Friday, November 12, 2010


Maizena to the rescue

Want to bake an American style cake in France? It could be problematic because cake flour called for in American recipes is not sold in the land of pâtisserie. 

The French often marvel at the heights American cakes attain...the secret?  Cake flour, a highly specialized type of flour not available in France. Years ago when searching for some, a sales lady at the Fauchon fine and imported foods store explained to me that because wheat is such an important agricultural product in France, its importation is strictly regulated with protective laws.

The solution? When using French flour, use half French flour and half cornstarch as a substitution for cake flour. (Note that French and American flours do not produce the same quantities of gluten, so this proportion would not work if using American flour. In that case and if you're in a pinch, a substitute for cake flour can be made with 3/4 cup sifted bleached all-purpose flour and two tablespoons of cornstarch. )

The major French manufacturer of cornstarch has finally caught on to the marketing aspect of lighter cakes and has added a new tag on its Maizena boxes: pour des gâteaux légers.

I was committed to baking an angel food cake--especially after my French husband went through the ordeal of finding an angel food cake pan for me when on a business trip in the States; then once back in France, being momentarily delayed by a customs officer wondering if it were a mini hand washing machine.

Text & photos © 2010 P.B. Lecron

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