Are The Rules Different For Cakers?

Business By Rachel5370 Updated 27 May 2010 , 5:37pm by Rachel5370

Rachel5370 Posted 23 May 2010 , 6:44pm
post #1 of 24

I have worked for years as a chef/pastry chef and also created a restaurant from scratch and managed it for a year. I am very familiar with the food licensing process. The central rule is that potentially hazardous foods must be kept above 140 or under 41 degrees. Food can be out of temp for up to four hours, during which time it must be served or discarded. Another big rule is that food that is not going to be cooked before serving cannot be handled with bare hands. These are critical violations that get restaurants shut down.

So, because I am now getting ready to get my food license as a baker/ decorator I want to know if it's different somehow? For example, I can't imagine working with fondant or gumpaste with gloves on! But it's not cooked after it's handled so...?

Also, I see people talking on the forums about refrigeration or non-refrigeration of cakes all the time. If frosting or filling has milk, cream, butter, cream cheese, uncooked eggs or any dairy product- it must be refrigerated and not left out at room temp for more than four hours.

It's not a matter of "no one has ever gotten sick from my cakes", it's a universal health code. I understand that some people feel that refrigeration interferes with quality. But I want to comply with the rules. Can anyone who is licensed address these issues for me?

Mainly the handling of food with bare hands and how to prevent the harmful effects of refrigeration. I will be using butter and fresh fruit etc so leaving cakes out on the counter will not be an option for me. Thank you for reading this, sorry so long!

23 replies
Marianna46 Posted 23 May 2010 , 7:04pm
post #2 of 24

I'd be very interested in answers to these questions, too, since I'm going to try to go into business myself in the next year or two. I don't know what the health code where I live says, but I'm always interested in food safety. Thanks.

jenmat Posted 23 May 2010 , 7:11pm
post #3 of 24

I can help with the hands thing, at least I think I may be able to!
It was explained to me that the smaller you are, the less rules there are. Now, that may or may not be true health code, but it comes down to how the codes are interpreted or enforced. I worked at a very large grocery bakery and hairnets, gloves, etc were required. I worked in a small bakery and neither were required.

Now, for me only a hand-sink is required, no gloves (thank goodness!) I know you pay more for bigger business licenses in this area, and the bigger you are/ the more you gross, the more rules there are for you.

I refrigerated all my cakes. I don't care what others do, I just feel that it is best for my cakes and peace of mind. I also use a lot of fruit, dairy/cream, butter etc and would never want to risk it.

I think if my health inspector were to come in and see a bunch of cakes sitting out on a rack, he may take issue with, but that is probably answered better for you by someone who does not refrigerate. I've known people who don't even refrigerate cream cheese icing.

I know sugar acts as a preservative, but man, I don't want to find out how well!

sweetiesbykim Posted 23 May 2010 , 7:25pm
post #4 of 24

I don't see anyone using gloves on the well-known tv cake shows or challenges, whether they're working on fondant, baking, carving, or crumb-coating cakes. They are small bake shops compared to "assembly line" commercial bakeries, but they do "crank out" a lot of cakes. They must have different rules for cakers.

cheatize Posted 23 May 2010 , 7:52pm
post #5 of 24

I think your health inspector can answer your questions much better than we can.

jennywenny Posted 23 May 2010 , 7:52pm
post #6 of 24

I took my sanitation class and test fairly recently and there was no mention of wearing gloves, just clean hands, no jewellery, washing hands often and between tasks.

I agree on the refrigeration though. The bakery I did my work experience at had the cakes in a walk in cooler, and if you watch something like cake boss you'll see he keeps all his cakes in a deli fridge. I dont think american buttercream technically has to be refrigerated since it has so much sugar in it....

I've never had too much trouble from refrigerating my cakes at home. I did one this weekend with fondant and kept it in the fridge overnight and finished in the morning and I found that the fondant dried nicely. You do need to watch out for condensation, it sometimes makes the fondant sticky so you need to avoid touching it when its straight out of the fridge.

There has been endless debate on here about this, but the aussies have a different method where they use dense cakes and a ganache with a high ratio of cream to chocolate and they are never refrigerated. I think the cake is also filled with thin layers of ganache...

Rachel5370 Posted 23 May 2010 , 10:01pm
post #7 of 24

I always thought it was ok to leave cakes out too until I was told different by the inspector at the restaurant I managed. I made my Chocolate Guiness Stout cake which is filled and covered in a ganache with Guiness in it. I put it in a covered glass cake stand on top of the deli case because it made a nice presentation whole.

They asked me if it had cream, butter, milk, or any dairy or uncooked eggs. Of course it had cream in the ganache, so I had to slice it, put it clear containers and put it inside the deli display case, no biggie because all the other desserts were there but it ruined my presentation.

But there was no way we would have sold the whole cake by the slice in four hours so it had to be kept cold. The health dept has the same rules for big and small operations. Maybe someone from Denver or Boulder with a license?

flamingobaker Posted 24 May 2010 , 12:23am
post #8 of 24

Here is a boatload of information from JanH that I have saved explaining why certain items can be left out unrefrigerated.

Hope it helps!

Originally Posted by JanH

Most American b/c's are shelf stable, even when milk or cream are used as the liquid.

Sugar is hygroscopic, or moisture absorbing.
The powdered sugar in American b/c's controls the water activity in the butter/margarine and/or milk or cream in the mixture. (Butter and margarine are both 80% fat and 20% water, while shortening is 100% fat.)

Water activity & microbial growth:
(Prolonging Bakery Product Life.)

WJ Scott in 1953 first established that it was water activity, not water content that correlated with bacterial growth:

Formulating for increased shelf life:
(Decreasing water activity results in hostile environment for bacteria.)


costumeczar Posted 24 May 2010 , 12:54am
post #9 of 24

Clean hands are fine for working with food, you just have to make sure that you wash your hands frequently or whenever you touch your face, hair, etc. Gloves aren't any better, people tend to rely on the gloves too much and will touch things and not change the gloves, which defeats the purpose of having them anyway.

I refrigerate cakes, I think that people are too free with "don't refrigerate." Having said that, there are some kinds of cakes that are low-risk in terms of spoilage, so it's not as critical that they be refrigerated. The health inspectors do have certain foods that they look for because they're more prone to spoilage, and high-sugar/no dairy icings spoil a lot slower than something like a custard will. If it's rated as low-risk it isn't as critical that they be refrigerated.

Rachel5370 Posted 24 May 2010 , 6:29am
post #10 of 24

Thank you for going to all the trouble of looking up and posting the science of the whole thing. But like I said in one of my posts, the health dept inspector instructed me not to leave a cake out because there was cream in the ganache- there was certainly plenty of sugar.

I guess rules are rules to them, no matter the scientific arguments. Refrigeration isn't something I'm hoping to avoid- I guess I just wanted to know why some people feel it damages their cakes and how to avoid it.

They also told me that we could not touch any food that wasn't going to be cooked with bare hands, period. I know that gloves can be just as bad or worse. I wash my hands more than I need to. I went to culinary school and was certified in sanitation- the rules were different then.

There was some sort of outbreak 10 years ago in Denver that was linked to banquet servers and ever since then they have been freaky paranoid about gloves. I would argue that the Boulder County Health Dept is among the toughest in the country & I am still in the county with my new business.

If they insist I use gloves, how will that work? Cheese and delli meat used to stick to my gloves, I can't imagine gumpaste and fondant with gloves! Maybe I am just nitpicking. I will call my H.D. tomorrow and ask- I will let you guys know what they say. icon_sad.gif

Rachel5370 Posted 24 May 2010 , 6:40am
post #11 of 24

I didn't mean to sound argumentative in that last post- just realized it could be construed that way. I guess part of my confusion/frustration comes from lurking in the forums and reading alot of contradictory info.

Some seem a bit too "cavalier" about the health of their clients and some seem overly "sticklerish" (how's that for a word?!). I was hoping for a happy medium that makes sense to me. I am going to do what I said and call my HD tomorrow.

I truly appreciate the trouble everyone went through to try and help me out! I have learned lots of great info from reading these forums! Thanks again! I will post what the health dept tells me- though I am sure it is different evrywhere.

costumeczar Posted 24 May 2010 , 10:27am
post #12 of 24
Originally Posted by Rachel5370

I didn't mean to sound argumentative in that last post- just realized it could be construed that way. I guess part of my confusion/frustration comes from lurking in the forums and reading alot of contradictory info. Some seem a bit too "cavalier" about the health of their clients and some seem overly "sticklerish" (how's that for a word?!). .

I think that once you take any type of food sanitation class you become more rigid about how you handle food, because you know what can happen. Some of the cavalier attitude on here is ignorance about what's supposed to be done for proper food-handling, and some is just laziness. It still remains true that some foods are lower-risk than others, though, and most cakes fall into the lower-risk category. (Cake, not fillings, which I wouldn't touch with my hands anyway).

Really, when you're baking, there's not that much that you touch with your hands. It's just the fondant and the gumpaste, which isn't really something that people are going to eat, that get handled. If your health department is really strict it could be difficult, but you're right about having to check with them on what procedures they expect you to follow. Good luck!

Karen421 Posted 24 May 2010 , 11:42am
post #13 of 24

It you have to wear gloves, try a surgical supply store. They have latex gloves in sizes and they fit really well, and are easier to work in.

Mama_Mias_Cakes Posted 24 May 2010 , 1:17pm
post #14 of 24
Originally Posted by Karen421

It you have to wear gloves, try a surgical supply store. They have latex gloves in sizes and they fit really well, and are easier to work in.

I would be careful on getting latex ones. I have a severe latex allergy. Not sure how I would react to fondant that has been kneaded, worked with, etc. with latex gloves. They do make latex free ones just to be on the safe side.

carmijok Posted 24 May 2010 , 1:39pm
post #15 of 24

I think we should all wear haz-mat suits and then there'll be no question! icon_lol.gif

cakesdivine Posted 24 May 2010 , 1:39pm
post #16 of 24

Yes it has cream but the cream is "cooked" to make ganache. It must be brought to a boil in order to use it for the ganache. The fat content and sugar content in the ganache keep it shelf stable and prohibits growth for up to 3 days. But any bakery product after 3 days refrigerated or not should be discarded or discounted as the freshness at that point is gone, and it then becomes an inferior for the half off shelf icon_smile.gif

Also, it depends on your individual HD person. Even within a HD's jurisdiction, different HD agents will say different things. Some agents aren't as picky with baked goods as they are non-potentially hazardous foods. Others are super anal about everything. You just never know so it is best to err on the side of caution icon_smile.gif

leah_s Posted 24 May 2010 , 2:00pm
post #17 of 24

There's a federal food code and 50 state food codes. Your state may have simply adopted a *version* of the federal food code, or may have written their own. My state JUST adopted the 2005 version of the federal code which specifies no bare handed food handling. I can't work that way, so the state code wrote an alternative code for those of us who can't comply. I have to double wash my hands or wash and then use a sanitizer and then I can touch food with bare hands.

The food code rally does vary by state.

indydebi Posted 24 May 2010 , 2:05pm
post #18 of 24

Along with what leah said, it seems that I remember something in my food safety class (it's been awhile, so it's hard to remember now) that in Indiana, if we wanted/needed to work bare-handed, we had to apply for a special permission permit. I welcome anyone with better memory or info to correct me if I'm recalling this incorrectly, but I DO know he said something about applying for a special exception.

Rachel5370 Posted 24 May 2010 , 5:14pm
post #19 of 24

I do know that whatever you use has to be approved for commercial food use. We bought an ice cream maker at Sam's Club and they told us we couldn't use it at the restaurant I managed because it wasn't "NSF".

They have to be food handling gloves- and most of them are vinyl or nitrile. Just like hospitals, they are phasing out latex. I did see one of the people on "Amazing Wedding Cakes" using gloves. I think some people use them in certain applications so as not leave fingerprints on their work.

I have dealt with this particular health dept before, and they are tough. We had extra inspections because we rented our kitchen to people, and they had to obtain their own food license and we were inspected on their behalf. We had 5 inspections in one year, the average restaurant gets inspected once every 3 years because of backlogs in Boulder County.

I just can't figure out how some of their rules will work for cake! On the other hand- since there's no raw chicken or anything like that around, cross-contamination won't be much of a concern! I'm still calling this afternoon... I will let you all know as promised.

Hahaha to the Hazmat suits! I am laughing at that still! icon_lol.gif

Rachel5370 Posted 24 May 2010 , 5:39pm
post #20 of 24

Thank you, Leah and Indydebi! That is very helpful. I never has an issue in a restaurant setting but I was getting stressed out at the prospect of being forced to wear gloves while working with fondant- it just wouldn't work!

I am STILL laughing about the Hazmat suits remark! icon_lol.gif

Rachel5370 Posted 27 May 2010 , 6:45am
post #21 of 24

I am still waiting for the health dept to get back to me.... I will post whatever I find out in case it is helpful to anyone. icon_smile.gif

Rachel5370 Posted 27 May 2010 , 5:15pm
post #22 of 24

I talked to the health dept. Boulder County, CO has one of the toughest depts in the country, so this might be helpful to others out there too. In regards to bare hand contact- it's not allowed on foods that will not be cooked after they are handled. BUT- an establishment can apply for an exception- they do this for Sushi chefs etc. The applicant must submit a handwashing plan that includes double washing hands with a nail brush and timing and charting it. If the exception is granted and upon inspection non-compliance is found- the person/establishment loses the bare hand exception and cannot get it back. It was explained to me that this is specifically because of the norovirus which has a gelatinous coating on it that causes it to cling to hands- ewww gross! Those charts you see about how to wash your hands are no joke. Everyone should do this, whether licensed or not. It will protect your customers, friends and family from a potentially deadly virus. I am attempting to attach the policy from my health depts website... not sure this will work

Rachel5370 Posted 27 May 2010 , 5:17pm
post #23 of 24

Darnit, it didn't attach the whole thing and I'm not sure anyone can read that? If anyone is interested, I will give you the link... icon_smile.gif ~Rachel

Rachel5370 Posted 27 May 2010 , 5:37pm
post #24 of 24

Oh yeah, the health dept guy also said that they are not as picky about some baked goods. Some icings have a high enough sugar ratio and it makes them less dangerous. BUT- I will have to submit my recipes for approval. I'm going to refridgerate anyway, I use all butter and no shortening. Just in case anyone wanted to know! icon_smile.gif

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