I have a question for all of you cake bakers. What kind of flour do you prefer when making cakes, Cake flour or all purpose flour?
ADepends on the type of the cake. If I'm baking a cake with a formula that I know needs a stronger flour (higher gluten content) then I would use APF. If I have a cake with high amount of sugar or liquids relative to the amount of flour then cake flour does the job. If I need to modify the texture and/or crumb of the baked good then I can switch between APF, Cake flour or a combination of both. If I want a heavier cake (e.g. fruit cake then I'd go for APF over cake flour), a lighter cake will most likely get cake flour.
Simply put, I figure what qualities I need the cake to have and what ingredients I have in my recipe and choose accordingly.
I am an AP flour girl.
I use both. For white cakes I use cake flour. For chocolate and fruit based cakes (carrot, strawberry, banana, etc) I use unbleached AP flour.
I use a combination of corn starch and ap flour to approximate cake flour. I like the texture it produces better than either all ap or cake flour
When I first started experimenting, I just used my grocery store's all purpose bleached flour. I have read in more than one source that bleached flour produces a better cake than unbleached. Look it up online and see what you find out about this.
In live in the mid-atlantic region of the U.S. I'm still experimenting with recipes. I read that the same AP flour you get in stores in the South may have less protein and less gluten in them than the same brands in other places of the country. I read that this is because the wheat in the south is naturally softer and lower in protein.
So, I actually found an AP flour that is supposedly softer like the ones found in the South, available in my state in the mid-atlantic. It's the Martha White brand. Just like the grocery store brand, it lists the protein content at 3 grams per serving, so who knows if it really is softer than the grocery store brand. Anyway I used this and corn starch to make my own cake flour. I wanted to avoid buying cake flour to avoid the extra expense.
I made 2 batches using the home ade cake flour using Martha White AP flour and cornstarch and the cakes seemed very good. These were yellow cakes but I'm not sure how they improved these cakes since the other cakes I've experimented with were chocolate.
If I were going to buy cake flour, I would go to Target and get the Swans Down brand, just because I've read it is nice and soft. But I'm sure other brands of Cake Flour are good too. I might end up doing that just to see how it affects my cupcakes as opposed to making my own cake flour. Target is the only place in my area that carries Swans Down.
I guess I do not have a good answer to your question, until I bake the exact same recipe, once using straight AP flour, once using my home made cake flour with Martha White AP flour, and once using Swans Down cake flour and report the differences, if any.
I can tell you some things I've read about working with any kind of flour for a cake:
I just started sifting the flour about 5 times, AND THEN measuring it by spooning it into the measuring cup and leveling it off. I used to just scoop the measuring cup into the bag of flour and level off the cup. Not anymore since I read up on this.
I use a whisk to thoroughly mix up the other dry ingredients with the flour (baking powder, baking soda, salt). I want everything evenly distributed within the flour and I don't trust a sifting to do that. I think sifting incorporates air into the flour and makes it light and fluffy but I don't think it thoroughly mixes other things evenly into to it.
What the other poster said about using straight AP flour when needing a sturdier cake sounds right to me.
Hope this helps.