making it easy to roll out to extreme thinness without breaking, which is perfect for pasta and crackers.

00 flour is best used for: pasta, couscous, thin crust pizza dough, flatbreads, and crackers.

Put Your Flour to Good Use!

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Cake Flour Vs. All-Purpose Flour

The main difference between types of flour is in the gluten content. Flour can be made from high-protein wheats (“hard wheat”) or low-protein wheats (“soft wheat”). The more protein in the flour, the more gluten develops, which leads to more strength, volume, and elasticity in the final baked product. For example, bread flour—the strongest type of flour—is made from hard wheat, resulting in the denser, chewy texture desirable in bread. These qualities, however, are not desirable when baking more delicate pastries or cakes, where you want a tender crumb.

On the other end of the spectrum, cake flour—made from soft wheat—has the lowest protein content of all flours (7-9% protein). Since its gluten proteins are very weak, cake flour is often used to make soft, tender baked goods like cakes, pastries, or biscuits. A chlorination process further breaks down cake flour’s gluten, creating a flour that’s even more delicate.

All-purpose flour is made from a mixture of hard and soft wheat. In terms of structure, all-purpose flour has a moderate protein content (10-13% protein), so it holds its shape without delivering the same density or level of gluten development as bread flour. All-purpose flour is so widely used (and a default whenever a recipe simply calls for flour) because it’s a good middle ground between flours that are higher or lower in gluten.

Pastry flour and cake flour are both weak flours that are used for making tender baked goods, and as we noted above, there is some overlap between the two in terms of their protein content. So cake flour would be a good pastry flour substitute. So would all-purpose flour, which is intended to be used for all sorts of baking. It won’t give you the most tender result, but it will work. You could also combine equal parts all-purpose and cake flours.


If you want light, airy baked goods without using pastry flour, measure your flour properly. While it’s a bit faster to dig a measuring cup into the bag of flour, you’ll put a bunch of extra flour into your recipe if you do it that way. And nothing makes a cake or biscuit dense faster than too much flour.

To match the measurement intended in the recipe, use a spoon to scoop the flour into the measuring cup. Then, level off the top before adding it to your recipe. This simple skill can turn a good baker into a pro.

The Difference Between Cake and Pastry Flour

While pastry flour is ideal for pie crusts and tart shells, cake flour is designed for (you guessed it!) cake. Cake flour’s soft, fine texture easily absorbs liquid and sugar, which produces extra-moist cake. Cake flour has a 7 to 8 percent protein count, even lower than pastry flour. The low protein count creates the moist, fine crumb and fluffy texture in cakes and muffins. Many cake flours, like Pillsbury Softasilk ($14 for a two pack, amazon.com) and Swans Down ($13 for a two pack, amazon.com), come pre-sifted, enriched, and bleached. We recommend trying it out in our pound cake.

Note: Cake flour should not be substituted in recipes that call for all-purpose flour. Because cake flour contains less protein than all-purpose flour, it requires more fat (e.g., eggs, oil, and butter) to support its weight and leaven properly. Try experimenting at home until you find the perfect fat to flour ratio for your sweet treats!

Cake flour has the lowest protein content of all flours at 5 to 8 percent. Because of this, it forms less gluten, which leads to softer baked goods—perfect for cake recipes (obviously!), muffins, and biscuits. Cake flour also absorbs more liquid and sugar than all-purpose flour, which helps create super-moist cakes.

Cake flour is best used for: sponge cake, pound cake, layer cake, angel food cake, and muffins.

Where to Buy Pastry Flour

Pastry flour can often be found in the baking aisles of supermarkets and grocery stores, as well as at specialty food stores, specialty baking stores, and online.

When to Use Cake Flour Vs. All-Purpose Flour

If a recipe doesn’t specify a certain type of flour, it’s generally advisable to use all-purpose flour. All-purpose flour can be used for breads, muffins, cakes, and more.

Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

Whole wheat pastry flour is made from the complete wheat kernel, thus it is less processed and more nutritious than enriched and bleached pastry flour. Whole wheat pastry flour adds a nutty, slightly dense texture to pastries. Much like pastry flour, the whole wheat version has a lower protein count than all-purpose flour, which helps achieve lighter pastries. Whole wheat pastry flour’s nutritional value comes from its high fiber content and lack of traditional additives like niacin, iron, thiamine, folic acid, and riboflavin. You can use whole wheat pastry flour interchangeably with pastry flour— it’s simply a matter of personal taste.

Gluten-Free Flour

Gluten-free flour can be made from all sorts of ingredient bases, such as rice, corn, potato, tapioca, buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, or nuts. Xanthan gum can sometimes be added to gluten-free flour to help stimulate the chewiness associated with gluten. Gluten-free flour can’t always be substituted 1:1 for white flour, so be sure to check your specific recipe if you’re thinking about swapping the two.

Gluten-free flour is best used for: cakes, cookies, pancakes, bread, and muffins.

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