Cake Flour Vs Pastry Flour: Key Differences You Should Know
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If you’ve been cooking and baking under the impression that all-purpose flour is the only option, you should take a seat. There is a plethora of alternatives to all-purpose flour, ranging from wheat- and grain-free flours to flours created for particular baking projects. Flour is traditionally manufactured from finely milled wheat or grains. Of course, there are gluten-free options, but even wheat flours may be classified depending on one essential factor: protein concentration. During the kneading or mixing process, the protein in flour aids in the formation of gluten, which gives baked goods their structure. The more protein there is, the more gluten there is, and the more ‘structured’ your final product will be.

Cake flour is made from soft wheat varieties, most often soft red winter wheat, and has a low protein level (about six per cent). Cake flour is ground exceptionally fine, resulting in a lighter, more loosely structured crumb with a fluffy texture. Due to its low gluten level, cake flour is great for baked goods with a soft texture, making it easier to get lighter, soft textures when baking delicate sponges, pound cakes, layer cakes, and cupcakes.

On the other hand, pastry flour is finely ground flour that has little protein (about eight per cent). Pastry flour contains less gluten and is suitable for baked foods with a chewy, flaky, or crumbly texture, such as pie crust, croissants, scones, tarts, or quick breads.

Key differences between cake flour and pastry flour: 


Pastry flour is ground very finely. It is much finer than all-purpose flours, which are meant to handle a wide range of tasks. The texture of pastry prepared with all-purpose flour will be thicker than pastry made with pastry flour, despite the fact that it can still be made. You may also notice that the texture is more bread-like or floury than the crisp airy feel of good pastries. Pastry flour is rather adaptable, but it will always appear softer than the coarser flour, such as all-purpose flour or coarse-milled semolina.

Cake flour is milled even finer. When you hold cake flour in your palm, one of the first things you'll notice is how soft, cool, and pillowy it feels. You won't be able to feel individual grains on this flour, assuming you can detect them at all. Because of the increased surface area of the flour, it usually feels very cool, if not cold, even after sitting out in a heated atmosphere. It's even finer ground, which means it's even softer, cooler, and more pillowy. 

Protein content

Pastry flours contain less protein. This is mainly due to the use of wheat varieties that are inherently low in protein. Pastry flour is often white flour, which adds to the flour's properties. Low protein in flour suggests that the flour is particularly soft. Hard flours include more protein, resulting in stiffer or harder finished items. This is significant because a lack of protein chains in your pastry limits elasticity, allowing you to make a crisp or airy crust, and stiffness, allowing for softness in your pastry.

The distinction between pastry flour and cake flour, as with texture, is that cake flour has even less protein than pastry flour. This is why a batter produced with cake flour and a batter made with pastry flour yield two different cake textures. 

Both will be cake, but the one made using cake flour will be notably lighter and have more air spaces. Take the same basic batter and make it with cake flour and bread flour. Baked in muffin tins, one batter will most likely be clearly recognisable as cupcakes, while the other batter will most likely feel more textured like a muffin, even if the taste is the same. This is the main reason you should not swap cake flour for bread flour, pasta flour, or even all-purpose flour.


Pastry flour is ideal for light, flaky pastries like croissants, as well as baked goods like brownies and chocolate chip cookies. Cake flour baked goods, on the other hand, have a lighter texture, such as pound cakes. Cake flour and pastry flour have little gluten content and should not be used to make breads, pasta, or baked products that require gluten development.