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Long live the icing in the cake

Extend the shelf life of your cake, and you need a filling with a shelf life to match. Here’s how to hurdle the challenges and enjoy the opportunities.

Good cake fresh-keeping quality is only part of the equation if you’re a baker who likes to make use of creamy, fat-based fillings. Then there are several factors to consider if the filling is to stay just as indulgent as the cake during shelf life.

One of the most critical is that the filling has a solid fat profile capable of achieving fast crystallisation – a filling with a fast setting time being easier to handle in production. This also has an influence on cake appeal, as slow-crystallising fillings tend to be squeezed out and are more likely to develop a sandy texture over time.

Facing up to defects
Using the pulse NMR spectrometer in our lab, we can test the crystallisation rate of all kinds of fats. The findings give us an opportunity to determine the optimum crystallisation speed for a specific processing line and how to limit the formation of the large fat crystals responsible for sandiness.

Difficulties can also arise when incorporating water, sugar and other ingredients into the fat phase. Not only does this lead to a longer whipping time, aeration stability is poor, syneresis is likely, and a waxy mouthfeel may result. All these defects can compromise the shelf life of your filled cake products.

Maintaining the quality
We have spent a lot of time working on these issues. In doing so, we have tested a range of emulsifiers – including distilled monoglycerides, lactic acid esters and citric acid esters – to determine how they can contribute to maintaining the quality of fat-based fillings over time and at ambient temperatures.

Our findings are that a small emulsifier dose, in most cases less than 1%, can make all the difference in securing easy handling during processing and maintaining the high sensory quality of fillings in cakes.

Potential to save costs
Due to the excellent aeration properties they can provide, emulsifiers can take fillings to higher levels of overrun. The light, creamy textures obtained in this way provide an opportunity to reduce the fat in filling formulations and save both costs and calories.

When you buy filling fats, of course, the emulsifier is by and large already incorporated. So, if your fat-based fillings are compromising the shelf life of your cake products, we recommend you to contact your fat supplier.