Making cakes worth their salt

The baking industry's challenge is to reduce sodium content while maintaining volume, texture, crumb structure and flavour profile. John Brodie shows how targeting leavening agents can successfully replace sodium content — while also boosting calcium levels appreciably.

Imagine cutting sodium levels in a baked good by 25 per cent or more. Then imagine using ingredients that at the same time can hike healthful calcium levels by 500 per cent. It can be done.

Most medical experts agree that while salt is an essential nutrient, most people consume too much — Americans get 75 per cent of their sodium from processed foods. Diets high in sodium can contribute to hypertension, heart disease and other related medical conditions.

In the United Sates, the American Medical Association (AMA) has petitioned the FDA to revoke the GRAS status of salt and develop regulatory measures to limit sodium in processed and restaurant foods. The AMA is also asking the FDA to improve sodium labelling, making it easier for consumers to understand the amount of sodium in foods. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has also petitioned the FDA to revoke the GRAS status of salt. Both the AMA and the CSPI are asking the FDA to lower the Recommended Daily Value by 50 per cent (currently 2,300mg/day). Globally, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada and other countries have initiatives in place or are considering regulations to reduce sodium consumption.

Currently in the United States, the FDA allows manufacturers to make a health claim associating diets low in sodium with reduced risk of high blood pressure on a low-sodium food's label. FDA allows the following labelling of sodium:
Sodium-free: less than 5mg per serving.
Very low sodium: 35mg or less per serving or, if the serving is 30g or less or 2 tablespoons or less, 35mg or less per 50g of the food.
Low sodium: 140mg or less per serving or, if the serving is 30g or less or 2 tablespoons or less, 140mg or less per 50g of the food.
Light in sodium: at least 50 per cent less sodium per serving than average reference amount for same food with no sodium reduction.
Reduced or less sodium: at least 25 per cent less per serving than reference food.

The challenge for the baking industry is to reduce sodium content while keeping the same product characteristics (volume, texture, crumb structure) and flavour profile. Approximately 95 per cent of the sodium in baked goods comes from just three ingredients: salt, sodium bicarbonate and the leavening agent.

Salt provides multiple functions in baked goods. In cake-type products it adds flavour and also enhances the flavour of other ingredients and balances the sweetness profile. Salt is an inexpensive ingredient and many manufactures offer salt replacements. Salt contains about 39 per cent sodium. Alternatives to salt are available but formulators must be careful they do not change the current taste profile. Increased cost is also a concern.

The baking industry primarily uses three types of bicarbonate: sodium, potassium and ammonium. Bicarbonates are the source of CO2 that aerates the baked goods. Sodium bicarbonate is the most widely used. It contains about 27 per cent sodium and is the least expensive of the three bicarbonates. Potassium bicarbonate contains no sodium and has 39 per cent potassium — a much-needed nutrient. Potassium bicarbonate is a good replacement for sodium bicarbonate and has been used for years in low-sodium niche markets. Baking characteristics are similar to sodium bicarbonate. However, it is significantly higher in cost, and you need to use 19 per cent more when compared to sodium bicarbonate to achieve the same CO2 level. Ammonium bicarbonate is limited to applications where the moisture content is less than five per cent. This is so the ammonium gas can bake out.

The calcium bonus

Most formulators seem to look at salt and bicarbonates first when attempting to reduce sodium. Leavening acids are sometimes overlooked even though selecting the proper leavening agent can significantly reduce sodium content and increase the calcium content. There are three main types of leavening acids: sodium aluminum phosphates, sodium acid pyrophosphates and calcium phosphates. Each leavening acid has unique characteristics that contribute to the finished baked goods properties such as grain, texture, volume and flavour.

Sodium aluminum phosphate (SALP) is a heat-activated leavening agent widely used in cake, pancake and biscuit mixes. It gives large volume and a tender resilient texture, fine grain and is neutral in taste. It contains 2.1 per cent sodium (2,100mg/100g for SALP 138) and a minimal amount of calcium. SALP is not allowed in Japan and some European countries due to concerns with aluminum.

Sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP) is a widely used leavening acid for cakes, cake donuts, muffins, canned biscuits and many other baked goods. There are various different grades of SAPP, rated by their rate of reaction (ie, SAPP 28 releases 28 per cent CO2 at two minutes), from very fast acting to slow acting. It gives a soft moist texture with fine grain and has a slight chemical (pyro) aftertaste. The sodium content is about 21 per cent (21,000mg/100g) with a trace amount of calcium.

Calcium phosphates come in various types. Monocalcium phosphate monohydrate (MCP-M) is very fast acting while the Anhydrous (MCP-A) type has a delayed action. Dicalcium phosphate dihydrate is a heat-activated (reacts in oven) leavening.

The newest of the leavening acids is CAPP/MCP (calcium acid pyrophosphate / monocalcium phosphate). It has a rate of reaction similar to SAPP 28, and thus can replace SAPP 28 in most applications without changing the final baked good texture. All calcium phosphates contain no sodium and have about 18 per cent calcium. The CAPP/MCP leavening is an excellent way to formulate healthier baked goods with the added benefit of being bland in taste while adding calcium to your formulations. It is a one-to-one replacement for SAPP 28 (same neutralising value of 72) without increasing costs.

In most formulations, just by replacing SAPP 28 with this calcium leavening, you will reduce your sodium content by approximately 25 per cent (reduced-sodium claim) and increase your calcium to 10 per cent or more.

The proper selection of leavening acids can significantly affect your nutritional profile while not affecting costs. It is a smart approach to reducing sodium.

Innophos offers CAL-RISE, an easy to formulate, sodium-free, calcium-based leavening acid. Ideal for use in reduced- and low-sodium formulations, it provides a significant source of calcium with a 1:1 replacement for SAPP 28. Innophos is the leading North American manufacturer of specialty phosphates with a complete range of food-grade phosphates for baking, beverage, dairy, meat, seafood, poultry and nutritional-supplement applications.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.