Not just any emulsifier will perform in a low-fat cake recipe. We explore how to achieve the best functionality with minimum effort.
Adding an emulsifier directly to cake batter is easier said than done if you are to get the most out of its volume and structure-adding properties. The biggest hurdle relates to the form of the emulsifier crystals – an alpha crystal form producing the desired functionality, while the beta form has no effect at all.
As luck would have it, all emulsifiers have a natural tendency to transform from the unstable alpha to the stable beta form over a short period of time.
Recently we have looked at a way to help those industrial bakers who don’t have the facilities to make the gel themselves. Our objective was to develop a convenient powder emulsifier for direct addition with the other dry ingredients in cake recipes.
The main hurdle, as usual, was to achieve alpha-crystal stability. So, for this purpose, we developed a new processing technique, which gives the powder emulsifier an active shelf life of around three months.
Although our solution does not yet provide the same low cost-in-use as emulsifiers for cake gels, its ease of use is an attribute in its favor. Our lab tests have found that cakes made with the powder have a similar volume and shelf life to cakes made with a gel.
The only quality difference we have observed from use of the powder is the finer crumb structure, cake gels producing a slightly more open crumb.
Several industrial bakeries have tested the powder cake emulsifier with good results.
On an ethical note, one of the questions we receive from our customers concerns the raw materials used for our emulsifiers, which are based on vegetable fats such as palm oil.
A number of markets today require emulsifiers that are either made from sustainable palm oil or are palm-free. You can read more about how we work with that here.
The alpha challenge
Our challenge as a supplier to industrial cake bakers is to develop a system that stabilizes emulsifiers in alpha form for as long as possible. In sponges, Swiss rolls and other cake recipes containing no or very little fat, this is vital to obtaining the desired volume and soft, light texture in the final product.
The undisputedly cheapest solution for the cake manufacturer is to buy an emulsifier for use in a cake gel. This is where the emulsifier is simply mixed with water and heated to 60-70°C prior to addition to the batter. In this state, the emulsifier will remain in alpha crystal form for up to 10 days.