Much of the appeal of buttercreme-style icings depends on the shortening used, which makes their smooth texture and spreading ability difficult to replicate in low-fat frostings. Microdroplets of trans-fat-free oils, encapsulated in cornstarch or wheat flour, may solve this problem, according to researchers at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Peoria, IL.

Led by Mukti Singh, PhD, a USDA-ARS food technologist in the Functional Foods Research Unit, researchers also made cakes using the Fantesk-branded ingredient without adding oil, creating a low-fat product with improved texture and volume. The icings contained 50% less fat.

Fantesk is a mixture of starch, water and one or more liquid oils, which is then processed in pressurized superheated steam to form an unusual gel. Regardless of subsequent processing — melting, freezing or drum-drying — the tiny oil droplets remained dispersed in the starch. Covered by patents, Fantesk has been licensed, and licensees are working to commercialize its production.

The development was described in the March 2010 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, published by USDA and available on the department’s website,

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