Icing on the finishing touches

by Charlotte Atchley
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Bakers wishing to differentiate their products or just add a little flourish to catch a consumer’s eye can find what they need in icings and glazes. These finishing touches can add flavor, make a product seem more decadent and set it apart from the competition.

“Icing and decorations allow manufacturers to add value to their products,” said Terry Neithercut, regional manager, Unifiller Systems, Delta, BC.

Icings and glazes come in all different viscosities from thin like apple juice to a fudge-like consistency. Bakers can choose to cover an entire product in icing, just glaze the top or decorate it with a string icer, where the pattern possibilities are endless. To keep product ideas fresh, producers of sweet goods want equipment to handle a variety of different decorating materials and keep up with pattern and coverage changes. Versatility is key when it comes to decorating equipment, whether a baker is using a waterfall system, string icer or extrusion manifold.

Despite the variety of icings and glazes available, maintaining the integrity of the decorating material and ensuring consistent coverage should be the function of every production line. The equipment should help control the icing’s or glaze’s temperature and minimize breakage and inconsistent application. Decorating is a messy business, too, so to keep waste down, equipment manufacturers have developed systems to reclaim, filter and reuse icing that doesn’t make it onto the product. These systems save bakers money.

Keeping up creatively

When it comes to decorating cakes, cupcakes, donuts and other sweet goods, bakers only want to be limited by their imaginations, not their equipment. Manufacturers have worked to ensure that versatility comes standard on icing and glazing equipment.

“One of the challenges bakers face in product development is creating unique patterns or presentations,” said Mark Young, Southeast sales director, Hinds-Bock Corp., Bothwell, WA. “Bakeries are trying to be cutting-edge, and you can only do that with so many tools available.”

To address this challenge, Hinds-Bock developed the compact icer/glazer that can switch from string icing to laminar flow/waterfall application. On the string icing side of the operation, changes in oscillation and conveyor speeds create different patterns on products. Adjusting the pump speed controls the amount of icing that graces the product’s surface. “Just controlling the pump speed or volume gives a nice variance from lightly wisped icing to just laying the icing down,” Mr. Young said.

Bakers should consider the flexibility of a decorating machine for future growth. Harry A. Reinke, president, Woody Associates, Inc., York, PA, said that even when bakers first purchase a string icer, they may only be interested in a simple zigzag pattern, but as they discover the equipment’s capabilities, they often will experiment with loops, circles and random patterns. “They want to have the versatility to switch both the decorating material as well as have the ability to do different patterns,” he said.

While icers have to be able to handle icings made with different bases, even glazes come in a variety of viscosities, which requires some flexibility on the equipment’s part. “We have been working hard to develop our glazing systems to work with all different varieties of glaze, whether it is a thin watery glaze or a thicker glaze that would be more like an icing,” said David Moline, sales and marketing manager, Moline Machinery, Duluth, MN.

Maintaining icing integrity

Icings or glazes often represent the final touches put on baked goods so perfection and repeatability are musts. Throughout holding, pumping and applying, the integrity of the icing or glaze must be maintained for the decorating to go smoothly. That means equipment must have a tight grip on the material’s temperature. “If you don’t maintain the temperature, the icing will tend to melt and flatten out instead of giving you a nice round string that stands up,” said Bob Peck, vice-president of engineering, ET Oakes, Hauppauge, NY.

Different icings and glazes require different temperature settings. Let the temperature get too hot, and the icing will flow too freely and lose its shape or the sugars will burn away. Let the temperature get too cool, though, and the icing won’t flow properly through the machine. Heat controls or heated jackets on hoppers and pumps ensure the proper temperatures are maintained throughout the transport from holding tank to icing applicator. Depending on the specific material to be applied, Woody Associates’ heated tanks, hoses and enclosures for its string icer can all be digitally controlled.

 “When it comes to glazing, requirement No. 1 is a clean flow of glaze with no interruption,” said Mike Baxter, product information and marketing, Belshaw Adamatic Bakery Group, Auburn, WA. “The main thing is to avoid any blockages, which might cause loss of flow, or solid or extraneous material in the glaze flow. If the material is inconsistent or the glazing curtain is interrupted, there will be gaps in product quality.” To ensure the consistency of the icing or glaze throughout the process, equipment companies keep things moving smoothly from holding tank to application.

 In the holding tank, Hinds-Bock uses an agitation unit to prevent a skin from forming, which not only is undesirable in the final product but also can clog the equipment. This constant motion also prevents cold spots from forming, keeping the temperature even throughout.

KESS Industries, Inc., Auburn, WA, added an automatic refill system to its industrial icer. This system helps ensure icing and glaze consistency by eliminating manual refilling. When manually refilling an icer, the decorating material can often stagnate for a period of time, which can cause variations throughout the material, said Kjell Fogelgren, president of the company.

In addition to maintaining temperature, ET Oakes’ extrusion manifold for sheet icing sustains a continuous laminar flow. This is a very smooth movement with no turbulence to disrupt the icing’s viscosity, according to Mr. Peck.

In the final step of applying icing, particularly for string icing, bakers want to avoid breakage as they try to create distinct patterns. To avoid icings breaking down while they’re being applied, Woody Associates matches the positive-displacement pump to the stringer. Using the wrong pump will result in breakage.

When applying icing or glaze to a cake or donut, consistent coverage is critical. Even application across the product is significant for minimizing waste. “Consistent coating over the product is very important, probably the most important,” Mr. Moline said. “We need to regulate our glaze flow so it’s easy to adjust on the fly, and we’re able to apply the proper amount across the width of the system.”

Moline Machinery’s glaze waterfalls adjust so operators can make changes as needed. In the event that the waterfall applies too much glaze, a heat-controlled blow-off system removes excess glaze before products reach the cooling area.

Minimizing waste

Icing or glazing a sweet good is a messy business. Without a system in place to clean up the mess, excess decorating material is money down the drain for bakeries. Reclaim systems allow bakers to reuse clean icings that just missed their mark. Whether caught in a trough below the conveyor or scrapped off the belt, icings and glazes can be filtered and mixed in with the new material with no harm done to the consumer because the equipment’s surfaces are food safe. According to Mr. Reinke, fat-based icings can be successfully reintroduced into the icing hopper. Water-based materials tend to dry out as soon as they hit the conveyor belt, making it difficult to reuse them with the same results.

Moline Machinery focused its development efforts on automatic reclaiming systems. “Glaze is an expensive thing for our customers, and often they want to reclaim and reuse it,” Mr. Moline said. The glazing lines feature heated catch pans to keep the glaze from building up and a continuous scraping system cleans excess glaze off the conveyor.

Hinds-Bock’s recirculation filters remove cake particulates and Danish flakes from excess icing and deliver clean icing back to the hopper. Once back in the hopper, an agitator mixes the filtered icing in with the new icing. Reclaim and filtration systems keep icing and glazing lines from being a source of lost cost for the bakery.              

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