Most of the flour on supermarket shelves is labeled "all purpose." It will work -- that is, not fail disastrously -- for just about anything you'd like to bake.
That doesn't mean it's the best flour for every job, though. So when you're planning on baking a cake, and you'd like it to become the airiest, fluffiest cake possible, consider using cake flour.
Cake flour, made from low-protein wheat, contains about 8 to 10 percent gluten. That means that when it rises, the structures that form inside the batter are less stiff, giving it a softer crumb.
Most cake flours are also chlorinated, or bleached, which helps blend fat and sugar more throughly through the batter.
In this Alton Brown recipe for blueberry buckle, cake flour gives the buckle a more delicate texture, rewarding bakers with fluffy cake studded with berries oozing delicious juice.
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Alton Brown's Blueberry Buckle
For the cake:
Nonstick cooking spray
9 ounces cake flour, approximately 2 cups
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
5 1/4 ounces sugar, approximately 3/4 cup
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
15 ounces fresh whole blueberries, approximately 3 cups
For the topping:
3 1/2 ounces sugar, approximately 1/2 cup
1 1/2 ounces cake flour, approximately 1/3 cup
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 ounces unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
For the cake: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Spray a 9-by9-inch glass baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Add the egg and beat until well incorporated, approximately 30 seconds.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat on low speed just until incorporated and then add 1/3 of the milk and beat until incorporated. Repeat, alternating flour and milk until everything has combined. Gently stir in the blueberries and pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
For the topping: In a small bowl combine the sugar, flour and nutmeg. Add the butter and work into the dry ingredients using a fork or fingers to combine. Continue until the mixture has a crumblike texture.
Sprinkle the mixture on top of the cake. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 35 minutes or until golden in color. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.