Platefuls of innuendos, rising drama and more than a sprinkle of controversy – The Great British Bake Off is nearly over for another year. With all eyes on the three finalists and their show-stopping baked beauties ahead of Wednesday’s final, we wanted to see if the high-end stand mixers they use in the ‘tent of dreams’ are really worth the dough.
Bake Off’s mixer of choice – the KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer – costs £400-£550, so we looked at cheaper alternatives for the average amateur baker and pitted four different options against each other in a battle of the mixers. We tested for speed, taste and texture using the high-end mixer alongside a mid-range option and a cheap hand mixer, as well as a wooden spoon.
The four mixers we tested were:
- KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer* – £399 at Lakeland
- Aldi Premium stand mixer – £149.99 at Aldi
- Electric hand mixer* – £5 at Tesco
- Wooden spoon* – 30p at Wilko (in stores only)
In the MSE baking challenge, we didn’t attempt to tackle the notoriously difficult Baumkuchen. Instead, we wanted to see how quickly each could knock up a simple vanilla sponge, using the all-in-one method, where you whack all the ingredients into a bowl and mix.
We used exactly the same ingredients for each piece of equipment and, as a seasoned baker, it was ultimately down to me and my baking know-how to decide when the mixture was ready. I deemed that to be when all the ingredients were fully combined with no lumps of butter and/or flour.
- 125g self-raising flour
- 125g caster sugar
- 125g unsalted butter
- 2 eggs
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon vanilla essence
This is not a product review, but an unscientific fun experiment to see which can whisk a cake batter in the least amount of time. And as wasting ingredients is not the MoneySaving way, I baked each batch in the same oven at 180°c until golden brown and springy to the touch and treated my hard-working colleagues to a blind taste test to see which sponge was their favourite.
The electric hand mixer knocked all the air out of its competitors, coming in at a speedy 39 secs. In second place was our high-end mixer at 1 min 4 secs; third place the wooden spoon (and a lot of elbow grease) at 1 min 8 secs; and in last place the cheaper stand mixer at 1 min 24 secs.
The electric hand mixer was again victorious, coming out on top with our taste-testers. The sponge whisked with the wooden spoon was second favourite, followed by the cheaper mixer and finally the high-end mixer. That said, MSE founder Martin Lewis joined in the taste test and said he “couldn’t tell the difference”.
We know making plain cake batter is easy and our investigations probably wouldn’t pass any accuracy tests, but we think they prove that if you’re only planning on baking occasionally – and even then nothing fancier than a Victoria sponge – you most likely won’t need to shell out £400 for the pleasure, no matter how shiny and colourful a fancy mixer will look on your kitchen worktop.
And if you’re looking for a baking bargain, why not check out our round-up of the cheapest equipment we could find. On your marks, get set… BAKE!