Can You Use Cake Flour for Cookies? Learn the Cookie Chemistry from Our Test Kitchen Pros
Whether you’re fresh out of all-purpose flour or are simply seeking ways to use up cake flour from your classic cake recipe, you might be wondering, “Can you use cake flour for cookies?” True, few cake flour cookies exist—by that, we mean cookie recipes that already call for cake flour in the ingredients list—but using cake flour for cookies is possible. And we promise it won’t ruin your entire batch of cookie dough. (Just be sure to bake 'em first. Here's a quick reminder why you should never eat raw flour.) Learn the science behind cookies made with cake flour, plus score some additional baking inspiration to customize your next cookie jar stars to make your best batch yet.
Can You Use Cake Flour for Cookies?
So you invested in a full bag of cake flour for Classic Shortcakes, Pumpkin Spice Latte Bundt Cake with Whipped Cream, Chiffon Cake, or another of your family’s favorite birthday cake recipes. While we’d never say no to another slice of cake, you do have more options for putting that cake flour to delicious use.
When the protein and gluten in any kind of flour is hydrated, it offers the structure required to give baked goods their foundation and crumb. The amount and type of flour in cookies can make them chewy or cakey, crispy or soft.
Cake flour is a lower-protein flour; it has about 7% to 9% protein compared to the 10% to 12% protein in all-purpose flour. If you opt for all cake flour cookies, less gluten is formed when you mix the cookie dough. The resulting cookie consistency post-baking is delicate, softer, fluffier, and, well, more cake-like. The color may end up paler, and the edges might not be as crispy. But the flavor should still deliver. And if you’re a fan of soft batch cookies or those remarkably tender frosted sugar cookies, you might even enjoy cake flour cookies more than the original versions.
Gluten acts like a spring. When mixed with a liquid, it can stretch and expand to add to the structure and shape (for example, making layers in flaky biscuits), trap gasses (like those that give focaccia bread its signature bubbles), and offer chewiness (such as in al dente homemade pasta). The amount of gluten formation varies based on how much you mix and what flour you use. A general gluten rule of thumb: The more protein there is in the flour, the more gluten in the final product, which leads to more chew.
Ranked from highest to lowest protein, here are the most common flours for baking:
- Whole Wheat Flour: Since this uses all of the wheat kernel, this flour is heavier and more dense than all-purpose, which has the bran (the exterior of the wheat kernel) and germ (a portion of the internal seed) removed, leaving only the endosperm part of the grain. With about 13.5% protein, whole wheat flour comes in white whole wheat and whole wheat pastry varieties too. It’s occasionally called for in waffles and pancake batters, bread dough, and pasta recipes, and is frequently mixed half-and-half with all-purpose.
- Bread Flour: Because this has more protein than all-purpose, about 12% to 14%, bread flour yields more gluten—and more chew. It’s often called for in yeast breads, pizza dough, and pastries.
- All-Purpose Flour: If a recipe calls for “flour,” use all-purpose. This is available bleached or unbleached and contains 10% to 12% protein.
- Cake Flour: When you’re seeking tender, 7%- to 9%-protein cake flour is your baking BFF. It stars in cakes (especially angel food cakes and sponge cakes) and cupcakes as well as some muffins and scones.
How to Make Cake Flour Cookies
If you’re craving soft, cake-like cookies or have cake flour to use up, cookies made with cake flour can be a stellar solution. Feel free to swap in 75% cake flour (with 25% all-purpose) for the all-purpose flour called for in your cookie recipe (so 1½ cups cake flour plus ½ cup all-purpose in a recipe that requires 2 cups flour). You can even substitute 100% of the all-purpose with cake flour—especially if you adore soft cookies and are topping them with a frosting recipe to cover the paler top.
If you want to tinker around with using cake flour for cookies but don’t have any in your pantry at the moment, try this homemade cake flour recipe: Accurately measure 1 cup all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons of the flour, then replace those with 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Sift to blend, then use in cake flour cookies.
Admittedly, cookies made with cake flour are different in texture than your classic chewy-on-the-inside, crunchy-on-the-outside homemade chocolate chip cookies. But you won’t sacrifice at all on the flavor front if you make cake flour cookies. And if you adore super-soft cookies, you might even enjoy the results more.