Take the Cake: Bite-sized Inspiration for the Savvy Baker

Flour is a super important ingredient when it comes to baking. But did you know that there are actually several types of flour you can use?

Flour is the ingredient that gives your baked goods structure, but knowing the difference between the various types can be a little tricky. Take a look at our handy how-to guide on some of the most common varieties of flour:

All-purpose flour

This is the most common and most versatile type of flour that you’ll encounter in a recipe (if a recipe calls for just “flour,” this will be your safest bet). All-purpose flour consists of a blend of both soft and hard wheats, with a gluten (protein) content of 8-12 percent. It can be found in both bleached and unbleached varieties (but we’ll get to that part later).


Use for: Pretty much anything

Don’t use for: Nothing – but other types of flour might be preferable depending on the recipe


Cake flour

Unlike all-purpose flour, cake flour is only milled from soft wheat, resulting in its distinct pillow-soft texture. This type of flour has the lowest gluten content of all flours (only 5-10 percent), and it’s also high in starch. We love to use cake flour in several of our cake recipes, since its low gluten allows for a softer and moister texture.

Use for: Tender and moist cakes/cupcakes

Don’t use for: Bread or other yeast-based products



Pastry flour

This flour is made from soft wheat (like cake flour), but its gluten content is slightly higher (8-10 percent) since it doesn’t go through the same bleaching process that cake flour does. This is the type of flour that we think is ideal for making perfectly flaky pie crusts and pastries (and even many types of cookies), except it can often be difficult to find at grocery stores.

Use for: Pie crusts and pastries (croissants, profiteroles, éclairs, etc.)

Don’t use for: Bread or other yeast-based products

Photo Credit: IncuBaker

Bread flour

Bread flour has the highest gluten content (10-14 percent) of all flours and therefore produces goods with strong and firm textures (which is why it’s perfect for baking crusty bread). It’s made only from hard wheat, and it’s never bleached. When making yeast-based breads, it’s important to use this type of flour, as the extra gluten helps make the fermentation process easier.

Use for: Bread, especially crunchy breads like baguettes and sourdough

Don’t use for: Cakes, cookies, or delicate pastries

Photo Credit: Kempden

Photo Credit: Kempden

Whole wheat flour

This flour is unique, since it’s made from the whole kernel of the wheat. Unlike the other flours on this list (which are considered white flours), whole wheat flour is higher in nutritional value and is therefore a good healthy option. One thing you’ll need to make note of when using whole wheat flour, though, is that it’s more absorbent than white flours. Because of this, you’ll need to add more liquid so your dough won’t be too sticky.


Use for: A healthy alternative, or for whole wheat bread

Don’t use for: Only substitute it for part of your white flour so your baked goods won’t be too dense

Photo Credit: The Science Explorer

Photo Credit: The Science Explorer

Bleached or unbleached?

Lastly, you might have also noticed that some flours are labeled “bleached” and others are labeled “unbleached.” There’s a pretty big debate as to which one is “better,” but it’s really up to you about what you want to use. The main difference between bleached and unbleached flours is that bleached flours are treated with a chemical solution that breaks down some of the gluten and makes it cure faster, while unbleached flours are allowed to cure naturally and are a little higher in gluten.

Now you’re well on your way to becoming a bonafide baking guru!

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