Scientists from Columbia University in New York have achieved a breakthrough in 3D printing technology by creating a 3D-printed cheesecake with seven ingredients. This is the largest number of items ever used to print a single food product.
This is also the first time that food has been assembled and cooked entirely by a 3D-printing machine. In the past, 3D-printed food required an additional step, such as baking or frying, before it was ready to eat.
The team, led by mechanical engineer Jonathan Blutinger, had to prepare the seven ingredients for the print process. The Nutella, peanut butter, and strawberry jam needed no preparation and were soft enough to pass through the syringe printhead. The bananas were mashed, and the graham crackers needed to be crushed and mixed with water and butter to form a thick paste.
Once ready, the ingredients were placed into the 3D printer and printed out in layers to create a slice of cheesecake. The scientists faced a significant challenge in keeping the dessert’s shape, which they solved by using sturdier ingredients to support the softer ones. It took eight attempts to get the proportions right.
The final product featured a layer of graham cracker paste throughout the slice. Alternate layers of peanut butter and Nutella followed, topped with banana puree or strawberry jam. The graham cracker layer was then baked using new laser technology. It took a total of 30 minutes to make the slice.
Blutinger said, “When you bite into it, you kind of feel the flavors hit you in different waves. And I think that’s a function of the layering inside of the actual structure.”
The researchers published their creation in the journal NPJ Science of Food on March 21, 2023. They believe that 3D printing can be used to make unique and healthy foods and can particularly benefit the plant-based meat market. The technology can also help create customized meals for those with special dietary needs.