Frostings/fillings Are Fine, But The Cake Is Not Shelf-Stable???? What???

Decorating By agildart Updated 17 Jul 2013 , 1:36pm by agildart

agildart Posted 10 Jul 2013 , 2:16pm
post #1 of 15

I'm starting my own home-based bakery and I had to have some of my frostings and fillings tested by a lab here to make sure that they are shelf-stable.  They had to have a water activity level under 0.85.

 

So here is the weird part....all of my fillings and frostings (some of which were very butter-based) were below 0.85, but she said that the cakes and the cookies (the shell of a cream horn) were over 0.85!!!  How is that even possible???  The cake is vegan so there is no dairy in it whatsoever, and it's been baked, etc.  The cookie did have butter in it, but it's basically phyllo dough.

 

I'm freaking out - this is a disaster!!!  

14 replies
liz at sugar Posted 10 Jul 2013 , 2:41pm
post #2 of 15

I'd have it retested.  Possibly without the filling.

 

Liz
 

agildart Posted 10 Jul 2013 , 2:46pm
post #3 of 15

They won't retest it without the filling - I actually didn't even ask for the cake to be tested, just the frosting, but they said that they wanted it to be like I was going to sell it, so apparently they tested the whole thing.  So they won't test just a component of it.

 

It's a chocolate oil cake - it does have 2 cups of water in it, divided into 24 cupcakes, could that be why??  

 

But the phyllo dough just doesn't make sense.  It's a homemade phyllo dough, and it's basically a lot of flour and butter, and then it's baked!

agildart Posted 10 Jul 2013 , 2:50pm
post #4 of 15

This was the followup reply...still not sure if it means I cannot sell them at all, or if they just require some kind of special label...

 

 

Quote:
We analyzed the filling and then we analyzed the filling/cookie or cake interface (where the cookie or cake touches the filling).  
All of the frostings and fillings are below 0.850 which means these cookies and cakes can be considered shelf-stable, but for only 3 days for the following products: the vanilla cream cheese, classic buttercream and the clothespin cookies.  These products had an interface reading above 0.850.  So after 3 days, they should be refrigerated so they have a limited shelf-life.   
The only product that would truly be considered to be shelf-stable was your All Butter Cream frosting and cake which had both readings below 0.850.  

jason_kraft Posted 10 Jul 2013 , 2:55pm
post #5 of 15

AWater activity is not necessarily dependent on how much dairy is in the recipe. Salt and sugar both reduce water activity, so a recipe with more salt and/or sugar will generally have a lower level.

I recommend contacting your local health dept to see what they say about these results and whether your products would be classified as potentially hazardous (which would mean you can't sell them). A water activity level below 0.85 may be OK depending on the acidity of the recipe.

maybenot Posted 10 Jul 2013 , 11:00pm
post #6 of 15

Well, the way I read it, the results make sense. 

 

It's the "interface"--the area where the filling contacts the cake or cookie--that's getting wet and staying wet because it's on interior surfaces.  So, as the cake/cookie soaks up the filling, the wet area stays above the acceptable level. 

 

The components are fine by themselves, but when put together, unless there's a way to create an impervious barrier between filling & cake/cookie, there's an issue.  Perhaps a thin layer of chocolate would work in some applications??

 

It might be a good idea to see how other bakers are handling this problem.  In my mind, a 3 day shelf life is actually pretty good for items that are expected to be freshly baked.

agildart Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 2:40am
post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by maybenot 

Well, the way I read it, the results make sense. 

 

It's the "interface"--the area where the filling contacts the cake or cookie--that's getting wet and staying wet because it's on interior surfaces.  So, as the cake/cookie soaks up the filling, the wet area stays above the acceptable level. 

 

The components are fine by themselves, but when put together, unless there's a way to create an impervious barrier between filling & cake/cookie, there's an issue.  Perhaps a thin layer of chocolate would work in some applications??

 

It might be a good idea to see how other bakers are handling this problem.  In my mind, a 3 day shelf life is actually pretty good for items that are expected to be freshly baked.

It definitely makes more sense now that she clarified it.  At first, she made it sound like the entire cupcake had a high water activity level, and that just seemed odd, especially since she was the one who told me that baked goods don't usually require aw level testing, it's usually the filling or frosting that's the issue.

 

In any case, it is what it is.  I still think it's weird that they test the interface, especially when I was required to send it to them in 90 degree heat through the USPS.  

 

I forwarded her email to the inspector for the state, who then forwarded that email to the analysts in the Dept of Agriculture.  If I can just put a label on it that says it must be consumed within 3 days, then I'm fine with that.  But the "unwritten law" is that I cannot make anything that requires refrigeration.  Because I cannot find that law written ANYWHERE, there is nothing to interpret or question, I basically am at the mercy of the Dept. of Agriculture and the analyst's decision.

 

FINGERS CROSSED!!

jason_kraft Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 2:59am
post #8 of 15

AWhere are you located? Most states (assuming you are in the US) adopt the FDA food code, which has a specific definition for what constitutes potentially hazardous food: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/SafePracticesforFoodProcesses/ucm094143.htm

agildart Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 3:09am
post #9 of 15

A[quote name="jason_kraft" url="/t/760794/frostings-fillings-are-fine-but-the-cake-is-not-shelf-stable-what#post_7414248"]Where are you located? Most states (assuming you are in the US) adopt the FDA food code, which has a specific definition for what constitutes potentially hazardous food: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/SafePracticesforFoodProcesses/ucm094143.htm[/quote]

I'm in Maine. I'm not questioning what is considered a PHF. The Maine Food Law clearly defines it as a food with a water activity level above 0.85. However, nowhere does it state that a home food manufacturer cannot make and sell a PHF. In fact, in the Home Food Manufacturing statute, it states that PHFs must be refrigerated at a certain temperature. I cannot, for the life of me, find anything that states that I cannot sell any food that requires refrigeration, which is what the state inspector is claiming.

The Cake Shoppe Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 7:00am
post #10 of 15

It sounds like it will depend on whether the Maine Food Law trumps the Home Food Manufacturing statute or not. (I am assuming that the Maine Food Law says you can't manufacture and sell a PHF?)  Are there any home-based bakeries in your area?  Could it be that your inspector is more familiar with commercial bakeries and is thusly putting you in the same category on this when, in fact, you would fall under the statute regulations instead?  Did you ask your inspector specifically about the labeling?

I hope you get good news or at least a reasonable resolution when the analyst is done.thumbs_up.gif

agildart Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 12:03pm
post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Cake Shoppe 

It sounds like it will depend on whether the Maine Food Law trumps the Home Food Manufacturing statute or not. (I am assuming that the Maine Food Law says you can't manufacture and sell a PHF?)  Are there any home-based bakeries in your area?  Could it be that your inspector is more familiar with commercial bakeries and is thusly putting you in the same category on this when, in fact, you would fall under the statute regulations instead?  Did you ask your inspector specifically about the labeling?

I hope you get good news or at least a reasonable resolution when the analyst is done.thumbs_up.gif

Nope, the Maine Food Law does not state that.  That's what I'm saying - there is NOWHERE that states a home food manufacturer cannot make a PHF.  There are definitions of a PHF everywhere, and a lot about what temp to keep them at.  But there is no mention of a home food manufacturer having to make items that are shelf-stable.  

 

He said that if I wanted to make PHFs, I would have to be a commercial kitchen.  

 

The best part is that there is also a chapter about PHFs and it states:  Summary: The purpose of this chapter is to set forth rules for the processing and manufacture, and home food manufacturing of potentially hazardous foods.  

 

Why would it say that if home food processors couldn't make PHFs???  The rest of the document says nothing about home food manufacturing, except that all surfaces have to be sanitized.

The Cake Shoppe Posted 12 Jul 2013 , 6:46am
post #12 of 15

Gak!!  I sure hope that you haven't ended up with a troublesome inspector who is making this more difficult than it should be. icon_confused.gif  I'm pulling for you!  Good luck!

agildart Posted 17 Jul 2013 , 1:10pm
post #13 of 15

Well the inspector said that I would NOT be allowed to sell these products because they are not considered completely shelf-stable.  Then I followed up with the lab, who said that it is just the nature of the product that liquid from the frosting will want to migrate into the cupcake and that is what is causing the moisture.  So doesn't that meant that anyone who sells cake with frosting in Maine has to have a commercial kitchen?  The lab also said that I should try to use less dairy in my frostings - but here's the kicker - the only frosting/cake combo that passed was the one made with 100% butter.  The one made with 1/2 butter, 1/2 shortening did not pass!  So that doesn't make any sense!

 

And the reason why I can't find the law stating that I can't make refrigerated products from a home kitchen is because there is no law.  It's their POLICY.  

 

UGH.

 

So frustrated and not sure how to proceed here.  

liz at sugar Posted 17 Jul 2013 , 1:29pm
post #14 of 15

I would try a new set of recipes (of course keeping the ones that passed) or try a different combo - maybe a ganache or chocolate layer as a barrier between the failed icing and cake combo.  I know you don't have money to waste on testing, but I would figure out a way to make it work if you've gotten this far. :)

 

Liz
 

agildart Posted 17 Jul 2013 , 1:36pm
post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by liz at sugar 

I would try a new set of recipes (of course keeping the ones that passed) or try a different combo - maybe a ganache or chocolate layer as a barrier between the failed icing and cake combo.  I know you don't have money to waste on testing, but I would figure out a way to make it work if you've gotten this far. :)

 

Liz
 

That's the plan, although I don't even know what to try - part of it will have to wait until I get the actual report, to see how far over everything was.

 

It's weird because the frostings by themselves pass no problem.  It's the combo of the frosting and the cake.  But the cake is stable on its own as well.  So what do you change?  I think I'm going to try adding more sugar to the frosting to see if that will keep the moisture from seeping out.  But if the numbers are WAY off, I don't know what I'm going to do.  The ganache layer might be a good option!

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