We were fortunate to have a chat with Goedele Van der Biest, Senior Research Manager for Patisserie Mixes at Puratos headquarters in Belgium, about the scientific aspects of cake freshness.
Goedele leads the R&D team of the Business Unit Patisserie Mixes. One of the missions of her team is to develop innovative solutions for cake applications and she is therefore one of the driving forces behind new product developments in this field.
1. Preserving cake Freshness is a big challenge. Could you please explain what freshness in a cake means?
Freshness is a component of the cakes’ shelf life. The shelf life of a cake may be defined as the period in which the cake maintains its taste and texture and remains safe (and good) to eat. When we talk about Freshness of cakes at Puratos, we mainly focus on the texture.
2. So texture plays an important part in the freshness of cakes? Does this relate to whether the cake is soft or hard?
The reality is that this duality, ‘softness’ versus ‘hardness’, represents only one aspect of freshness. In fact the scientific community defines freshness as a combination of four parameters: softness, moistness, cohesiveness and resiliency.
3. Could you explain these 4 parameters?
Softness, is related to the force required to compress the cake when touching and eating the cake, while moistness is defined by the moist sensation perceived both when touching and eating a cake. The descriptors soft and moist are most often used – it’s part of the basic vocabulary of cake consumers.
Then, we have the cohesiveness, which is the degree to which the cake holds together. In a consumer world this would translate into: does the cake crumble or not? A cake that crumbles lacks cohesiveness. And finally,resiliency – it’s how fast the cake returns to its original shape when deformed. This is for example important when the cake ends up at the bottom of a trolley or shopping bag.
4. Why are these parameters so important?
Cakes loose freshness during their shelf-life as a result of a decrease of the 4 freshness parameters. A cake that maintains high levels of moistness,softness, cohesiveness and resiliency throughout its shelf life, will be perceived as fresher than a cake that does not and will be preferred by consumers. So preserving the freshness parameters is very important when you want to deliver a fresh sensation in a cake.
Each of the 4 parameters can play a more or less prominent role depending on the cake application. For instance when slicing a family size cake, you would prefer that the cake does not crumble too much. In this case cohesiveness is to be taken into account.
5. How do you improve the freshness of a cake?
Freshness must be managed and optimized over the course of a cake’s lifetime, and each application will have different shelf-life requirements. Of course, the longer the desired shelf-life, the more challenging it will be to keep the cake fresh over time. Packaged cakes can be quite challenging as they may spend weeks and even months on the shelf before consumption. At Puratos we’ve developed cake freshness enhancers called Acti-Fresh – these are freshness solutions based on our profound knowledge of enzymes and emulsifiers. Acti-Fresh both enhances the immediate perception of cake freshness and also improves the cake’s freshness over time.
The Acti-Fresh solutions, adapted to the requirements and specificity of each cake, are available for large cakes, snack cakes, and so on. And we even have clean label versions of Acti-Fresh. It’s only when we get into a good discussion with the cake manufacturer that we can recommend the most suitable Acti-Fresh option to achieve his freshness goals.