After years of answering reader calls about recipes, one thing is certain: How you measure flour is the single biggest booby trap to your success in baking.
For all-purpose flour, the instructions on the bag—fine print of course—direct you to spoon the flour into a dry measure cup (flat top) and sweep off the excess with a straight edge. If you drag your cup measure through the bag to scoop up the flour, you’re actually packing more into it than what’s intended for the recipe. The result is a baked good that’s bound to be heavy and dense.
You’d expect cake flour to be measured the same way, right? Wrong! Read the package instructions and you’ll see that manufacturers recommend sifting cake flour before measuring it.
Curious to see just how different sifted and unsifted can be, I experimented with a scale, which is the most precise way to measure and is also the method the majority of the world uses. I weighed two cups of spooned-in cake flour versus two cups of sifted cake flour. The 1¼-ounce disparity amounted to almost six tablespoons! An inconsistency that big could easily be the clincher between moist and tender versus dry and crumbly. And further experiments proved that this number can also vary, sometimes being as large as nine tablespoons! Has this happened to you? How do you measure your flour?
To read about my adventures with a red velvet cake—which required a lot of sifting— download the free Gourmet Live app, then head over to Epicurious to get the recipe for my Fourth of July Glorious Red White and Blue Cake.