Producing commercially baked cakes is far from a "piece of cake"

A consumer enjoying a slice of a birthday cake may have no idea of the balancing act that is required to create a cake that can withstand the manufacturing process and extended shelf-life and still maintain its quality.

Often, creating the ideal texture and crumb in commercial cake systems requires the use of food gums and stabilizers. Depending on the stabilizer chosen, gums can perform any number of functions in cakes including thickening, stabilizing, and emulsifying the batter, suspending inclusions, or increasing water-holding capacity, which creates a moister cake with improved shelf-life and freeze/thaw stability.

When formulating a cake system that will be commercially baked in either a retail or wholesale bakery, maintaining a consistent batter viscosity is critical to product quality and ease of manufacturing. Batter that is too thin tends to be inconsistent and unstable which results in a cake that has a tight crumb on the bottom and a lighter crumb closer to the top. A batter that is too thick is harder for manufacturing to work with because it is difficult to pump or accurately deposit.

Why should I use gums and stabilizers in my cake formulation?

In cakes, gums primarily function to improve batter characteristics which affect final texture and appearance. Gums can provide batter viscosity, increase moisture retention, and produce a more cohesive crumb structure.

Some of the gums commonly used in cake formulations include:

  • Alginate--contributes a "gel-like" functionality which creates a softer texture
  • Cellulose Gum (CMC)—thickens batter, improves batter stability which contributes a fine, consistent crumb throughout the cake, increases water-holding capacity which slows staling
  • Gum Acacia--adds little viscosity, all-natural* emulsifier is an excellent film-former which makes it useful for maintaining stiff peaks in angel food formulations
  • Xanthan Gum--increases rise in the cake by entrapping leavening gases and suspending any inclusions added to the cake batter

Should I use individual gums or a blend of gums?

While individual gums can be useful in commercial cakes, you may have to spend a significant amount of time experimenting to determine the levels that work best for your formulation. For example, xanthan gum is a great stabilizer for cake batters but if you overdose it you can end up with a cake that is too moist. If you instead use a gum system that contains xanthan and a complementing gum such as guar gum or cellulose gum, you have both stability and increased tolerance to overdosing.

If you are short on time to tweak the ratios of gums in your formulation, a complete stabilizer system designed specifically for bakery applications may be your best bet.

Some of our popular blends for cakes:

Gums for Cake & Batter Systems

How should I incorporate gums into my formulation?

Any gum or stabilizer can simply be dry blended with the rest of your dry ingredients. Add at least 5 parts water per 1 part gum to the formulation to adjust the batter to the desired viscosity.

How can gums help in my gluten-free cake?

In general, gluten-free batter is thinner because gluten-free flours may not have the same water holding capacity of their gluten-containing counterparts. Common defects in gluten-free cakes include a dense texture with low volume and a dry crumb that lacks cohesiveness and breaks apart easily. Gums can build a fine, consistent crumb and retain moisture which improves cohesiveness and slows staling.

Consumers commonly describe gluten-free cakes as having a "gritty," "grainy," or "sandy" texture. Using our texture terminology, we would describe this sensory experience as "awareness of particulates." The addition of gums often reduces the negative impact of this texture attribute.

Do you have any tips for incorporating gums in commercially-baked gluten-free cakes?

You can use the same gums in gluten-free cakes that you would use in conventional cakes but they are usually used a higher level—typically 0.25-0.50% based on flour weight. You'll need to add about 5-10 parts water for 1 part gum to the formulation to maintain batter viscosity.

To talk with a Gum Guru® on our technical service team about your specific texture and stability needs, call our technical support hotline at (800) 899-3953/+1(410) 273-7300 or click the chat button on this page.

Other Resources

Download: Formulating Gluten-free White Bread

Download: Prototype Formulations for Gluten-free Bread and Muffins

Stabilizer Recommendations for Bakery Applications

Gums in Cakes SlideShare presentation