Depositing for small cakes and fillings

by Charlotte Atchley
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When it comes to depositing batter or filling for smaller products, accuracy becomes even more critical than for conventionally sized products.
 

The main goals of depositing batters and fillings are always accuracy and maintaining product integrity. However, these objectives become even more important when dealing with small cakes and fillings.

“Deposit accuracy is especially critical,” said Robert Peck, vice-president, E.T. Oakes Corp. “You can’t have as much variation with small deposits, therefore variation will have more of an effect. We have to make sure we have in place better control of the deposit weights.”

With the miniaturization of serving sizes, every issue with depositing traditional product sizes becomes more pronounced. The depositor’s target becomes harder to hit. Inclusions and changes in specific gravity have a bigger impact on accuracy. Versatility becomes a top priority for depositing products that vary in size and batter consistency.

Depositing on point

When it comes to depositing cake batter or Danish filling, accuracy refers to two different things. There’s the ability for the equipment to hit the right target whether that’s the cake pan, tray or individual piece of dough being filled or topped. Then there’s how much batter or filling is being deposited. That weight must also be extremely accurate to keep bakers from giving product away.

“There are several challenges when depositing Danish filling,” said Eric Riggle, vice-president, Rademaker USA. “First and foremost is how to minimize waste and loss due to the fact that Danish filling can be expensive.” This comes down to, quite simply, accuracy.

Rademaker meets that demand for accuracy in several ways. There’s the no-product, no-fill detection system that prevents the depositor from releasing filling unless product is detected below. Then there are the servo-­­controlled drives and the wide variety of nozzles Rademaker offers that keep the deposit within the weight ranges bakers require. “Our clients do not want to be over or under weight on Danish filling,” he said.

To ensure uniformity, it’s also critical that batter or filling is distributed evenly across a multi-port depositor. Rademaker’s hopper can be fitted with paddles to ensure this is the case.

Precise metering valves on every row of E.T. Oakes’ pressurized manifolds make sure each cavity has the same amount of product. These manifolds do not employ hoppers. “Whatever gets metered into our depositors is what comes out,” Mr. Peck said.

The correct type of depositor for the product also makes a difference, according to Jim Cummings, president, Tromp Group Americas. For batter products, the company uses individual cylinders for piston depositing. With a volumetric depositor and shutoff on each lane, bakers can achieve ±0.1 g of tolerance, even with product weights of 7 or 8 g. But again, it’s all about the right fit for the right product.

Large inclusions, such as fruit pieces, can throw off weight accuracy in small deposits. The proper output nozzle can help maintain inclusion integrity and manage weight accuracy.
 

Managing particulates

While exact product weights may be the highest priority in depositing, bakers need to be aware of how particulates and changes in batter consistency can impact the accuracy of their deposits.

Particulates add a layer of complexity to depositing cake batter and filling for small items. Their presence can affect a depositor’s performance because they differ in density from the batter or filling. The depositing nozzle could impact particulate integrity, and particulate distribution is just another thing bakers need to keep an eye on.

“The challenges would depend on the particulate size,” Mr. Peck said. “With inclusions like fruit, nuts or chocolate, the challenge would be the ratio of particles in the mix relative to the desired deposit weight. The smaller the deposit size, the bigger the chunks, the bigger the challenge in maintaining portion size with those big chunks.”

Keeping those particulates in suspension as they wait to be deposited into a cake pan or onto a Danish can assist in promoting consistent accuracy as batters and fillings are deposited. To manage this, Hinds-Bock Corp. added gentle agitation to the hopper. Lifting and folding the batter throughout a production run keeps expensive and heavy particulates from settling on the bottom. It also can keep delicate batters from skinning on the top.

Now those inclusions have to make it through the depositor itself. As Mr. Peck said, this can get tricky with smaller baked goods because larger inclusions can throw off weights. The consistency achieved with tank agitation has to be maintained as the batter or filling moves through the piping and depositor.

Volumetric methods can help maintain ­accurate depositing with inclusions. According to Mark Young, senior sales executive, Hinds-Bock Corp., bakers should consider consistent metering with a volumetric piston filler by using the longest suction and discharge stroke possible. “The stroke length can be affected or reduced if the product contains such things as large particulates that might bridge or if it inherently needs a slightly larger-than-ideal displacement diameter just to be able to flow those particulates,” he said.

Being able to smoothly move particulates together with batter through the depositor while achieving such a small deposit is also a critical challenge. Spouts or nozzles need to let inclusions pass through cleanly, wholly and undamaged. “You’re going to deal with a carrot cake that might have long slices or shavings of carrot differently than you would with a smooth lemon or creme cake batter,” Mr. Young said.

Gentle handling is key when moving batter or fillings with particulates through depositing equipment without damaging them. “Critical with Danish filling is maintaining the integrity of the particulates for a decadent product,” Mr. Riggle said. “Large fruit pieces, such as cherry or apple, need to maintain their identity in the final product.”

Rademaker’s Mohno pump depositor is a gentle system that maintains piece integrity yet achieves high rates of speed and weight accuracy. “The configuration of this depositor does not damage or break apart these large particulates so that the consumer can see the quality and integrity of the fruit,” Mr. Riggle said.

This depositor uses an auger to supply the filling into the Mohno pump, sometimes called a “pig tail.” This pump employs very little pressure and has no mechanical contact points that would damage inclusions. The combination of the auger and the pump provides gentle handling with consistency and weight accuracy, he explained.

Reiser’s Vemag depositor combines gentle batter handling with high portioning accuracy. The Vemag uses a positive-displacement, double-screw pump to precisely portion batters and fillings without damaging or crushing large inclusions, according to John McIsaac, vice-president, strategic business development, Reiser.

Depositors that feature quick changeovers between sizes and capabilities enable bakers to handle deposits of varying sizes, consistency and product.
 

Aerated just right

Batter and filling consistency can have a major impact on deposit accuracy as well as final product quality. “Cake batter can vary from batch to batch and sometimes within the same batch,” Mr. McIsaac said.

As batter sits in the mixing bowl or hopper waiting to be deposited, it can get thicker, and some aeration from the leavening agent can occur. “When you start getting air pockets, that’s going to affect a smaller deposit, particularly because now we have varying specific gravity from one batch to the next,” explained Stewart MacPherson, vice-president, sales and marketing, Unifiller. As density changes, so does specific gravity and flowability, which will have an impact on deposit weights.

While specific gravity is determined largely in the mixing bowl by beating air into the batter to nucleate the gases released by the leavening system, there are ways to maintain and improve consistency as the batter or filling flows to the depositor and into the cake pan that minimize the impact aeration and density changes may have on the deposit weights.

Unifiller accomplishes this with its Hopper Topper, a gentle transfer pump that draws batter from the mixing bowl to the depositor. According to Mr. MacPherson, the pump uses lifting action instead of suction to be gentler on the product. This produces two benefits: By the time batter enters the depositor’s hopper, it has a smoother consistency, and second, the system maintains the level of batter in the hopper from start to finish. “We use an infrared level sensor that looks inside the hopper, and we measure the level of batter within an inch,” he explained. “We keep a constant level of batter in the hopper, which greatly improves the accuracy of the deposit unlike manually filling the hopper because the weight of the product will affect the smaller deposit accuracy.”

The trip into the depositor is critical to maintaining the specific gravity developed in the mixing bowl. The outside temperature and the presence of air can impact batter’s specific gravity and, by association, the deposit weight. To combat such conditions, E.T. Oakes Corp. moves batter through enclosed piping into the depositor manifold without any interruption instead of into a depositor hopper where the ambient atmosphere can alter the batter. “Our depositing system is all-enclosed and is less affected by any outside conditions: temperature, humidity, settling, bridging and things like that,” Mr. Peck said.

The mechanics of moving through an automated process can also remove desired leavening gases from the batter. In an effort to curb this, Hinds-Bock minimizes the flow path of the batter once it enters the depositor to the time it exits into the pan, cavity or tray. “That helps reduce ‘knocking down’ or degassing of products,” Mr. Young said.

“In items such as batter goods, integrity is very important. The less stress that could be imparted on the batter, the better the product quality will be,” he said.

The Vemag batter depositor was also designed to manage the gases in the batter as well as air in the pan as it makes deposits. “We developed bottom-filling diving heads that drop into the pan or box on the fly to prevent air from being trapped under the batter,” Mr. McIsaac said. “We have even developed a special zero double-screw that evenly disburses the air and leavening gases entrapped in a batter to prevent holes in the baked cakes.”

All of these machine designs and strategies can provide bakers with the most consistent, accurate product with every deposit of every batch. “Anywhere in the world, what’s most important is consistency of product, which means every day you’re going to get consistency,” Mr. MacPherson said. “That is critical to any food manufacturer.”

Many issues regarding product quality and accuracy can be resolved by ensuring the depositor suits the product being deposited.
 

Designed for versatility

Another aspect of depositing for smaller cakes is the versatility of equipment. Small cakes and Danish require smaller nozzles to get the most accurate deposit; however, a depositor that can handle a wide range of sizes and batter consistencies is more desirable than one that can only manage one size and type of product. It’s in a baker’s best interest to select a depositor that offers a wide range of sizes and consistencies with just a quick change.

“No baker wants a machine that only does one job,” Mr. McIsaac said. That’s why the Vemag is designed to handle a wide range of batter and filling viscosities.

Between batter and fillings, he said, the Vemag can impart the same benefits to each: portioning accuracy, gentle handling and accurate placement of the deposit. “We may recommend two sets of double-screws — one set for batter and a second set for fillings — but that would depend on the specific batters and fillings to be processed. The double-screws can be swapped out in minutes.”

Hinds-Bock likes to know up-front the range of products that bakers want to run on the depositors so the machines can be tailored to bounce between those specific products. Needs can change from product to product, whether it has large particulates that require agitation or is a creamy product that requires a reduced flow path. “If we know the product makeup for that specific bakery up-front, we can definitely do ­everything we can to customize all those products into one design,” Mr. Young said.

In the spirit of rapid changeovers and smaller deposits, Hinds-Bock does employ quick-removal change sleeves. These sleeves reduce the displacement diameter on a larger machine while maintaining ±1% standard deviation, according to Mr. Young.

Outlet nozzles need to match not only the size of the deposit but also the consistency of the product. Positive cutoff with a rotary valve works well for products with inclusions. “If there’s a piece of fruit halfway in and out at the end of the portion, then the rotary valve will cleanly cut through that piece,” Mr. MacPherson said. Unifiller offers a wide range of different types of cutoffs to fit the products being deposited.

To give bakers the most versatility, Tromp Group Americas builds depositors that include piston, gear wheel, auger and other styles to work with as many different types of batter or filling possible. Matching the depositor to the product is essential.

For fillings, Mr. Cummings said up-and-down motion is recommended, whereas with stiffer batters, traveling movement up and down as well as side to side is critical when it comes to accuracy.

When depositing smaller products such as small cakes and fillings on Danish, bakers need to be diligent in anticipating challenges that come with the product’s miniaturization. Smaller targets, variances in product consistency, and inclusions can all have a major impact on maintaining accuracy with these smaller weights. However, with the right depositing system and some due diligence, bakers can alleviate these challenges and find a versatile machine that meets their needs.

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