What is the role of fat in cakemaking

The main function of fat in cakemaking is to assist with the incorporation of air into the batter during mixing. It also affects the air bubble size in the batter and the bubble stability during before and during the early stages of baking.

Cake batters are essentially a 'foam', that is a system in which air bubbles are trapped and held in an aqueous phase. Foam systems are characterised by the fact that all the air bubbles are separated from one another by a thin film of stabilising material. During baking the foam changes to a sponge (in the generic sense), that is a system in which all of the air cells are interconnected and vapours and liquids can move through the matrix. The moment at which the foam in a cake batter makes the conversion to a sponge has much to do with the recipe formulation (Cauvain and Young, 2000) and the stability of the air bubbles while the temperature is rising makes a major contribution to final cake volume.

The protective film that forms around the gas bubbles may come from a number of sources. Fat can contribute to the protective films in the batter foam. Telloke (1984) used light microscopy to show that fat crystals in high ratio cake batters were located at the interfacial film between the air bubbles and the sucrose solution. The crystalline form of the solid portion of the fat is important in determining the functionality of the fat in cakemaking, of the three fat polymorphs encountered the volume of air which could be incorporated into the batter. Telloke (1984) showed that it was greatest with the ft', less with the a and least with the ft form.

As the batter temperature rises in the oven the solid fat turns to liquid oil and the natural buoyancy of the air bubbles causes them to try to move upwards and escape. The longer the bubbles are retained in the batter the greater the cake volume will be. This means the fat must have a high melting point. However, dispersion of the solid fat crystals is important if they are to be effective and a liquid oil component is necessary to achieve ready dispersion.

Fats and oils contribute to the soft and tender eating properties required for cakes. In part this benefit comes from the effect on batter aeration and in part from the lubricating effect that fat has in the mouth.

Continue reading here: Cauvain Sponge Cake Technology

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