When it comes to marketplace challenges, Palsgaard doesn’t always pick the easy options. So when we were asked if we could develop a deliciously moist Devil’s food cake from a powdered retail mix, we set the bar as high as we could. We resolved not just to deliver a high-quality cake mix, but also to create a gluten-free recipe that could be produced anywhere in the world.
Mixing it up
Since Betty Crocker launched the first popular baking mixes some 70 years ago, the market has grown beyond recognition ― today, the mix business is worth more than $2 billion. Mixes themselves have changed too, with the best products able to deliver a satisfying eating experience and meet the needs of consumers in a largely convenience-driven market.
There is still, however, a noticeable difference between a traditionally baked cake and an alternative produced using a powdered mix. And achieving batch-to-batch stability when producing such cakes has remained an elusive target. For Palsgaard, helping cake mix manufacturers close the gap with the “real thing” has long been something of a holy grail, but it’s one that has recently become more attainable. Having recently delivered high-profile successes such as emulsifier systems for microwave cakes our food scientists were confident they could deliver a traditional-quality Devil’s food cake eating experience with a new mix, and in a gluten-free formulation.
A devil of a cake
Devil’s food cake originated in the US over a century ago and is still a popular choice for consumers seeking indulgence. It’s a moist, fluffy, rich chocolate layer cake often accompanied by a rich chocolate frosting. Although recipes vary considerably, the chief claim to fame of Devil’s food cake is that it contains more chocolate ― and more moisture ― than traditional chocolate cake.
Achieving a top-quality Devil’s food cake is challenging for bakers, and especially so for those outside the US. The chlorinated flour commonly used in the US is not permitted in the EU and many other regions. The qualities of this type of flour are difficult to match, even for heat-treated flour, and gluten-free versions require a blend of different starch types.
American bakers also tend to use a lot of shortening in their powder mix, enabling them to add in emulsifier. However, if you apply fat to powder, you can end up with a mixture that is difficult to dose in packaging and results in lumpy batters or a mix that becomes rancid easily.
In line with Palsgaard’s mission to help manufacturers create healthier, more sustainable products, we also wanted to remove unhealthy, saturated fats from the recipe, making it easier to work with and improving the label. Additionally, we wanted our recipe to require only a single round of scraping down, saving time and energy in the production process. Using shortening-based cake mixes requires several steps, and two or three rounds of scraping.