What Makes Clean-label Cakes so Hard to Bake?

Baking clean-label cakes can be difficult, but it doesn't have to be!

One of the biggest dilemmas to come out of the clean label trend is what to do with cakes. While organic or natural sweeteners, colors and flavors may be slightly easier to bake with, it’s harder to bake without:

  • Bleached flour
  • Bromated flour
  • Aluminum-based phosphates

These ingredients are key for high ratio cakes, giving layered cakes higher volume, finer grain and a tender texture. The alternatives must help with batter aeration, cell structure, and finished product texture. And most common preservatives and artificial ingredients can not be used in label cakes.

Ok great, what can i put in clean-label cakes? 

  • Emulsifiers add strength, texture, and emulsification. They are sodium (and calcium) stearoyl lactylate, ethoxylated monoglycerides, DATEM, sucrose esters, and polysorbates. Clean-label alternatives include enzymes, egg yolks, lecithin, and natural hydrocolloids like gums.
  • Preservatives extend shelf life and control mold. They are propionates, sorbates, and benzoates. Clean-label alternatives include cultured whey or wheat flour, vinegar, raisin juice concentrate, sorbic acid, and live cultures.2
  • Stabilizers provide texture and structure. They are modified food starch and synthetic hydrocolloids. Clean-label alternatives include natural hydrocolloids like arabica.
  • Aluminum-based phosphates are present in leavening agents such as sodium aluminum phosphate (SALP). Clean label alternatives are still being researched. Current studies recommendation one part sodium bicarbonate with .9 tartaric acid.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup is used as a low cost sweetener in baked goods. Clean label alternatives are:
    • Agave syrup
    • Invert sugar
    • Honey
    • Rice syrup
    • Maple syrup
    • Organic sugar

What about a substitute for chlorinated flour in clean-label cakes? Here is one option.


About the Author:

Lin Carson, PhD
Dr. Lin Carson’s love affair with baking started over 25 years ago when she earned her BSc degree in Food Science & Technology at the Ohio State University. She went on to earn her MSc then PhD from the Department of Grain Science at Kansas State University. Seeing that technical information was not freely shared in the baking industry, Dr. Lin decided to launch BAKERpedia to cover this gap. Today, as the world’s only FREE and comprehensive online technical resource for the commercial baking industry, BAKERpedia is used by over half a million commercial bakers, ingredient sellers, equipment suppliers and baking entrepreneurs annually. You can catch Dr. Lin regularly on the BAKED In Science podcast solving baking problems. For more information on Dr. Lin, subscribe to her "Ask Dr. Lin" YouTube Channel, or follow her on LinkedIn.

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