If you want lighter cakes use green flour
Green flour is flour that has been freshly milled. Green flour is mostly referred to in the context of baking bread and can often be seen as problematic by bakers because freshly milled flour has poor gluten development. The longer a flour is aged more oxidation will have occurred and this will strengthen the formation of gluten once the flour has been hydrated.
When it comes to baking the lightest cakes possible you want a soft wheat flour, a flour that does not form particularly good gluten structure on hydration, you want some structure from it but a limited amount. This is why in some countries flour can be bleached, this practice is banned here. In the UK I have never seen cake flour for sale in the supermarkets, I’ve had to buy it direct from mills. Generally in the flour world, weak gluten flours will end up as cakes and biscuits, the stronger gluten flours will be destined for bread baking.
What about plain flour? Plain flour sits in the middle, a Jack-of-all-trades. I have used it for bread baking but as a rule it’s designated to cakes and biscuits. Cake flour, lower protein than plain flour, produces lighter cakes, and in some recipes the difference is so drastic that I have stopped using it when developing recipes I am publishing on this site, as people will likely be using plain flour.
Green flour in cakes
Green flour is a great choice for cake and biscuit baking, with its poorer or rather immature gluten structure it does exactly what is needed in a cake, giving enough gluten structure to hold the cake wall in place while it’s baking but not too much.
I made little sponge cakes using the same recipe, baked side by side in the oven. On the left I used supermarket bought plain flour (McDougalls) and on the right I used Anne’s white Tybalt flour which had been milled only a week prior to using.
The first visual difference between the two is the lighter and more yellower colour of the supermarket flour. White stoneground flour will be darker when baked. I asked my household to taste both without explaining why and to vote for preferences, they both voted for the cakes made with Anne’s flour because it had a better softer texture. I had asked Nicola to carry out the same test for me and she also found a textural difference between Anne’s green flour and the Tesco’s value plain flour she used, 3 hours after baking she wrote, “Anne’s still lovely and crumbly, tesco stiffening up still more”.
Above: Anne’s green Tybalt flour, flour one week old.
Above: McDougall’s plain flour.
What I found interesting the day after baking the cakes was cutting the cakes in half and seeing the results, I did not expect to see the difference in crumb texture as I did. The supermarket’s crumb has a “squashed” appearance, there are areas in the crumb with visible denseness, many small holes are not as open as they could be. The green flour’s crumb has a evenness of hole distribution and there are more small visible holes throughout the crumb.
Months ago I discussed with Anne this theory of mine on green flour being a good choice for baking cakes, it’s nice to see the theory in practice.
If you want to experiment with white green flour go to a small stoneground mill and ask if you can have the flour as soon as they have milled and sieved it.