Structure development and stabilisation in cake is the result of complex interactions involving the formulation ingredients and thermo-mechanical processes of cake production. Surface active ingredients are key as without the characteristic bubble structure of a cake would not be possible. Depending on the type of cake, surface active ingredients comprise as a minimum egg protein and lecithin, added as whole egg, and flour protein. Other recipes have additional emulsifier ingredients. There is anecdotal suggestion that emulsifiers and egg lecithin bring technological effects at different points during baking, at least with respect to sponge cakes, whereby added emulsifiers serve particularly to aid batter aeration, while lecithin serves to stabilise structure during the baking. If present, fat and oil also contribute to cake structure development and stabilisation.
Commercial bakeries are motivated to supplement the functionalities of traditional materials or to find alternatives for several reasons, including lower fat/calories, improved sustainability of production, avoidance of animal produce, cost reduction, reducing the additives in a product, or simply for improving quality and consistency. The stabilisation of bubbles in the batter, and the setting of structure in a cake, is profoundly important to achieving such goals which can be aided by an improved understanding of these processes.
The overall aim of this project is to develop an improved understanding of cake structure development and stabilisation in the context of an alternative structure stabilisation approach based on nutritionally inert and sustainably sourced particulate formulation ingredients which adsorb at the air-liquid interface. Critically, research into the functionality of such so-called Pickering particles in a real word formulation must consider interactions with other surface-active formulation ingredients, which could be cooperative and beneficial or non-cooperative and thus detrimental to the final product structure. The research hypothesis for this project is that inert Pickering particles can be applied as a structure functional ingredient in cakes.
This fully industry-funded studentship is initially offered as 1-year MSc by Research project. The overall aim of year 1 is to
test the research hypothesis for fat-free sponges, as the type of cake with the least formulation ingredients, and with silica-based Pickering particles as an inert model particle system. Pending research outcome and student performance, a change of registration to PhD is possible. Funding for years 2 and 3 has already been secured.
The student will get the opportunity to understand product and process through visiting the industry sponsor. The research will be carried out at the laboratories of the Microstructure Engineering Group: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/chemical-engineering/microstructure-engineering/index.aspx.
If you are interested, please send an informal query including your CV to Prof Bettina Wolf: [Email Address Removed]