I live in Hong Kong, and the quality of American all-purpose flour we get here is variable. Sometimes the flour is so stale that cakes actually smell bad. Surprisingly the cake flour is much better. A lot of cake recipes on the internet seem to prefer all-purpose flour. Would it work if I just substituted cake flour instead? Are there any adjustments I would have to make? I would really appreciate some advice on this as I have almost given up baking cakes.
You can substitute cake flour for all purpose flour in a cake recipe gram for gram. Do not add anything, especially vital gluten to cake flour. High gluten levels in cake produce very undesirable results. Just substitute cake flour for all purpose in the same amount by weight, not volume.
Self-raising flour is also an good substitute. Three years ago chefs at King Arthur Flour’s test kitchen ran cake tests of a variety of flours. They found the self-rising flour produced an excellent cake.