Tips on Purchasing a Stand Mixer

Purchasing a stand mixer

Earlier this summer, something I have been hoping to happen for a long time finally became a reality. I got a Kitchen Aid stand mixer! For the past 6 years I have been making all my cakes (including wedding cakes!) with my little $15 Black & Decker hand mixer and a variety of large bowls!

Old Faithful

Although this mixer served me well, when it came to large orders, I would inevitable suffer upper arm and neck cramps for several days, and almost always find a spot of frosting splattered up under cabinets or off in the far corners of the kitchen even after extensive cleaning!

Choosing a stand mixer was actually a lot more stressful than I was expecting mostly because I approached this like a lifetime purchase. It has taken me a long time to be able to save up/afford/justify spending the money on a stand mixer and I didn’t want to buy the ‘wrong’ one. So,  I did a lot of research and thought it might be helpful to share what I have discovered for those of you thinking of making such a purchase. Here are the main things you need to decide before you begin:

What do I need it for? yes I know mixing, but mixing what? cakes/cupcakes, cookies, bread, mashed veg? everything? And how much do you want to mix at a time? 1 loaf of bread, 5 batches of cookies, batter for 20 inch cakes? It really makes a difference for the kind of machine you need to focus on. 

How much am I willing/able to spend? yes we would all like to buy the most super-duper machine like the ones in industrial bakeries but how much can you realistically spend for the size of your kitchen in relation to your needs.

On what am I willing to compromise? Just like anything, there is no perfect machine out there so decide what your absolutes are and what you are willing to live without. Have realistic expectations. If you are wishing to start a bread making company, there may not realistically be a home kitchen style mixer that exists to meet your needs.

thinking

These seem like obvious questions but there is so much information out there on mixers that it’s important to be firm on your answers before you begin the process. It can be quite confusing if you don’t have some safe fixed perimeters

Brand names: There are other mixers not just Kitchen Aid and some of them even have slightly cooler features but if you know WHAT you need it for, then you can eliminate some of these options right off the bat. I found some really helpful Youtube video reviews were people did a side by side comparison with kitchen aids and other brands.  This also shed light on some of the  lofty product descriptions that don’t seem to really live up to their promises. Again, those answers will help you get to the right conclusion about which brand- i.e. if your budget is more limited and you just want a mixer for the occasional box cake packet, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t consider a less expensive smaller machine as long as it is good quality.

Which size: There is not a great deal of size variety of other brands so this section really only applies to those who are trying to chose a Kitchen Aid. (Cuisinart have two sizes – big and super large!- so some of this might apply but it’s a much easier choice than the Kitchen Aid machines). So how do you pick between the Classic, Artisan and the  Pro? There are some great YouTube videos and online reviews that helped me figure out which would best suit my needs. (I just searched for Kitchen Aid Mixer comparisons.) For me it came down to the Artisan and the Pro. Again, this goes back to the original questions I had established before researching. For the most part my little hand mixer has been fine for a small mix but what I needed most from a new mixer was the ability to knock out an order of 175 cupcakes for a wedding, or a large batch of royal icing or buttercream. Here are the major features outlined for each kitchen aid mixer size according to what I found:

Classic: Smallest bowl (4.5 qt), no handle on the bowl and doesn’t come with a pouring shield. However, it’s the cheapest at around $230-250 and again if you are only looking for basic mixing capability for single batch recipes, this is a great option. (I actually borrowed my friends Classic for making a large amount of royal icing a few months ago and was really happy with the results- it just wasn’t big enough for my ongoing needs)

Artsian: 5 qt bowl with handle and a pouring shield. Comes in a larger range of colours but is around $100 more than the classic. This seems to be the best kitchen aid deal between the two extremes of the Classic and the Pro. As it’s the most popular, many companies offer special deals at certain times of year.

Pro: 6 qt bowl with much more powerful motor. As a result it does not have a tilting head but a crank shaft handle to lift and lower the bowl itself. This also means it is quite a bit taller than the other two machines and does not fit under all kitchen cabinets. However, if you are into making several bathes of a recipe at one time, or larger tiered cakes, this does seems to be the most ideal machine. The colour options are constantly getting better but can drastically change the price so depending on which one you chose, there may not be as big of a difference with the Artisan. There is a lot of discussion however about how the flat beater doesn’t really scrape the bowl well. There is an additional flat beater you can purchase with little ‘wings’ that seems to solve this problem but it is extra and the reviews were very mixed.

ColoursColour: one of the key appeals for the kitchen aid mixers is the variety of colours and decorative options. Of course, which colour to purchase is entirely up to taste etc but I do have some words of advice- 1: Make sure you see a real life sample of the colour because they don’t all look exactly as they appear on-line. 2: The less obscure, the cheaper. My white pro was $50 cheaper than even the chrome and $100 less than some of the really snazzy ones. (Again this is where those key questions I mentioned at the beginning will be a great help.) 3: If money is an issue, think longevity- yes bright purpley-orange is lovely right now but will you love it for the next 10-15 years, and will it look good in another kitchen if you move?

Refurbished or New?: Refurbished Kitchen Aids are available everywhere and are typically a much cheaper option (up to $100 less) than a new one (although sometimes, you can catch a really good sale that can dramatically reduce the difference). There are a lot of mixed experiences and reviews of refurbished machines so it’s hard to say if this is a better option. Many people seem to have had great success with their’s whereas others have received a machine that is practically broken or unusable. Here is my one piece of advice on choosing to go the refurbished route- go with a reputable seller so if there are any problems you can get a refund easily. It seems that almost unanimously when people followed this guideline, even if their machine was no good, they raved about the customer service. How do you pick a reputable seller?-read lots of reviews!

MoneyWhere to Purchase? This will largely depend on the size, brand etc, there are so many options. Target, Bed Bath & Beyond seem to offer sales, coupons and rebates on Kitchen Aids at certain times of the year but nothing too amazing. (but still a sale is a sale!) Also, these offers tend to be tied mainly to the classic and the artisan. I couldn’t not find anything better than Amazon’s prices for the Pro, plus the seller offered a rebate for a free pasta roller and cutter at that particular time of year. However, with on-line offers, be sure to read exactly what the machine comes with and be careful to notice if the machine is new or refurbished. Sometimes, a particular colour does not come with a specific attachment or pouring shield. Bottom line- it’s not going to be cheap so do a little research but don’t expect to find massive differences between sellers especially with the higher end machines. If you are looking to get this as cheap as possible, be open about the colour- it is the one aspect that makes the biggest difference in price that I could see.

Bread: it seems that almost all the negative reviews I read for every machine was connected to their inability to mix bread either well or without burning out the motor. If you are looking for a machine to make multiple batches of bread, you may have to accept that without an industrial strength machine, this might not be possible. The occasional loaf seems to be fine as long as it’s kept at a lower speed and you are willing to be patient with stopping to scrape the bottom of the bowl.

Take Time and Plan Ahead. I first decided I wanted a mixer over a year ago and was finally willing to take the plunge. I excitedly searched kitchen aid mixer in my browser expecting to click ‘purchase’ within an hour. I was wrong! Like I said, there are so many machines to chose from you need to allow time to research properly and look for the best option and deal. I don’t recommend deciding on a whim or taking on a specific project with the view to have your machine beforehand unless there is plenty of time ahead. I abandoned my first attempts because we found out we were moving to Texas and needed all the extra cash we could find but I began again in April. It took me about a month of casually browsing, researching and window shopping before finally making a purchase and I could not be happier about my machine. It was completely the right one for me and my baking life has become so much easier (and cleaner!).  I mean… just look at how lovely it is sitting there all pretty on my kitchen counter!

My Beautiful Mixer

Good luck and please feel free to ask me any questions or share your stand mixer love below!

How to Succeed at Baking Projects

Top tips to confidently tackle any baking project

Recently I had the pleasure of designing a cupcake tower for the wedding of a sweet young couple here in Waco. We looked over some ideas that the bride had highlighted and I gathered other pertinent information like wedding invites, colours etc until we came up with the perfect design.

Cupcake Tower

Despite remaining calm and cool, I have to admit I was a little nervous at first simply because up until that point, I hadn’t actually experimented much with cupcakes let alone made 175 cupcakes at one time. However, I am always surprised how my confidence suddenly kicks in when it comes to being in the kitchen. I am not an overly confident person at other times, and in fact, there were things I did not attempt in life because I let my fears or worries overshadow those moments of adventure. But, when I am faced with anything in my kitchen, I believe in myself wholeheartedly. (This doesn’t mean I haven’t made any mistakes- I have had some major disasters!- but I learnt to think quickly on my feet to correct or try again.) When I first started taking risks that paid off in the kitchen, I  found that this confidence began to trickle into other areas of my life. I started to see that I can accomplish things that seemed really daunting at first and the same skill set I used in the kitchen was still with me when faced with other projects.

Although some intuition is involved, this success is not completely by chance and so today I want to share the tips I have developed from tackling projects like my recent wedding cupcake tower. I believe these tips are applicable to any new baking venture, big or small.

Practice and research in advance. I had never really tried my hand at cupcakes before this order. Yes, I had made them and they were good but I knew they could be better so I researched recipes until I knew what would work best and then tried a few different things before finding the perfect cupcake. I did this a week before my tasting with the bride and groom so I had time to keep working if it wasn’t up to par. My first crucial piece of advice is to research and test first! It is also imperative that you test out the recipe in your particular kitchen, with your appliances and your oven. For example, I preferred hand mixing several parts of the batter and adjusted cooking temperatures a couple of times until I was really happy. This isn’t just true of making a wedding cake order but of any new baking venture- I don’t recommend presenting your first try on unsuspecting friends unless you are experienced with the process involved. It’s not like cooking where you can add or easily recreate at the last minute. For the sake of being completely vulnerable, I do not follow this advice all the time but I have certainly been more successful when I spend time at least researching even if I can’t actually practice.

Blue flower cupcakes

Organize your research: Although there are so many wonderful people out there sharing advice and tips, you need a place to keep all this info for the right time. I have a secret board on Pinterest where I pin my on-line research such as great tutorials, tips etc so I can refer back to them during the project. (I keep the board secret in case I am planning a surprise for a friend.) Because of all the variables that can throw you off during practice, (or on the day) it’s so helpful to have those websites on hand  to refer to them in a flash.  Create a system that works best for you.

Plan supplies and ingredients ahead of time. This may sound obvious but taking time to think through every aspect of the project is crucial. Sometimes you might need a particular item that is only available on line and needs to be shipped. Practicing helps to think through all the logistics and ingredients needed. If you are making something for an event you will also need to consider how to store, transport and display your baked goods. Don’t leave anything to the last minute! It’s the worst feeling of panic when you realize you forgot something crucial or worse, you have run out of time.

Plan time going backwards. It is imperative that you plan your time meticulously so that everything is completed and you can remain calm. The best advice is starting backwards. Let’s say for example your baked items need to be ready for 5pm, you should plan your time beginning at 5pm i.e.

cupcake planning

You will note how I calculate the time needed for each step and also allow time for any mishaps or issues at each point where possible. I used to have a terrible habit of calculating time in my head and finding I was completely off in practice so after several panic moments, I learnt to use this method and it has been extremely helpful.

Stay calm, don’t give up, and always have extra. I can’t stress enough how helpful it has been to follow this step. You never know what might happen in the baking process so make sure you have some ingredients to start over if needed. In some cases it’s also best to just make an extra batch. When you have extra on hand, not only do you get to bestow leftovers upon other loved ones, you have a back up plan in case disaster strikes. On one order recently, I had everything ready to go and at the last minute, I dropped a whole box of cupcakes upside down. Although the box was closed and none hit the floor, when I opened the box, they were one messed up clump of cake and frosting! Fortunately, my husband was with me and reading the look of horror on my face, helped me remain calm and think through my options. I had an extra batch set aside and extra frosting in the fridge so all I had to do was prepare another box and off the order went with no further drama. 

I hope you find these tips helpful and it provides you with some motivation to tackle a new baking venture with increased confidence. After all….you could end up creating something you’re mighty darned proud of!

ready for eating