Tasting a cake means analyzing its sensory characteristics following a precise order, moving from the overall sensory examination to the breakdown of each individual ingredient and, ultimately, the pleasure of the experience.
Sensory evaluation is defined as the “scientific discipline used to evoke, measure, analyze and interpret reactions to characteristics of food as perceived through the senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing“.
(Stone and Sidel, Sensory Evaluation Practices, 1993)
(Definition accepted and endorsed by the American Society for Testing and Materials and by the Institute of Food Technologists)
Therefore, a sensory evaluation is a scientific discipline that makes it possible to evaluate the characteristics of a product (of whatsoever nature) through the sensory system, which responds to chemical and physical qualities, and the response to such stimuli is the sensations that we perceive.
When it comes to holiday yeast cakes, such as Panettone, there is an additional element to consider. Though not strictly connected with the sensory evaluation, the slicing ritual is just as important and should follow a well-thought-out procedure. First of all, Panettone should not be served cold, but either at room temperature or slightly warm, so to help release the product’s fragrances. The paper around the Panettone should be peeled off with care. The paper wrapping that covers the bottom also needs to be slowly removed and then placed back. By doing so, each cut slice will come off more easily from the paper base.
Here are some useful suggestions to fully appreciate a Panettone!
Sense of sight
The following should be observed: the internal and external colors, the distribution of the air pockets, and the texture and shape of the Panettone. Furthermore, the richness of the sweet bread’s structure and its freshness should be examined.
Sense of smell
This is the most complex analysis because there are many elements that come into play: the cake’s aromatic fragrance and its multiplicity; the intensity of the butter, the natural yeast, the candied fruit and the vanilla. All of those should be evaluated according to persistence and depth.
Sense of taste
This is the most pleasant but difficult part of the assessment. We will experience the pleasure and excitement of the actual tasting, while trying to perform an objective analysis. At this stage, we will analyze the complexity of the Panettone’s structure and its sweetness, and we will assess the intensity and the pleasantness of the fragrances coming from: the butter, the natural yeast, the candied citrus peel, the raisins and any other fruit present. We will also analyze the texture and pleasantness of any filling. At the end, we will perform an overall evaluation of the balance of flavors, along with their persistence and aftertaste.
Sense of touch
Touch is a sense that is perceived not only by the hand, but also by the mouth. Therefore, we will not only assess the firmness of the Panettone during the cutting, but we will also analyze its softness, texture and moistness with our fingers and with our mouth.
This is where a subjective analysis is expected: that is the result of the multi-sensory feelings experienced during the tasting. First the pleasure, then the degree of satisfaction and, finally, for your pleasure, the temptation to have another bite.