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Danilo Alfaro

A Substitute for All-Purpose Flour?

By March 5, 2009

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Dev from South Africa writes:
Flour - Wheat Flour - Bread Flour, Cake Flour and All-Purpose Flour
All about flour. Photo © Rebecca Emery / Getty Images

"What can be used in place of all-purpose flour? I live in South Africa and here we normally get cake flour and bread flour, and sometimes self-rising flour, but not all-purpose flour, though many recipes call for it. What should I do for a substitution?"

First of all, here's an article that describes the difference between all-purpose flour, bread flour, cake flour and so on.

As it happens, you've identified one of the important issues in the world of baking. Professional bakers don't measure flour in cups — that's way too imprecise, and leaves room for all kinds of errors depending on whether the flour is scooped out, spooned out, sifted, unsifted, and so on. The only way of ensuring a recipe's accuracy is to measure the flour by weight.

So if you're making bread, hard rolls, pizza dough or other tough, crusty products, you'd probably want to use bread flour. A cup of all-purpose flour, sifted, will weigh about 125 grams. To convert a recipe that calls for all-purpose flour to bread flour, you'd simply weigh out 125 grams of bread flour for every cup of all-purpose flour the recipes requires.

Similarly, if you're making cakes, pies or pastries, you'd probably want to use cake flour or pastry flour. And again, just substitute 125 grams of cake flour for every cup of all-purpose flour the recipe calls for.

Read All About Flour and learn the difference between all-purpose flour, bread flour and cake flour in more detail. Here's another blog post about How to Measure Flour.


August 2, 2009 at 6:02 am
(1) Jo says:

In South Africa you can buy mealie meal flour (sadsa, maize porridge) which works well as an alternative. I’ve used it for pastry for quiches and pieces, for instance. The result is a bit heavier than wheat flour, and can’t be rolled as thin, but still scrummy.

February 20, 2011 at 10:17 am
(2) Emma says:

What if you are making waffles?

February 20, 2011 at 3:40 pm
(3) culinaryarts says:

Same deal. That’s the beauty of weighing the flour. The recipe only cares how much flour there is, not what size of a container it’s measured in.

October 2, 2011 at 9:28 am
(4) v10011011 says:

if it is heavier (denser is the more accurate term) and you are using for waffles, or any recipe that intends a large rise from the dough or batter, I would highly recommend sifting the flour to help assist. also, the more dense the flour, the higher the gluten levels. if using a high gluten flour for waffles or anything with a light crumb make sure to mix only the bare minimum amount to bring batter together or the gluten will tighten too much and you will have a really dense and overly toothsome product.

March 11, 2011 at 12:49 pm
(5) Cindy Stewart says:

still didn’t give me the answer I wanted

March 11, 2011 at 2:01 pm
(6) Danilo says:

Hello, Cindy. Was there a specific question you had?

September 12, 2011 at 6:15 am
(7) Lynda Finn says:

My question is how do you make good Yorkshire puddings with South African flour? Does anyone know of a British grocer in Cape Town where I might buy plain flour??

November 10, 2011 at 11:27 pm
(8) Jennifer says:

http://www.uke.co.za/ is an online website where you can buy british grocer items :) Hope this helps, good luck!

November 3, 2011 at 2:49 pm
(9) Nalini says:

Hi. I’m trying to make cinnamon buns and I’ve tried with cake flour and results were not what I expected. I’m also in SA and we don’t have all purpose flour, which the recipe asks for. What’s the closest substitute I can use? My options are white or brown bread flour, self raising flour and cake wheat flour. Thanks

November 20, 2011 at 4:49 am
(10) Mal says:

I live in Milnerton Cape Town for 6 months of the year, I would like to know where I can purchase Plain Flour, as the flours on offer in this area are just not good for making Yorkshire Pudding`s. Even though I say it myself I make fantastic Yorkshire Pudding when in the UK. I have tried Cake Flour and Bread Flour but neither are the right flour.
I have been to the British Emporium in Milnerton they had only
S R Flour and for perfect Yorkshire`s it needs to be Plain Flour.

November 29, 2011 at 4:29 pm
(11) anna says:

what about oatmeal cookies?

March 4, 2012 at 6:18 am
(12) JaniceE says:

Im a Brit who has been here for many moons…always complained about my yorkshire puddings and then found Jamie Olivers recipe. Use cake flour its fine for this.
/2 pint (285 millilitres) milk
4 ounces (115 grams) all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
3 eggs
Vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Mix the batter ingredients together. Let rest for 10 minutes
Preheat a Yorkshire pudding tray or muffin tin with 1/2-inch (1 centimetre) of oil in each section. After the 10 minutes divide the batter into the tray. Cook for around 15 to 20 minutes until crisp and puffy, don’t open the oven door before then or they won’t rise.

May 14, 2012 at 7:17 am
(13) Anzunette du Plessis says:

So if the recipe calls for 1 & 1/2 cups cake and pastry flour
1 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, what do I do then? Which South African flours can I combine to achieve the best results?

July 14, 2012 at 5:11 pm
(14) Mark says:

I’m trying to make donuts and it says I need 1 cup of flour but I only have cake flour can I use cake flour?

July 14, 2012 at 7:27 pm
(15) Danilo says:

Mark: Cake flour is excellent for making doughnuts. If the recipe specifies 1 cup of all purpose flour (or if the recipe doesn’t specify what type of flour), just use 125 grams of cake flour.

September 2, 2012 at 2:48 am
(16) Lynne says:

IN Australia we have plain,self raising, bread flour which should I use instead of all purpose flour please.

October 11, 2012 at 8:28 pm
(17) Jacqui says:

Lynne: Aussie here as well. In regards to your query..All purpose flour in Australia is known as Plain Flour…so use Plain Flour

February 20, 2013 at 7:29 am
(18) Shani says:

Cake Flour works fine for yorkshire pudding – have been making them that way for ages and British friends say it is just as good as home. Janice’s recipe is similar to mine – one cup flour, one cup milk, pinch salt, three eggs, except I use butter in the muffin tin.

Things to remember that have worked for me – the butter must be very hot (smoking), then divide the batter as quickly as possible. The batter must be at room temperature when you use it.

190 degress for 20 minutes. Works for me!

March 15, 2013 at 11:52 am
(19) Sharon says:

I live in Jamaica WI and the common flour here is called Counter Flour; as far as I can determine, it is made of a combo of soft wheat flours; it appears to be heavier that the Canadian All Purpose flour that I normally use. Should I just weigh it as you suggested to get the equivalent for my breads? and pastries? cakes? or can you suggest an alternative? Anything you suggest would be important to me.

May 14, 2013 at 5:02 pm
(20) tennesseewalker says:

what about fortune cookies?

June 12, 2013 at 5:21 am
(21) jody says:

i want to make delicous cupcakes but the recipe that im about to use says i need to cups of all purpose flour, i saw someone said maize meal or well mealie meal an i just dont c how that could work, im making whoopie pies too and i also need all purpose flour could i use corn flour. im from south africa

August 28, 2013 at 8:38 am
(22) Janice says:

I want to make bread but all I have is something called hard Italian flour. Can I still get a soft white bread from this type of flour and does it need more yeast if it’s a heavier flour?

October 6, 2013 at 8:54 am
(23) Lanca says:

You did not really answer this persons question. He asked about the TYPE of flour, not the measurements. Just to refresh your memory, here is the question YOU posted on the page, but FAILED hideously to answer: “Dev from South Africa writes:

“What can be used in place of all-purpose flour? I live in South Africa and here we normally get cake flour and bread flour, and sometimes self-rising flour, but not all-purpose flour, though many recipes call for it. What should I do for a substitution?” “.

Here is a tip – next time don’t slot in a link to a website and elaborate on something else. The people who commented are clearly better listeners and anweres than you…

October 6, 2013 at 8:32 pm
(24) Danilo says:

Hi Lanca: You seem angry or upset, so I’ll try to be gentle. The question from Dev was about what to use instead of all-purpose flour. The answer was, basically, “It depends on what you’re making, but here are some possible substitutions if you’re making bread, or if you’re making cake or pastry, and here’s a link to an article that will go into more detail.” It always puzzles me as to why the angriest people are the ones who didn’t seem to read the thing all the way through. But I hope you’re feeling better now.

December 6, 2013 at 10:22 pm
(25) renee says:

Would like to know if I do not have all purpose flour and have self rising, what do I omit, I am baking

December 22, 2013 at 3:25 am
(26) Sciman says:

Let’s settle this type and amount question:

The factor that determines the TYPE of flour is the gluten content. Gluten is the protein in the wheat which binds the ingredients together and allows the baked product to hold its shape; the more gluten the “stronger” more heavy, sticky, rubbery the final product. .
So according to the Wikipedia article on wheat flour:

Cake flour 8-10% gluten
Pastry/Cookie/Cracker flour 9-10% gluten
All purpose or plain flour 9-12% gluten
Bread flour 10-13% gluten

So those asking about what substitute to use the answer is: match the flour indicated in your recipe with closest gluten content to the list of flours above that you can get locally.

Now with regard to amount you have to do some basic math in ratio and proportion. If you can only get bread flour and the recipe calls for cake flour then dilute your recipe by using more dry ingredients to get down to 8-10% gluten for the whole recipe and add wet ingredients to compensate. If you only have cake flour and need bread flour then you will have to buy gluten powder from a health food store and add the appropriate amount to bring up the percentage. If you can’t get gluten powder then egg whites is also a protein based binding agent. You will have to experiment and do the math yourself.

With gluten powder it is possible then to bake a bread with a flour using a grain without gluten such as quinoa or amaranth or maize/corn buckwheat etc. by just adding equivalent of 8-14% gluten by weight.

Above all, have fun and enjoy experimenting there is no such thing as a flop its just a new creation!

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