Flour 101: What’s the Difference?

Ever wondered, “What’s the difference between all purpose flour vs cake flour vs bread flour vs almond flour?” Wonder no more!

All purpose flour vs cake flour vs bread flour vs almond flour

I love getting baking questions from my friends and family. It makes the pastry nerd inside of me glow bright and warm like an oven light. 

Can I make buttermilk? Do I need to sift powdered sugar? Can I substitute baking soda for baking powder?  

Yes. Probably. And don’t you dare. 

Recently, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about flour, and if you don’t frequent the baking aisle as much as I do, it can be intimidating. All of those seemingly identical but totally different boxes of flour stare back at you like you’re suppose to have an opinion on bleached vs unbleached flour. 

To clear up some of the confusion, let’s sort through a few basic flours.

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Rum Cake

Rum CakeThis rum cake is so easy, plus it’s completely soaked in alcohol. Any objections? No? I didn’t think so.

Native to the Caribbean, rum cake takes the ever absorbent sponge cake and steeps it a whole lot of rum. In fact, some rum cakes are so saturated in booze that they’ll get you drunk. This recipe will keep you able to drive but will also satisfy your rum craving.

Like all of my favorite desserts, this rum cake isn’t overly sweet*. The cake has a splash of almond that enhances the rum’s flavor and also takes the edge off of any harsh alcohol taste. The moist cake is balanced between warm rum and the subtle sweetness of almond and vanilla. So if you’re itching for summer to arrive, then allow this rum cake recipe to take you under a shady palm tree on a white sandy beach.

*Personal Admission #20: I think my favorite dessert aren’t overly sweet or rich, because I can eat more of them and feel less guilty.


Rum Cake
Serves 10
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Cake
  1. 4 large eggs
  2. 3 large egg yolks
  3. 1/2 cup dark rum
  4. 2 tsp. almond extract
  5. 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  6. 2 1/2 cup cake flour, plus more for flouring pan
  7. 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  8. 1 cup white sugar
  9. 2 tsp. baking powder
  10. 1/2 tsp. salt
  11. 1 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
Glaze
  1. 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  2. 1/4 cup water
  3. 1 cup white sugar
  4. 1/3 cup dark rum
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease bundt pan with softened butter. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of flour into pan. Rotate and turn pan until it's evenly and completely coated with flour. Tap out excess flour. Do not use a nonstick spray. The cake will still stick to the pan and it's very difficult to remove a stuck cake from a bundt pan.
  2. In a medium bowl combine eggs, yolks, almond and vanilla extract.
  3. In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment combine on low speed cake flour, brown sugar, white sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Add room temp. butter and continue on medium speed until mixture looks like wet sand, about 2 minutes.
  5. Drop back to low speed and add 1/3 of wet ingredients. Once combined, scrape down bowl and add another third. Once combined, scrape down your bowl and add the last third.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 70 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Glaze
  1. Once the cake is out of the oven, melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat.
  2. Add water and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Bring it back down to medium-low heat and, while stirring frequently, let simmer for 5-7 minutes or until slightly thick.
  4. Remove from heat and whisk in rum.
  5. Place a cookie rack over a sheet pan. Set aside.
  6. Fetch the cooling cake. Use a toothpick (or in my case a chopstick)  and poke holes in the bottom of the cake.
  7. Brush half of the glaze generously over the holes. This will take several coats to fully soak in.
  8. Flip the cake out onto the prepared cookie rack.
  9. Poke holes into the top of the cake and brush the remaining glaze over its entirety.
  10. Carefully transfer the cake to its final serving dish and let sit for an hour before devouring.
Adapted from Jenn Segal's blog Once Upon A Chef
Adapted from Jenn Segal's blog Once Upon A Chef
Sifting Through Life http://siftingthroughlife.com/

Raspberry Lemon Cupcakes

I figured we would start with the best.

Raspberry Lemon Cupcake

When I first started baking on my own, I discovered the lovely blog My Baking Addiction. If you go through her recipe index, I’ve probably tried half of her cupcakes. While all her recipes are delicious, there is one that will make you believe in heaven.

I have made these Raspberry Lemon Cupcakes at least 10 different times, and they never last longer than a few days. That’s because the secret ingredient is crack. No, not really, but if you saw how my friends and family react whenever I make them, then you might’ve believed me.

What actually makes these cupcakes so addictive are the details in the recipe. You use cake flour instead of all purpose flour to make the cake fluffy and light. You blend raspberries to make the frosting have a gorgeous pink color. And you hand press the lemon zest and sugar together to make your kitchen smell like the French countryside.

While the recipe is a bit involved, the results are so worth it. Below are a few pictures of the process and then the full recipe. Although it may seem tempting, try not to lick the screen as you scroll through.


Let’s start with the ingredients for the lemon cake and the raspberry frosting.

Mixing batter

Starting with just lemon zest and sugar, the finished batter is white and velvety.

Lemon Cupcakes

You can see pieces of lemon zest in the finished cupcake. What’s not to love about that?

Beating raspberry frosting

Time for the frosting. Beat* in the blended raspberry for that brilliant pink color.

*Personal Admission #3: No, I do not have a stand mixer. Yes, I would do dark things to have one. In the meantime, I just count baking with a hand mixer as a bicep workout. And that is how you make lemons into lemonade.

Raspberry Lemon Cupcakes

Frost and if you add points for presentation, add a raspberry on top. Then, immediately devour.


For the Lemon Cake

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1tbs. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • lemon zest from 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temp.)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and line two cupcake trays.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk and egg whites.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, press sugar and lemon zest together with your hands until moist.
  5. Add butter and beat on medium speed for 3 full minutes.
  6. Beat in extracts.
  7. Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then add half of the milk mixture. Make sure to blend thoroughly after each addition.  Add another third of the flour, then the rest of the milk. Lastly, add the remaining flour.
  8. Beat the batter for an addition two minutes to ensure it is well mixed. Remove any lemon zest that may have clumped together on the beaters and integrate it back into the batter.
  9. Fill cups half way and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. The batter makes 24 cupcakes.

For the Raspberry Frosting

  • 3/4 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (room temp.)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 tbs. clear vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar
  • 4 tbs. cold milk
  1. Blend raspberries. Push the raspberry puree through a mesh sieve (I just used my mesh sifter) to remove seeds.
  2. Cream butter, shortening, and salt.
  3. Add vanilla extract and raspberry puree.
  4. Add powdered sugar in small doses. Mix well after each addition.
  5. Slowly add milk and beat frosting at medium-high speed.