Creating a consistent product is a challenge for many icings and glazes, but uniformity is what automation is known for. Equipment manufacturers offer solutions to ice or glaze products accurately with reliable toppings.

For example, Hinds-Bock’s positive cut-off ribbon spouts provide high-speed spreading that can be customized to match the spread width and length, said Lance Aasness, vice-president, Hinds-Bock.

“We pay particular attention to the cutoff of the icing, so it provides a clean, precise cutoff with no trailing edges,” he said.

Hinds-Bock’s icing and glazing systems are designed with a range of spouts for string icing or waterfall curtains.

“Our Hot Print Icer uses a ribbon-style spout that applies smooth top icing to a variety of baked goods and gives finished product a rolled-on, gapless icing coating,” Mr. Aasness said.

Because Unifiller serves customers ranging from small, manual operators to fully automated commercial producers, the company can identify specific criteria necessary for consistent icing and glazing.

“A manual worker could spend anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes icing a cake because they can massage it and go over it with a spatula hundreds of times,” said Andy Sigrist, director of special projects, Unifiller. “In automation, we can just spread the icing on the cake in one and a half or two seconds. That’s where the right icing — the smoothness, temperature, everything — plays into it. If you want to spread your icing in a second and a half, it has to be good.”

When certain icings or other toppings have a limited use life, automation is key for getting the most bang for the buck.

“You can only work with some of these products for 20 minutes before they have to be remixed; customers with automation mix batches every 15 minutes so there’s a fresh batch of product coming,” Mr. Sigrist observed. “It’s a supply-and-demand system.”

With a Unifiller system, fresh product is brought directly from the mixing system to the hopper through its pumps smoothly and gently.

“You always pump fresh icing or toppings into the hopper at regular intervals,” said Ty Sarajian, owner, Axis Automation.

The equipment is designed to have a smooth internal flow with as few obstructions as possible.

“That’s important so you can retain the aeration and you don’t lose the air you incorporated into a fragile topping,” he added.

Automation also leads to efficiency, of course, and Axis Automation designs its equipment to minimize holding capacity in the tanks and reduce waste.

“Less icing stored at the point of application equals less reclaim, which in turn increases the turnover of the icing,” Mr. Sarajian noted. “We welcome faster throughputs as this tends to increase the consumption of old — and introduces new — icing into the process.”

Quick changes, clean process

Automation impacts more than just the fluidity of an icing or glaze. It can also aid in changeovers, which ­reduces downtime and keeps the process running as smoothly as the toppings the machines deliver.

For starters, the production schedule is key.

“We always tell bakers to work from light to dark, starting with white icings or clear glazes and working to chocolate,” said Damian Morabito, president, Topos Mondial Corp. “When you put chocolate in over white icing, it quickly goes away, but if you have chocolate in the lines and go to white, it’s going to come out gray or light brown.”

For equipment such as waterfall glazers, mobility makes a big difference.

“When going from one color to another, you’d move the icing/glaze holding tank out; you would wheel out one color and wheel in the next.”

That way, he suggested, only the application conveyor needs to be rinsed/cleaned at that time.

“On a donut line, the baker would create a purposeful break in the production run to changeover the tanks, such as when going from pink icing to chocolate,” Mr. Morabito said.

It’s not uncommon for bakers to purchase multiple tanks to streamline changeovers.

“Mobility is a big factor for speedy changeovers,” said David Moline, vice-president, sales and marketing, Moline Machinery, noting that Moline Machinery often recommends a spare pump station. “This can expedite the cleanout process, and it allows the pump to be cleaned offline in a washdown area.”

Axis Automation developed its patent-pending half-icer to significantly reduce changeover time with donut icing.

“We’ve made it possible to change from one flavor or color in 10 to 15 minutes versus 30 to 45 minutes with our earlier generation half-icers,” Mr. Sarajian said. “This makes it possible to run several icings in a shift instead of dedicating the half-icer to a single use.”

However, color and flavor are not the only factors to consider with changeovers. Remember that icings like RTU can harden very quickly, so keeping the equipment clean is critical for efficiency and fluidity.

“Because the icing can set up inside the manifold, we recommend, when a production run is finished, totally cleaning the system either using clean-in-place (CIP) or by taking it apart to clean everything,” advised Bob Peck, vice-president, engineering, E.T. Oakes. 

Keep in mind, though, that CIP can introduce water to the lines, so operators and sanitation workers must take care to ensure none of it is left in or on the equipment and piping. Mr. Morabito recommended placing a hose bib near the icing or glazing equipment to rinse it with hot water set to about 145 to 160°F, but he also noted the importance of having proper floor drains as well.

“When designing the equipment, we want the sanitary pumps to be able to drain,” he said. “Then when you pump water through them to wash, you can now get the residual out.”

Hinds-Bock uses industry-approved flexible hoses and sanitary clamps and fittings that can easily be changed out without tools.

“And just like fillers, depositors and pumps, if you’re using a triple- or dual-­­­wall heated tank, be sure that it can be disassembled, fully washed down and reassembled easily,” Mr. Aasness said.

Achieving the right finish on a baked good involves several factors ranging from formulation to viscosity, temperature, machinability and sanitation. When bakers put the right attention to these areas, all a consumer sees is a delicious product with a silky smooth finish that’s as irresistible as it is beautiful.

This article is an excerpt from the June 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on icing and glazing, click here.