The delicacy of cake’s structure and the cohesiveness of its ingredients make cakes a difficult bakery product to reformulate. Conventional ingredients have worked well in the past, and mimicking their functionality with clean label ingredients has proved formidable for formulators.

“One of the biggest challenges in cleaning up a cake formulation is providing functionality such as shelf-life stability of traditional cake ingredients with clean label alternatives,” said Chris Thomas, principal technical service technologist, Ingredion. “Traditional dough conditioners and preservatives like mono- and di-glycerides are highly functional in cake systems but are often not recognizable ingredients to consumers.”

Starches, flours and gums can replace these functionalities in a label-friendly way. Ingredion’s Novation functional starches and Homecraft multi-functional flours maintain moistness in cakes in a similar way as modified food starches, but they appear on the label as “corn starch” or “tapioca flour.”

“Novation functional starches and Homecraft multi-functional flours have cleaner flavor profiles compared to many of their chemically modified counterparts,” Mr. Thomas explained. “This allows the flavor components in cakes to come through with more flavor intensity and an overall brighter flavor perception.”

Functionality is important, but taste is still king when it comes to desserts like cake.

Chicory root fiber, recently classified by the Food and Drug Administration as dietary fiber, can provide some functionality in the way of texture while also cleaning up the label. Sensus America’s chicory root fiber ingredients’ properties can improve the texture of cakes. Like sugar, chicory root fiber provides bulk in a bakery formulation and helps formulators fill in gaps that may appear when reformulating for clean label.

Clean Label Cake

Emulsification is another tricky part of clean label reformulation. Cake batter’s structure is built on aeration, and emulsifiers assist in the incorporation of air and the dispersion of shortening throughout the batter system. Replacing emulsifiers is a major hurdle that bakers must clear when cleaning up cakes.

“The biggest challenge in cleaning up cake formulas is replacing the functionality of traditional emulsifiers such as propylene glycol monoester, polyglycerol ester, polysorbate 60 and sodium stearoyl lactylate, which are all very functional in traditional cake manufacturing,” said Peggy Dantuma, director, technical sales, bakery, Kerry Ingredients. “They provide aeration, processing tolerance and improve overall eating quality throughout the shelf life of the cake.”

Emulsifiers work in tandem with many ingredients to create the aeration effect. Shortening and leavening agents in a formulation all work together with emulsifiers for even dispersion and absorption of air to create the texture and bite of a cake crumb. Replacing these traditional emulsifiers is often not a one-to-one process as all these ingredients work together to bring a desirable cake batter to life. Ms. Dantuma said there has been progress with enzyme technology to partially replace emulsifiers as well as many new leavening agents on the market that don’t rely on aluminum. Kerry’s Harvest Sunlec, a sunflower lecithin, is a fat system that can improve texture and eating quality.

Brolite’s clean label softeners and emulsifiers can replace conventional ingredients with minimal negative impact on the cake formulation.

“The only difference most customers notice is in their ingredient declarations,” said Jeff Nelson, western vice-president of sales, Brolite Products.

These previously considered niche ingredients have been seeing more use recently, he continued, which is lowering costs and making these ingredients more readily available.

Corbion takes a systematic approach with its Pristine line of cake mixes and bases.

“Our clean label cake mixes, bases and icing stabilizers allow bakery manufacturers to remove complex ingredients from their labels without impacting quality, taste, texture or consistency,” said Ashley Robertson, market manager, bakery, Corbion.

DuPont takes its wide range of ingredients and collaborates with bakers to develop custom blends under its Grindsted Freedom mixes.

“These blends contain an optimized ratio of ingredients, including locust bean gum, lecithin and enzymes,” said Sarah Mann, senior application technologist, bakery, DuPont Nutrition & Health. “They have been developed to achieve volume, strength and improved crumb structure when removing traditional ingredients.”

 Clean Label Cake

Preserving flavor and shelf life

The high-moisture content of cakes gives these desserts the moist eating quality that consumers expect from a good cake. However, all that water activity makes them prone to mold growth, which hinders shelf life stability.

Natural mold inhibitors like ascorbic acid can be used to keep mold at bay. Kerry Ingredients offers Biobake Enzymes to improve shelf life.

DuPont’s PowerSoft and PowerFresh enzymes keep baked foods like cakes fresher longer while maintaining their eating quality. PowerSoft, in particular, helps maintain moist texture and crumb resilience in sweet goods.

In addition to providing other functionalities, Corbion’s Pristine cake mixes and bases can maintain freshness and shelf-life stability.

The latest in clean label ingredients can also assist in enhancing a cake’s desirable flavor. Ingredion’s Novation functional starches and Homecraft flours have clean flavor profiles that don’t compete with the cake’s intentional flavors.

“This allows the flavor components in the cakes to come through with more flavor intensity and an overall brighter flavor perception,” Mr. Thomas said.

To provide cake formulations with flavor, Kerry Ingredients offers some natural flavors and extracts.

“Our dairy taste systems allow the use of real butter for both flavor and texture,” Ms. Dantuma said. The company’s Simply Sprinkles toppings are also pho-free and contain colors derived from natural sources.

Clean label is a trend that appears here to stay, and cakes can benefit from simplified ingredient lists. Consumers who are health-conscious still want to indulge every now and again, and a list of recognizable ingredients can make them feel better about a decadent dessert.