Wendyl Wants To Know
Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Wendyl wants to know: Those six spoons of sugar really take the cake

Sara Lee Banana Cake $7.99 for 350g

Sara Lee Banana Cake. $7.99 for 350g.
Sara Lee Banana Cake. $7.99 for 350g.

I found this in our fridge after being away for a week. No one owned up to actually placing it there and eventually we had to assume one of the kids' friends had brought it around.

Sara Lee is the gold standard for frozen processed desserts. Their brand statement is "always in season".

My problem is that fresh bananas are always in season and banana cake has to be one of the easiest cakes to make at home. And it is a great way to use up ripe bananas in the fruit bowl.

Freezing a cake means lots of additives to keep it moist, the texture right and looking good when it emerges from its packaging.


Sugar - A bit of a shock so see the main ingredient is sugar. You will get a massive 25.3g or just over six teaspoons of sugar per 58g slice of this cake.

Banana puree (25%) - [food acids (330,300)] This will be mashed banana with a few food acids acting as preservatives in much the same way as lemon juice sprinkled on banana. They are citric acid (330) and ascorbic acid (300)

Wheat flour Fondant - (sucrose, glucose (wheat based)]

This is the icing, made up entirely by sugar and glucose.


Vegetable fats and oils - [Water, salt, milk solids, emulsifiers (soy lecithin, 471)

Not sure what these are but they have other ingredients including two emulsifiers, soy lecithin and mono and dyglicerides of fatty acids added into them.

Butter flavour (nature identical) - Butter features lower down as an ingredient but it obviously isn't enough to add the taste of butter. Nature identical means that it's not butter but something natural which can mimic the flavour of butter when treated in a certain way.

Food acid (330) - This is citric acid.

Antioxidants (306,304) - These are tocopherols (306) and ascorbyl palmitate (304) which will be in here to preserve the cake.

Colour (160a) - This is carotene, a natural colour.

Butter (cream, salt) - A small amount of butter in here.

Glucose syrup (wheat based) - This is a form of sugar derived from wheat.

Emulsifiers (471 from soy, 475,477) - These are mono and diglycerides of fatty acids (471), polyglycerol esters of fatty acids (475) and propylene glycol esters of fatty acids (477). They keep oil and water from separating out, keep it moist and maintain the cake's texture.

Raising agents [(500,450), wheat starch] - These are baking soda (500) and diphosphates (450).

Humectant (420) - Humectants are hygroscopic substances which keep food moist. In this product the humectant is sorbitol (420). Excess consumption can cause gas and bloating but there isn't much in here.

• Thickeners (1412,1422) - These are in here to give the cake a nice texture. They are distarch phosphate (1412) and acetylated distarch adipate (1422)

Salt - A reasonable amount of salt in here at 222mg per 58g serving.

Vanilla flavour (natural) - Nice to see natural flavour used.

Vegetable gum (414) - This is acacia gum, a natural gum, in here as a stabiliser.

My recommendations

My recipe for banana cake takes three ripe bananas and a cup of castor sugar. The main ingredient is flour closely followed by bananas, butter and eggs.

With sugar the main ingredient here it means the flavour has to be altered by sugar to make it taste appealing, in my opinion.

This cake may have no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives but at six teaspoons of sugar a serve it's not a healthy option.

- NZ Herald

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