A Piece of Cake: How powdered whipping cake emulsifiers make baking simple
Rosa E. Regalado-Bowers, General Manager at Palsgaard Inc, explores some of the challenges facing industrial producers of long shelf-life cakes and manufacturers of premixes. She looks at the consumer trends shaping these two segments of the American cake market, including demand for better-for-you and sustainably produced products. And she focuses on what these changes mean for manufacturers’ choice of emulsifiers.
The changing needs of cake consumers
In 2018, nearly 190 million Americans used dry cake pre-mixes. And for many of those who prefer to buy cakes that are already baked, long shelf-life is an important consideration.
But while consumers’ appetite for premixes and long shelf-life cakes remains strong, their needs are changing. There is increasing demand for a wider variety of cakes, including better-for-you and free-from products.
Therefore premix manufacturers and industrial bakers both have to meet a growing number of consumer needs. Of course, people want high-quality products that are reasonably priced, but health-related and ethical considerations increasingly influence their purchasing decisions. American cake-eaters may variously expect their favorite products to be gluten-free, vegan, low-carb, egg-free, organic, low in sugar, low in saturated fat or low in trans-fat. The bakery industry has also been working hard to reduce partially hydrogenated oils, another ingredient increasingly linked to health risks. Meanwhile, as in other sectors, there is demand for leaner, simpler labels.
One area affected by such shifts is choice of emulsifier. Emulsifiers fulfil vital roles in both premixes and long shelf-life cakes, but changing market needs mean that now may be the time to consider how they are sourced.
Sustainability: Driving bakery innovation
Environmental concerns are also highly important to consumers. Nine in ten say they want companies to protect or benefit society and the environment; three quarters want them to address climate change; and nearly two thirds expect them to invest in sustainability.
The bakery industry is no exception. Indeed, Mintel has predicted that sustainability will drive innovation in the sector over the next five years, with bakers expected to address the issue in new and creative ways. At Palsgaard, we see direct evidence of this in our satisfaction evaluations, in which we ask our customers to rank the importance of different issues on a scale of one to ten. Sustainability now typically scores around nine.
For cake and premix manufacturers who want to meet consumer demand for sustainability, choice of emulsifier must be a key consideration. Emulsifier production is highly energy-intensive, so the use of renewables and energy efficiency strategies, such as effective insulation, are particularly important.
Furthermore, many emulsifiers are sourced from palm oils, the environmental and human rights impact of which is coming under increasing scrutiny. The production of palm oils has traditionally involved the clearing of forest areas and habitats of endangered animals, as well as poor employment conditions for plantation workers. Where they are used in emulsifiers, they should be sourced only from RSPO-certified raw materials.
Given that 87% of consumers will buy a product based on the company’s values it is increasingly important for manufacturers to use emulsifiers that are sustainably and responsibly produced, and to partner with suppliers who are committed to reducing their impact on the environment.
Is it time to re-think your emulsifier?
Premixes: The shortcomings of shortening
Emulsifiers provide uniformity, aeration and crumb softening in cakes made from premixes. In the US, many manufacturers use emulsifiers carried via high-ratio shortenings, a process which effectively adds emulsifiers and fats at the same time. However, shortening, which can be high in saturated or trans-fats, is linked with a number of health concerns. And as a carrier for emulsifiers it can require a complex preparation process.
Long shelf-life cakes: Are gels the best solution?
In long shelf-life cakes, emulsifiers fulfil a wide range of functions, including aeration, softening, workability, and increased shelf-life. To achieve these benefits, many manufacturers use cake gels rather than shortening-based emulsifiers. However, gels can add additional steps to the production process, and generate high rates of wastage.
Powdered whipping cake emulsifiers: The smart alternative
Fortunately, there is an alternative. Activated powdered emulsifiers are very different from emulsifiers carried on shortening. Because they are activated on starch in a highly sophisticated extrusion process, they offer a range of benefits over both high-ratio shortenings and cake gels, including:
- Simplicity: As no pre-hydration or pre-emulsification is needed, powdered emulsifiers can reduce the number of production stages required
- Better-for-you: Powdered emulsifiers can facilitate a switch from saturated or trans fats to unsaturated liquid oils
- More with less: Higher emulsifier content than typical high-ratio shortenings or cake gels means lower dosages are required to achieve high-quality results
- Speed: Powdered emulsifiers act very rapidly, enabling manufacturers to accelerate output
- Versatility: Can be used in many different types of cake
Perfect for premixes
Powdered whipping active cake emulsifiers offer many benefits in cake premixes. Custom-designed for the all-in production method for bakers’ mixes, they are fully activated, so no prehydration is required. In convenient powder form, they are easy to work with during recipe engineering, and easy to dose during production and packaging. This means they deliver high aeration and softness, resulting in a uniform cake crumb and a smooth cake surface.
Powdered whipping active cake emulsifiers are also well known for their long shelf life and stability. If you choose the right product, performance over a long time scale is guaranteed. They can also help overcome common challenges with gluten-free cakes, which can be less structured than their traditional counterparts and tend to dry out quickly. With powdered whipping active cake emulsifiers in the mix, batter can hold high volumes of liquid oil without changing mouthfeel. Just as importantly, this can allow a shift from saturated to unsaturated oils, creating new opportunities for better-for-you products.
At Palsgaard, we have developed a series of recipes for gluten-free cakes that demonstrates the benefits of powdered whipping active cake emulsifiers, including:
- A stable emulsion which ensures a stable and moist cake
- Fast and stable aeration, which provides a uniform crumb structure
- A stable batter which tolerates inclusions, such as chocolate
The simple solution for long shelf-life cakes
Powdered whipping-active cake emulsifiers can also help industrial bakers deliver high-quality, better-for-you cakes. In convenient powder form, they are perfect for the all-in production method for industrial baking.
As a powdered ingredient, they offer several benefits over shortening and cake gels. They react instantly when liquid is added to the batter, meaning no pre-hydration is necessary. They also offer consistent performance over time, and because it requires minimal manual handling, there is lower risk of human error. Dosing is also simpler than with gels.
Scraping cake gel emulsifier residue out of a container can cause delays and wastage. Powder, by contrast, leaves its bag quickly, with only minimal amounts left behind. Powdered emulsifiers also take up less storage space, partly because less is needed for the same results and partly because the bags they come in are easy to stack.
They also offer long shelf life, as well as stability during the baking and cooling processes, and high tolerance to mechanical treatment.
The many advantages of powdered whipping-active cake emulsifiers over shortening and cake gels are clear: stability, shelf-life, simplicity, efficiency, and opportunities for better-for-you products. So it turns out you really can have your cake and eat it too.
Our powdered whipping cake emulsifiers
Palsgaard offers two ranges of powdered whipping active cake emulsifiers:
Emulpals ® offers many benefits in premixes, including performance over a long time scale. A large-scale trial found that Emulpals® products maintained high performance in a mix for 12 months when stored at both 68OF and 104 OF.
The Palsgaard ® SA series helps industrial bakers deliver high-quality, better-for-you, long shelf-life cakes. In convenient powder form, they are custom-designed for the all-in production method for industrial baking.
Decades of global knowhow
Palsgaard offers much more than emulsifiers and the know-how to apply them in cakes. As a global emulsifier manufacturer with over 40 years’ experience of developing cake recipes, we engage deeply with our customers to help find new ways to meet consumer demands on a global scale.
Expert support for premix producers
Our six well-equipped global application centers, including one in Mexico which services the US market, enable us to work closely with customers, testing and creating new recipes and solutions for cake pre-mixes to meet a wide range of consumer demands. Customers may also benefit from our temperature and moisture-controlled chambers for shelf-life tests, and from our equipment for measuring water activity, water content, volume and softness of the cakes after baking. Our industrial scale mini-factories help us make realistic trials which can easily be scaled up to industrial size.
Expert support for industrial bakers
How many specialized emulsifier and stabilizer manufacturers offer their bakery customers industrial-scale testing facilities? Our central application facilities in Denmark include a fully equipped industrial bakery where realistic industrial pilot tests are carried out on a regular basis. Industrial-sized mixers and aerators feed a dual-zone continuous band oven to accurately reflect industrial conditions. This unique setup facilitates proper upscaling and increases the likelihood of success in the market. As well as guidance on equipment and support with recipe development, we can run trials in the factory and even start the commissioning of a new factory.
Customers can also be assured that Palsgaard is committed to finding new solutions in the emulsifier space. Drawing on the extensive capabilities of our R&D organization, Nexus, we are constantly innovating to develop new versions of Emulpals ® and Palsgaard ® SA, as well as other types of emulsifier. Our customers can harness that innovation to create concrete benefits, both for themselves and end-consumers.
A commitment to CO2 neutrality
Concern for the environment is fundamental to everything Palsgaard does. In 2010 we set ourselves the goal of completely carbon-neutral production by 2020, and met it two years ahead of schedule. This was primarily achieved by making tangible changes to the energy sources used by our factories. For example, at our Danish plant, we switched from oil to straw combustion to fuel indoor heating, and converted all industrial boilers from heavy fuel to natural gas. We also installed regenerative heat exchangers, which have boosted heat recovery efficiency by over 30%. Our Netherlands site, where we have installed over 800 solar panels, has run off only renewable energy since the start of 2018.
As well as being manufactured in CO2-neutral factories, all our emulsifiers are vegetable-based, and sourced as sustainably as possible. Where we use palm oil ingredients, we rely exclusively on RSPO-certified raw materials, enabling us to offer our complete product range as Mass Balance (MB) or Segregated (SG) certified. By using RSPO-certified palm oil, we support improved conditions for local workers, conservation of natural resources and biodiversity, and long-term economic viability.
Our commitment to sustainability received official bakery industry recognition in 2019, when we received the American Society of Bakery Bakingtech 2019 award for innovation in sustainability.
 Statista ‘U.S. population: Do you use dry cake mixes (not cake flour)?’ https://www.statista.com/statistics/277447/us-households-usage-of-dry-cake-mixes/
 Lorenzi, Neil ‘Demand for longer shelf life, fewer preservatives spurs new packaging solutions’, ‘Snack Food and Wholesale Bakery’, 14 September 2017
 Cone Communications CSR Study, 2017
 Cone Communications CSR Study, 2017
 Innova Markets Insights, Cited in ‘Sourcing challenges and sustaining a “circular economy”: The supplier view’, Food Ingredients First, 18 December 2018
 Mintel ‘The Future of Bread, Bakery and Cakes: 2019’
 Cone Communications CSR Study, 2017