Is New Zealand cake flour the same as American all-purpose flour?
June 18, 2014 7:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm working with a baker in New Zealand whose recipe calls for plain old "flour," though she says it's called cake flour there. To confirm this, I did some Googling, but I can only find New Zealanders looking for (American?) cake flour, which is confusing. I know cake flour in the US is a totally different thing than all-purpose. Can anyone tell me if the flour labeled "cake flour" you buy in New Zealand is the same as plain all-purpose flour in the USA?
posted by chowflap to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Would this web page help?
posted by elsietheeel at 8:02 AM on June 18, 2014

Nope. American recipes routinely come out differently due to the differences in flour and the one time I gave a NZ recipe to a friend in the US it was a disaster. I don't know the exact differences but maybe these guys can help.
posted by shelleycat at 8:03 AM on June 18, 2014

Best answer: Your best bet is to contact the flour mill and ask them what percentage of protein is in the flour in question. Then you can usually find an analog elsewhere. Even in the US different companies use different percentages of protein in their AP and cake flours. If you're trying to accurately translate a recipe, finding out the protein percentage is a must. Once you find the 'flour recipe' as it were, you can oftentimes find an analog here in the states, and if you're ordering enough of it, you can even get a mill to make you a special recipe, if a NZ protein percentage is atypical and not easily found here in the states.

I did find this outline which isn't diffinitive, but it looks like the vernacular for "AP flour" in New Zealand is "Cake Flour."
posted by furnace.heart at 8:03 AM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

All-purpose (US) = plain flour everywhere else.
Cake flour is not the same thing as plain flour. Cake flour is fine-textured and has less gluten and a lot of starch - it makes for light, soft, fluffy cakes.

Do you know the protein content of your target flour? Cake/pastry flour has about 9% of protein. It's less compared to 11% in plain (all purpose) flour. Buy/sell her the flour with the lower protein content.
posted by travelwithcats at 8:06 AM on June 18, 2014

There's this one that goes over US, UK, and Canadian flour types/definitions that could probably be used in conjunction with the NZ one to puzzle it all out.

But I agree that regular flour in NZ is likely the same as US cake flour, i.e. soft and low protein.

And I can't look at the word 'flour' anymore... it's gone all weird.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:07 AM on June 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

All Purpose flour is basically plain flour. Cake Flour is different and is basically AP or Plain flour with corn starch added. I'm an Aussie that moved to the US and has learnt though trial and error with recipes I've bought not a NZer or a baker.
posted by wwax at 8:09 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for answering. So the cake flour in New Zealand is, in fact, the same as the cake flour (NOT all-purpose) you'd buy in the US. Right?
posted by chowflap at 8:12 AM on June 18, 2014

Similar, yes, the same, probably not. There's more to it than just protein (germ content, ash levels, moisture, etc). Also we don't really have plain flour in NZ, just the stuff for cakes and strong flour for bread.

You need to know the profile of flour your recipe needs then find one to match. Relying on generic terms like "plain flour" is asking for trouble.
posted by shelleycat at 8:24 AM on June 18, 2014

Cake flour in the US is bleached and this changes its chemical properties. Bleaching of flour is banned in Europe and other places including New Zealand.

The linked webpage gives a good run-down and notes that bleaching lowers the protein levels and actually makes for prettier cakes:
"In cakes, chlorinated flours improve the structure forming capacity, allowing the manufacture of cakes with high ratio formulations (high level of sugar to flour). At the optimum chlorination level, cakes have improved product symmetry, increased volume and a more desirable grain structure and texture over those produced with non-chlorinated flours."
posted by vacapinta at 9:01 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah the bleaching makes a big difference to texture. No NZ flour is bleached.

Also, while you're sorting thus out, standard US eggs are tiny (NZ size 5). Makes a difference too.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:28 AM on June 18, 2014

Response by poster: OK, it turns out I'm an idiot -- the baker is in South Africa, not New Zealand. Oy... And, she says the SA cake flour is the same as plain flour. We're testing recipes on Friday, so I guess we'll see! Sorry for the dumb-ness, everyone. I did learn a lot about international flours!
posted by chowflap at 11:53 AM on June 18, 2014

Cake and pastry flours, generally speaking, are made from soft summer wheat like, Rosella which has a lower protein content which means less gluten. All-purpose is typically a combination of soft summer wheat and hard winter wheat and will have more gluten because of its high protein content. Bread (strong) flour is hard winter wheat and has some of the highest protein/gluten content. All-purpose is fine if you have no other choice depending on the recipe eg: Angel Food is out but muffins and cookies would be ok.

Part of the confusion comes from all the different standards. Germans care about ash content and use a strange (to this confused canuck!) system to categorize flours. Italians care not only about protein and ash, but the fineness of the milling ... us here in North America care about protein only. Here's some information from a South African baker who uses a brand of flour called "Snowflake".

If cornstarch is added then it isn't cake flour. Adding cornstarch to all-purpose is a in-a-pinch fix when you don't have cake flour on hand.
posted by redindiaink at 12:33 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can anyone tell me if the flour labeled "cake flour" you buy in New Zealand

I realise the question has gone off in other directions, but just for completeness, I'll add that I'm in NZ, and I bake, and I have NEVER seen a product labelled "cake flour" for sale in this country.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 5:55 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not much of a baker, but I can point you to the products sold by Golden Cloud, a popular flour brand in South Africa. They also have some tips for usage. And here are flour products listed in the online store for a popular supermarket.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 7:43 PM on June 18, 2014

If you can get some numbers on protein content and the like you can ask the people at King Arthur Flour what they would recommend. They have a blend that they call cake flour and all of their flour is unbleached.

In fact seeing as they are only two hours away from your location it would be well worth a trip to their shop to describe the cake and bring in the recipe and see what they suggest. If you enjoy baking the trip to the store will be worth it alone.
posted by koolkat at 5:17 AM on June 19, 2014

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