Cake and Composite Flour

Reader Wale has a very interesting question:

I would like to ask you what composite flours are. Presently the Nigerian Govt has requested that all flour millers include cassava in wheat flour so as to support the agricultural industry and reduce the buying of wheat from out side the country. This new hybrid flour contains 90% wheat flour and 10% high quality cassava flour. Please can you talk more about composite flours and tell me if it’s ok to use them for cake baking, especially American high ratio cakes.

Hi Wale! Yes I’ve read here an there about composite flours, mostly in regard to western Africa where governments have been anxious to reduce the costs associated with imported wheat. Since root crops like cassava are plentiful, so the thinking goes, why not cut the flour with some less expensive filler? It makes a certain amount of sense, at least when seen from a government perspective. Bakers may well feel differently of course.

The theory is that if a strong, high-gluten hard red winter wheat flour is combined with a pure, unfermented cassava flour the mixture will perform more or less the same as standard all-purpose flour in bread. That’s the theory anyway. The problem is that a rising bread crumb is actually quite complicated. A cake crumb is even more complicated since there’s lots of sugar and fat in the mix as well.

So I think you’re just going to have to experiment, Wale. The one study that I saw on compound flour indicated that breads made with compound flour needed either a higher temperature or a longer baking time to reach their full volume. But that’s bread. It may turn out that a very strong flour that’s cut with cassava will make an excellent cake flour. Theoretically it should make a better cake flour than a bread flour.

So my first suggestion is to try making a few cake layers the regular way. If you notice a volume problem, try the same process with a higher baking temperature rather than a longer baking time, since longer baking will tend to dry the cake out. Then again, cassava flour is extremely absorbent, so you might not have a moisture problem with a longer baking time. So many variables to consider. The important thing as you experiment is to only change one thing at a time. Let me know how things progress, Wale. I’d be happy to help you troubleshoot the recipe as you go along. Good luck!

4 thoughts on “Cake and Composite Flour”

  1. That’s fascinating – I’d never come across that before. On the other hand, at least the wheat flour is being cut with edible cassava: in the days before modern food purity laws, grocers used to have a terrible reputation for cutting flour with chalk dust, sawdust, or whatever else they could find.

    1. For for sure, Jane. Bone meal was another big one. The words “miller” and “fraud” were literally synonyms once upon a time, and that’s no joke. Thank God for consumer protection!


      – Joe

  2. Hi Joe,

    This is very interesting!! This is the first I have even heard of compound flour. Interesting.


    1. Hey Melody! You mostly only see it in developing countries when national governments start looking for ways to cut costs on staples. It adds another dimension of intrigue to the baking trade for sure. Wale is something of a hero of mine for launching a cake business in Nigeria. We’ve been chatting on and off for years. Anything I can do to help! 😉


      – Joe

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