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How do you measure freshness in cakes?

24 May 2019

Cake and sponge mixes
Industrial Patisserie Competence Center

Cécile Petit is the R&D Sensory Manager within the Group Research and Services department at Puratos Headquarters in Belgium where she manages the sensory analysis team and lab. She has over 14 years of experience in Sensory & Consumer Sciences, 12 of which are in the food industry. She is responsible for developing sensory analysis within Puratos Group and for ensuring the follow-up of internal guidelines & best practices.

Why is it important to measure freshness?

We measure freshness when developing long shelf life cakes to ensure that they keep their freshness characteristics along shelf-life. Sometimes, customers may have some specific requirements about cake texture. In that case, the goal might be to reach a certain level of moistness,reduce the crumbliness or increase the short bite. Measuring the freshness helps us see how close we are to meeting these goals which can also be a future guide for our product development.

Why do we need sensory evaluation?

We need sensorial measurements to complete our analytical results. First because humans can’t always perceive the texture parameters like a machine can, and a machine can’t entirely reproduce the way we touch and eat a cake. Additionally Cake Freshness can also be evaluated using a combination of mechanical and organoleptical means. Mechanically, we have instruments that can measure the hardness, the resiliency and the cohesiveness of a cake. 

However, for parameters like cohesiveness and resiliency, there is not always a logical correlation between sensorial measurements and the instrumental measurements from the texturometer. In fact, some very important parameters like moistness cannot directly be measured instrumentally. For these reasons, we still need to conduct sensorial and instrumental measurement of freshness in parallel.

How do you make sensorial evaluations of the different parameters of freshness ?

At Puratos, the sensorial analysis of freshness in cakes, including tactile and gustatory evaluations are conducted by expert sensory judges. They are highly trained people who are able to objectively measure the freshness properties of a cake.

Softness can be evaluated by touching the product. For the moistness, the sensory judges first touch the product to feel if it is dry or not and to feel the levels of humidity, then they also taste and evaluate it in the mouth. To measure cohesiveness, the sensory judges touch and eat few bites of the cake to see how much the product crumbles or not.

What about the consumer’s perception of freshness, how do you involve them in your testing?

Consumers are not trained like our expert judges and find it hard to describe and evaluate their sensations. Usually they cannot differentiate texture from flavour, and therefore there is little to be gained by asking them about the different freshness parameters we want to know about. What we do collect from consumers is their overall preference between two cakes they are given to taste. These consumer preference tests are done using our Sensobus, a sensory mobile lab. It’s a very powerful tool to reach a large number of consumers efficiently. We park it where we find a lot of consumers, on the parking lot of supermarkets for example, and we can handle up to 200 consumers a day. When we conduct preference tests on cake samples with and without our cake freshness enhancer, we can actually prove that the samples containing Acti-Fresh are significantly preferred by the end consumers.

How do you work together with your customers for sensorial evaluation?

Our expert panel is a tool we use to help internal development, but of course we also do our work based on the briefs of our customers. The sensorial analysis is mainly used to verify that objectives are achieved, for instance that the freshness level of a cake is improved when we add our cake freshness enhancer in a cake, and also to compare different Acti-Fresh offers and select the one that will deliver exactly what our customers want.

Would you like to find more information regarding our cake freshness solutions or concentrate on increasing the freshness and profitability of your specific cake recipes? 

Discover range of modular cake ingredients or contact your local Puratos representative!