Q: I’m trying to get the best texture in my favorite pound cake. Can I mix cake flour and all-purpose flour?
A: The biggest difference between flours is the amount of protein, which leads to the development of gluten, the stretchy bands that join molecules. For strong, crusty bread, you want lots of gluten. For tender biscuits, you don’t want much. For cakes, you need something in the middle.
Bread flour is highest in protein, at 12 to 13 percent. All-purpose flour is next, at 10 to 12 percent protein. Pastry flour is a little lower, at 8.5 to 9.5 percent. And cake flour is the lowest, at 7 to 8.5 percent.
Pastry flour can be difficult to find in supermarkets. But if you mix 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 cup cake flour, you’ll get a protein level that’s very close. You may find it works better for biscuits, pie crusts and some cakes.
Besides having less protein, cake flour also is chlorinated, so it absorbs less water and leads to a drier texture. That could be an advantage to making a tender pound cake.