Shortening plays a big role in a cake. Whether in batter or icing, it provides the foundation for texture, mouthfeel, flavor and even shelf life, making it one of the most critical ingredients in the formulation. .
“Cake shortenings contain optimized fat and emulsifier systems, making them better suited for mixing air into batters and achieving precision and consistency in specific gravity and aeration,” said Tyronna Capers , Marketing Director, Bunge Loders Croklaan. “In icings and cake batters, it creates a soft, luxurious mouthfeel. Shortenings also contribute to the volume and stability of finished cakes, giving formulators the means to fine-tune these variables.
It’s been years since partially hydrogenated oils were taken off the market, and bakers can easily find substitutes for these retired shortenings. It is simply a question of knowing what the formulation needs, whether from a product or process point of view.
“When we look at a particular fat for a batter or icing, we start with the job the customer expects the fat to do,” explained John Satumba, PhD, Global Bakery Technical Lead and Regional Director of R&D for North America, Global Edible Oil Solutions, Cargill. “If you think of dough, the baker is looking for the taste qualities of the cake like moistness, texture, and flavor. For icing, it’s the aesthetic appeal of color and the icing’s ability to hold its structure. , while providing some key features like flavor, mouthfeel and shelf life stability.
Shortening does a lot of the heavy lifting in cakes and icing applications. It traps air during the creaming process, which directly impacts texture, mouthfeel and lift. Shortening aids in the emulsification of all liquids in the formulation, especially with an emulsifier. It extends shelf life and is a tenderizing ingredient.
This tenderizing action is what makes fat so essential, explained Roger Daniels, vice president of research, development, innovation and quality at Stratas Foods. Hardening ingredients like eggs and flour contain proteins that cross-link when denatured and add structure to cookies, cakes and icings. Tenderizers like shortening and sugar interrupt the potential for protein-protein interaction.
“Without shortening, the gluten and starch particles stick together and make the product tough and tough,” said Anita Srivastava, PhD, CFS, senior technical service manager, bakery, Kemin Food Ingredients. “Shortening helps break the continuity of protein and starch structure. This allows lubrication of gluten particles and produces a tender, airy product.
Shortening also contributes a lot to the moistness of a cake’s crumb, and emulsifiers can be a key to optimizing the mix of wet and dry ingredients.
“Emulsified cake shortenings are essential for baking cakes because they are responsible for creating a fat-in-water emulsion,” explained Eric Spelger, senior scientist at Corbion. “Together with other essential wet and dry ingredients that create batters with proper viscosity, fat and emulsifiers, they help create a stabilizing foam, airy batter.”
The air incorporated during mixing and the carbon dioxide from the starters will be trapped in the emulsion.
“Too little aeration can lead to a dense cake, while too much aeration can result in a crumbly cake,” Capers explained. “The ideal shortening will provide good aeration and the desired sensory qualities.”
And the ideal shortening will depend on the chemical makeup of the fat, melting points, and other baker’s needs.
“The best shortenings for cake application must be properly formulated to balance fat selection as well as an optimized emulsifier system,” Ms. Capers continued. “This balance allows the product to properly cream and aerate during a production process and produce the desired texture and sensory experience for consumers.”
The beauty of shortening is its plasticity, the fact that it is solid at room temperature but also flexible. This is how shortenings work their magic in the formulation.
“Shortening is composed of oil and fat and must be of such a character that the mixture of these two fat systems – a liquid fraction and a solid fraction of fat – maintains the body to perform its main function, which is to coat the gluten/gliadin protein network, thereby shortening the potential for protein/protein interaction,” Daniels explained. “This ultimately results in a foam that yields the desired end-use application potential of ‘a cake with a spring and crumb structure that achieves the desired qualities that appeal to the senses of bakery customers.’
The levels of fat solids in the liquids as well as the crystal structure will have a big say in how the shortening performs in a cake batter, and this will have a big impact on the characteristics of the finished product.
“It’s not just about the solids, but how they interact with each other and how they crystallize together,” said Frank Flider, oil consultant, United Soybean Board. “Some tend to be very grainy. Others tend to be very light and fluffy. … If you have too much saturates in the shortening or saturates in the wrong places with triglycerides, you can have a different crystal structure.
The finished product really guides the level of solids and crystallization properties that bakers should be looking for with their shortenings. The type of cake and its expected texture and rise, as well as whether the cake will be frozen for shipping and storage, will impact the shortening a baker chooses.
“Bakery fats are formulated with blends of different base oils and source oils to control melting characteristics, solid fat content and crystal habit, which contribute to creaming quality,” said Jackie Steffey, Senior Manager of Customer Innovation, AAK. “The cooling and tempering conditions used in the production of bakery shortening impact the plasticity of the shortening, which directly influences creaming and dispersion.”
Regardless of process considerations, bakers can choose a shortening that works well in theory, but not when the product is in the field.
Bakers may also look to reduce saturated fat on their Nutrition Facts table. This can be tricky because saturated fat is the functional part of shortening.
“We work backwards from the nutritional target that the baker is trying to achieve,” Dr. Satumba explained. “If we’re reducing overall saturated fat, is there another ingredient we can add to provide the necessary body for the final application?” While you want to consider the nutrient profile and reducing saturated fat may be attractive, the shortening must ultimately provide the same functionality that our customers have become accustomed to.
This article is an excerpt from the April 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the full article on fats and oils, click here.