Trans fat removal from cake margarine became an issue two decades ago when scientists highlighted a link between trans fat consumption and heart disease. In the meantime, food science has overcome the trans fat challenge. Today, the focus has shifted to eliminating their substitute – saturated fats.
From a technical perspective, removing trans-containing partially hydrogenated fats from cake margarine is relatively simple. Using fats high in saturates, such as palm oil, it is possible to formulate margarines with a similar solid fat content and melting properties. An emulsifier is added to optimise fat crystallisation and secure the margarine whipping properties that give cakes such as pound cakes the right volume and crumb structure.
Saturated fats, with their high solid fat content, are unavoidable to obtain a similar hardness to partially hydrogenated fats. But, with health-conscious consumers now keen to reduce saturates in their diet, application specialists have started testing alternative opportunities. The aim is to produce trans-free cake margarine that is both low in saturated fats and sufficiently whippable to achieve stable air incorporation in cake batter.
There are two paths of investigation. One is to reduce cake fat content overall by using a reduced fat cake margarine, a strategy that will bring about a saturated fat reduction in the region of 10%. The other is to replace block cake margarine with a liquid margarine – leading to a 75% reduction in saturated fat content and cutting the saturates in the final cake to just 2.5%.
Liquid margarine trials
At Nutrition & Biosciences, we have been working to develop a liquid cake margarine made with 95% rapeseed oil, which stands out for its low saturated fat content. To compensate for the absence of solid fat, we have tested several versions of a fat emulsifier blend with the ability to give the liquid margarine a good fat crystal network.
Distilled monoglycerides were also added to stabilise the fat emulsion plus a further emulsifier – polysorbate, lactic acid esters or polyglycerol esters – to provide the all-important whipping properties for good, stable air incorporation.
The exact emulsifier combination and dose depends on the cake recipe. In our trials, the results confirmed that a solution to the saturated fat challenge is now technically possible. Volume, crumb structure and sensory properties obtained with the liquid margarine were all close to the block margarine standard.
This shows that liquid emulsions are a practical solution for reducing saturated fats in cake applications without any quality sacrifice. If you aren’t already talking to your supplier about it, then this could be a good time to start.