Cakes: Indulgence over everything


A closer look at the latest developments in automation for cakes and how plant-based ingredients can create the same feeling of indulgence as traditional cake products.

Producing perfectly textured, light and tasty cakes is the ultimate goal for any baker, but with well-documented staff shortages in the food supply chain due to a combination of Brexit, the covid-19 pandemic and other factors, how best can equipment providers meet bakers’ needs to keep production rolling whatever the size, shape and type of cake? International Bakery magazine catches up with Steve Merritt, Managing Director of European Process Plant Ltd, UK agent for food technology provider GEA, explains the pros and cons of automating production lines to ensure that every final product has the texture, flavour and appearance a customer would expect from an artisan baker. 

Growing taste for cakes 

Sales of cakes is forecast to increase following the stay-at-home baking craze due to the pandemic, which is likely to intensify the degree of automation within the industry. Food technology providers like GEA can supply the end-to-end solutions that enable manufacturers aiming for artisanal quality to meet these challenges and ensure that they deliver the products they want to produce.  

Having the capability to offer product variants and alternative decorations, adding in different ingredients or flavours can bring innovation to supermarket shelves – something that retailers and consumers appreciate. Reduced or low sugar content and careful portion sizing are important drivers for innovation. There are still a lot of small bakers out there that are wary of automation but want to create products that have authenticity and homemade values.   

To put their minds at rest that automation can preserve the homemade quality, testing equipment and processes using the customer’s ingredients is vital. GEA’s extensive expertise and know-how doesn’t just extend to engineering, its food technologists are also on hand to help improve and optimise existing recipes, and to help develop customers’ new recipe ideas.     

Taking the labour out of baking 

Scaling up production can be very daunting for bakers – particularly in an industry where traditional, labour- intensive processes have often been employed. Delivering consistency, without compromising quality, whilst running lines with low levels of waste and high levels of efficiency are the key demands.  

However, there is now a trend to remove as much manhandling of product as possible given it’s widely accepted that Covid-19 can live on surfaces for between 48 and 72 hours. Many bakeries are now looking at automation not only from a cost saving/ROI angle, but also from a health and safety point of view.  

Whether your masterpieces are cupcakes and muffins or marbled, filled, moulded or decorated cakes there are technologies that can be tailored to any processing requirement, such as multi-piston vertical injectors that offer high accuracy and precision for delivering fillings of jams and creams into cakes.  

Cup denesters are accurate and reliable systems that automatically pick and place containers for cupcakes and layer cakes. Depanners that can either overturn trays or accurately pick and place cakes, while there are tailor-made depositors for producing the fresh article, such as birthday cakes, tiramisu or black forest gateaux.   

Producing perfectly tiered layers relies on the most accurate depositors and gentle sponge handling, combined with optimised automation to speed throughput and minimise waste. Highly automated and flexible layer cake lines allow manufacturers to produce different types of fresh and frozen cakes every day, ensuring textured sponge, precisely dosed fillings and just the right number of toppings – precision and consistency that human hands would find difficult to match. 

As well as fillings and toppings, GEA’s systems can also handle coatings and decorations, including chopped nuts, chocolate and cream rosettes to give an individualised finish before transfer for packaging or to a freezer. Changing between products of different sizes and shapes is quick and simple, and the easy clean design and construction means that machine downtime is kept to a minimum. 

If that’s not enough solutions to address bakers’ worries of moving from manual to automated processes, there are also state-of-the-art freezing and cooling systems that will meet the production requirements and hygiene regulations for cookies and cakes, allowing products to cool naturally to ambient temperatures before further processing or packaging.  

Boosting bakery performance

Worldwide consumers want to have their cake and eat it whether they are on a health kick or not. The latest technology provides bakers with the tools to produce product variants by seamlessly adding in different ingredients or flavours to help deliver future tastes today. 

Across the globe, consumer demand for indulgence, convenience and authenticity is driving significant growth in the bakery market. As a result, manufacturers are innovating all the time to deliver more diverse and enticing products to meet consumer expectations. 

At the same time, the bakery industry faces unique challenges. High temperature processing and cooking can cause the change or loss of flavour with traditional ingredients, whilst authenticity and natural declarations are becoming increasingly important to achieving product differentiation. 

With extensive experience in ingredient production for diverse bakery applications, our expertise means we can help you improve performance and create products that really help you stand out.  

In Europe, Synergy Flavours offer sweet and savoury flavours and ingredients for baked goods, including flavourings, boosters, yeast extracts, pastes, cheese ingredients and top notes for breads and pastries.

Natalie Sheil, Bakery Category Manager at Synergy Flavours, says the authentic taste of dairy for vegan baked goods and the taste experience consumers are craving can be delivered in a number of ways: “Synergy combines natural flavour creation with the expertise of its parent company, Carbery, to deliver a complete dairy taste experience. Dairy by Nature, Synergy’s range of vegan dairy flavours can mimic the flavour character of real butters, creams, milk and cheese whilst also managing undesirable notes associated with many plant-based products on the market today,” she explains. 

Joana Ventura, Category Marketing Manager Dry Ingredients Europe & AMEAP at Dawn Foods adds: “First of all, we see the demand for vegan products continuing to grow as consumers shift their focus to foods benefitting diet and lifestyle. This is also observed for the cake category. According to Innova Market Insights, new vegan cake product launches in Europe have been growing by +19% CAGR over the past five years.   

“In addition, consumers want reassurance that their cake products contain real and authentic ingredients. In a recent FMCG Guru survey, three in five European consumers say that natural claims are important when buying bakery products. And with consumers actively trying to improve their diets, we predict the demand for cakes that are low in sugar and fat or with another perceived health benefit or ‘better-for-you’ claim will be on the rise. For example, sugar reduction claims for new cake product launches in Europe continue to rise with a +9% CAGR over the past five years,” Ventura says.

Consumers are wanting to improve their health, whilst continuing to turn to products for moments of escapism from daily pressures. Times when consumers tend to be less influenced by nutrition. As we come out the other side of Covid-19, being able to invite friends and family over for birthdays and other celebrations occasions to eat cake will continue to increase. At the same time, consumers do not want to feel guilty for enjoying such occasions, meaning that they want taste and nutrition simultaneously. According to a FMCG Guru 2021 survey, 65% of European consumers say that they have become more conscious about their overall health as a result of COVID-19. 

Ventura continues: “Irrespective of rising concerns about health, taste and enjoyment continue to be a key driver in consumer purchase for bakery products. According to an Innova 2020 survey, 49% of consumers globally consume cakes because it’s tasty while 31% consume cakes to indulge/treat themselves.

“Cakes or sweet bakery in general will always be strongly connected to indulgence. However, the sweet bakery sector is taking steps to respond and innovate to meet the demands of health-conscious consumers. We help our customers easily create guilt-free, ‘better for you’ options that do not compromise on taste. For example, with our new Ancient Grains Mix bakers can offer ‘hidden’ health benefits while also delivering on taste and texture demands. Cakes containing these health boosting ingredients will stand out to those consumers who are becoming more interested in living a healthier lifestyle.”

The increasing consumption of cakes through the retail channel and the price pressure from retail chains, is making cake manufacturers move towards more automation, increasing throughput and production capacity. This may lead to an increase in freeze-and-thaw or ambient-stable longer shelf-life solutions and broader offerings. Customers could be looking for more tolerant, freeze-thaw stable solutions for all types of cakes and production lines and premixes enable them to run their production efficiently and be more competitive. 

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Media contact

Roshini Bains
Editor, International Bakery

Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 922

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