How to Properly Measure Flour (Without a Scale)

One of the biggest (and most common) mistakes in baking is how we measure flour. If you find yourself without a scale, I've got all the tips for measuring the perfect amount of flour every time!
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I’ve got all of your tips on How to Properly Measure Flour (without a scale) so that your bakes turn out perfectly every time! As the author of The Cake Book and The Cookie Book (as well as hundreds of other recipes), my number one goal is your baking success and it all starts with the humble process of measuring flour.

Below I’ll explain why 1 cup of all-purpose flour is equal to 135 grams in my recipes, my favorite flours to bake with, as well as best practices if you’re using cups and spoons for the greatest results possible.

Two things are working against you when measuring flour without a scale:

  1. Measuring cups vary wildly in capacity. I have six different sets of measuring cups and they all result in a little more or little less flour. So trying to be as precise as possible will yield you the best results.
  2. Flour is very fine. As it sits in the bag it settles and becomes compact. That’s why it’s important to fluff, fluff, fluff the crap out of your flour. I hope you’ll remember this mantra.

These two reasons are why, if possible, you should use a scale (this is the one I use). *BUT*, I get that when baking isn’t your job and you’re maybe just baking cakes for special occasions or cookies to satisfy cravings, you don’t want to devote anymore time or money to it. I get it!

This post is to help you get the absolute best results with your baking recipes, so let’s get to it.

A close  up  of a bag of flour.

Flour Notes for Baking on DisplacedHousewife

The Weight of Flour

You’ll note that for DisplacedHousewife recipes, 1 cup of all-purpose flour = 135 grams. This is heavier than King Arthur Flour, and many other websites.

Typically, 1 cup of all-purpose flour = 120 grams in many recipes. More below on why I use 135 grams as opposed to 120 grams per cup of all-purpose flour (and why this matters to you if you’re not weighing your ingredients).

About Measuring Cups

When I was writing The Cookie Book, I tested how all of my different sets of measuring cups held flour. I have sets purchased from Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, Target, some are hand-me-downs from my mom and some are beautiful, wood-handled ones that I love for photos (and are in these photos!).

I found that the average weight when using the fluff, scoop and level method (that I outline below) is 135 grams. People tend to measure more, rather than less, flour when using cups and spoons and I wanted my recipes to accommodate that.

The Flour I Use

One last note… I use King Arthur Baking All-Purpose Flour (and their Bread Flour and White Whole-Wheat Flour). I find it a very consistent flour and I love the results. For Cake Flour I use Swan’s Down or King Arthur Baking.

For specialty flours, I always reach for Bob’s Red Mill.

One final note on flour weights… Not all flours weigh the same as all-purpose flour. I used the above example to illustrate why all-purpose flour is listed as 1 cup = 135 grams in my recipes.

Lastly, all of my recipes are tested with both weights and cups/spoons to ensure that no mistakes are made with whichever method you decide to use. *Note some older recipes still need weights added; comment on that post if you want me to add them sooner rather than later!

I get asked about what flour I use all the time; this seemed like the perfect spot to share this info!

Ingredients to make streusel.

Why We Need to Measure Flour Accurately

One of the biggest letdowns with baking is having something not turn out. Often, it’s too much or an inaccurate amount of flour in the recipe. Too little flour and your cake will fall. Too much flour and your cake is dense and dry.

Similarly, too much flour can make a cookie dry and crumbly…and often more of a thick lump rather than a regular cookie shape. Too little flour and your cookie will spread all over the baking sheet because the ratios are off.

This is one step in your baking process to really pay attention to. It takes just a couple of minutes (if that!) and will have a dramatic affect on your baked goods!

Step-by-Step Instructions for 
Properly Measuring Flour

Below are step-by-step photos (with captions) so you properly measure flour every single time! 

A  spoon in a bag of flour.
STEP ONE: Use a spoon to fluff, fluff, fluff up the flour.
A spoon pouring flour into a measuring cup.
STEP TWO: Once the flour is well fluffed, use the same spoon to scoop the flour into a measuring cup.
A measuring cup overflowing with flour.
STEP THREE: Fill it until it’s full of flour.
A knife leveling flour in a measuring cup.
STEP FOUR: Use the backside of a knife to level the flour with the side of the measuring cup.
A measuring cup with level flour in it.
You’re ready to bake!

Common Mistakes

Not Fluffing

You have to fluff, fluff, fluff the crap out of your flour! Fluffing and then spooning will give you the perfect amount of flour (or close to it). If you don’t fluff your flour you’ll get significantly more flour in your spoon.

Scooping Directly From the Bag

Don’t just use your measuring cup to scoop the flour out of the bag. This will compact the flour (even if you fluffed) and again, you’ll get the dreaded excess flour situation.

Compacting Your Flour

Don’t treat your flour like brown sugar. Veteran bakers know this, but new, fresh bakers might not so it’s worth noting. Never press down to compact your flour in the measuring cup.

Settling Your Flour

Sometimes, I think it’s an unconscious thing, I’ve seen people shake their measuring cups to settle the flour. Do no such thing. Fluff, scoop and level and you’ll be good to go!

Measuring cups on a white surface, one with  flour in it.

Tools You’ll Need

To measure your flour perfectly, you’ll need a set of trusty measuring cups, these Williams-Sonoma ones are my favorites. And these are my absolute favorite measuring spoons–they get in small spice jars perfectly! Not really flour oriented but…

I’d be remiss not to share my favorite scale. If you were raised using cups and spoons it is a wee of an adjustment. But I promise, you’ll be converted for these two reasons: 1) there’s no way not to be accurate (love a double negative) and 2) there is LESS MESS.

A bag  of flour with a spoon sticking out of it.

Measuring Flour Q&A

What if the recipe asks for sifted flour?

If a recipe asks specifically for 1 cup (135 g) sifted flour, then you should sift the flour into a bowl and then use a spoon to scoop it into the measuring cup. If it asks for 1 cup (135 g) flour, sifted, then I would measure out 1 cup (135 g) of flour and then sift it before proceeding with the recipe.

Does this method work for all flours?

Yep! Unless a recipe specifically states that the flour should be packed (I’m thinking about nut flours), all flour should be measured this way if you do not have a scale.

A measuring cup heaping with  flour.

Now That You Know How to Properly Measure Flour, Let’s Bake!

Try out these Small Batch Mega Vanilla Chocolate Chip Cookies (so good), these Small Batch Banana Streusel Muffins or Granny Pete’s Chocolate Cake with Marshmallow Frosting. Enjoy!

Rebecca Firth

How to Properly Measure Flour (Without a Scale)

One of the biggest (and most common) mistakes in baking is how we measure flour. If you find yourself without a scale, I've got all the tips for measuring the perfect amount of flour every time!
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Prep Time: 3 minutes
Keyword: How To, Measure, Flour, All-Purpose Flour, Baking Dessert, Tutorial

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (135 g) all-purpose flour ((or other baking flour))

Instructions

  • Fluff fluff fluff your flour in the bag or in a bowl.
  • Use a spoon to scoop the flour into your measuring cup.
  • Scrape the backside of a knife over the measuring cup to level the flour with the edge of the cup. That's it!

Notes

This example is using all-purpose flour. Other flour, such as cake flour, has a different weight than all-purpose flour (cake flour, specifically, weighs less). However, you would still use the same fluff, scoop and level method for bread flour, whole wheat flour, white whole wheat flour, cake flour, etc.

A Note About Macarons

I recommend that if you want to make macarons you use a scale (save yourself the frustration). Macarons are made using nut flours, not regular flour, and are particularly sensitive to even slight errors in ingredient quantities. 
Thanks for baking with me! Please rate + comment this recipe and tag me on social @displacedhousewife #displacedhousewife so I can see your beautiful treats! xo

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2 Comments

  • cc March 20, 2023 at 5:52 PM

    always check the bag’s fine print to see where the flour was milled before buying it. A brand may work best for your friend who lives in the same state where that brand is milled—and may NOT work for you who lives three states away. The best flour is usually the flour that was milled in the same state where you live, not the one being shipped from several states away and so is compacted by the time you get it.

    instead of a knife, use a reusuable straw to level flour. A straw doesnt compact the flour as much.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Firth March 20, 2023 at 9:28 PM

      Hi! Different brand’s all-purpose flours (and other flour types) have different levels of protein that can impact your baking. I bake with national brands to replicate, as closely as possible, the experience of someone baking my recipes at home.

      Straw or the back of a knife, both will yield roughly the same results. Again, most people have a dinner knife handy, not everyone has straws in their kitchen.

      Thanks for the note!

      Reply