Back in 2003 when I began my most recent baking odyssey, I acquired a Sunbeam Mixmaster – the remake of the classic retro mixer from the fifties. My mother had a Mixmaster which she bought in the seventies, and which I did most of my cake baking with as a teenager (when the obsession truly took hold). She still has that Mixmaster today, although it is significantly worse for wear – the plastic cover over the light is broken and they haven’t made the bulbs for years, so there’s a “live” cavity where the light bulb should be. I can vouch for that because I stuck my finger in there accidentally last year and got a nice shock from it.
I paid quite a lot of money for my Mixmaster and it held pride of place on my kitchen bench for three years. That is until I had it running one Sunday and one of the motors blew up! I discovered that the twin motor “600 watt” power it claimed worked in two ways: 1. to run the beaters; 2. to turn the turntable the bowl sits on. After seeing flames shooting from its rear I carted my not so trusty steed off to the repair shop and was shocked to discover that it would cost half of the original price to get the blasted thing fixed.
So I resorted to using my Sanyo hand mixer for whipping up butter cakes, and made no commitments to greater creations for one or two months.
But my cupcake business stepped up a notch and I found I needed to do a lot of mixing in one day and I didn’t want to be chained to the bench by a machine that needed to be held. I had seen a Red enamel Kitchen Aid rip off at Kmart for $179. I thought I could justify spending that amount of money to stop the gap, so I went trotting up to Kmart only to find that the mixer in question was entirely sold out. I wrestled with the idea of buying a Kitchen Aid, which is what I should have bought instead of the Mixmaster three years ago anyway. But I’m a cheapskate and I find it really hard to fork over $700 for a kitchen appliance.
Finally I decided to buy another Mixmaster, this time in Cobalt Blue, which I would have bought in the first place had I known the choice existed (my original Mixmaster is metallic silver). Staring at the variety of bench top mixers in David Jones I was immediately attracted to the Artic White Kenwood Patissier – also an attempt to copy the classic Kitchen Aid bench top mixer. Priced at $269, I thought it was a steal. At the check out to price came down to $256, and then with a $30 cash back offer, I decided I’d gotten myself a serious deal.
So... I now own two bench top mixers: a Sunbeam Mixmaster (silver) and a Kenwood Patissier (artic white), and as such I’m in a position to extol the virtues of each, and I will do so with the hope of giving you some genuine insight, should you ever be in the market for a bench top mixer too.
Sunbeam Mixmaster - $399 (or thereabouts)
As I stated earlier, this mixer has twin motors, totalling 600 watts of power. But that’s nothing when you know that one motor runs the beaters and the other runs the turntable. The unit comes with rotary beaters, a set of whisk beaters and a set of dough hooks (I have used these to turn cake batter through kilos of dried fruit for a Christmas cake). It also comes with two stainless steel bowls – a 4L bowl and a 2L bowl. The beauty of this is that you can cream butter and sugar or whisk egg whites in the small bowl and then transfer them to the large bowl (if you need to). The smaller bowl means the ingredients are aerated faster and more effectively. I also like the fact that the bowl turns – the beaters sit to the left in the bowl which allows room on the right for adding ingredients while the motor is running. You can scrape down the sides of the bowl while the motor is running, which I think is very handy.
The flaw in the Sunbeam Mixmaster is the location of the motor vent. It’s right on the face of the machine over the top of the bowl. Quite often when mixing dry ingredients, flour or icing sugar is kicked up from the bowl and it invariably gets caught around the motor vent. Many’s a time I have found myself cleaning dust out of the vent with a cotton ear bud, just for the sake of seeing the machine properly cleaned.
The other drawback is the grooves in the turntable, and the fact that the turntable is attached to the bottom of the stand. If you spill any liquid on the stand, it’s very hard to get the turntable clean. You quite often have to remove it altogether to cleanup anything caught underneath.
Finally, I’ve found that the quality of the spring on the mixer tilt release isn’t consistent. Mine is very hard to push in to tilt the mixer up. My mother’s (she bought a sunshine yellow new model 18months ago) is easy to push, but the spring is short so the beaters don’t actually touch the bottom of the bowl in the down position (whereas mine do) so you quite often get a reservoir of unmixed cake batter which won’t cook properly if you put it in the cake pan and bake it.
Overall, I do love my Mixmaster. But I’m incredibly cheesed off that the motor blew up after three years.
UPDATE: Having put the Mixmaster in for repairs four weeks ago I am sad to report that it is still in the workshop. The parts have been particularly hard to find, with some having to be ordered from overseas. I'm told it will be a further two to three weeks before the repairs can be completed. This is very disappointing.
Kenwood 270W Patissier - $269 (or thereabouts)
The Kenwood has a motor with 300 watts power, which is quite acceptable since the Mixmaster basically has the same. The body of the machine is quite sleek and without grooves so it’s very easy to clean. It has a speed control lever on the side instead of the twist speed control at the back (which the Mixmaster has). I asked the salesman if he’d heard of the lever breaking off and he said no. But I don’t think he’d admit to that even if they did, right?
The key difference with the Patissier is that the bowl is stationary. The beater – which is paddle shaped – works with “planetary” action (I prefer the term orbital myself, but the manufacturer calls it planetary so lets stick to that). It works by moving around and across the bowl – at no great speed I might add – combining ingredients and gently whipping the mixture.
The motor vent on the Kenwood is on the top of the machine, so there’s absolutely no chance of getting flour or anything stuck in it. The face of the machine is round and featureless, which makes cleaning a real breeze. There is no handle on the top of the unit (the Sunbeam has a rubber coated high handle) so when you tilt it up or down, you just push on its bulk head.
The Patissier comes with the paddle beater, a balloon whisk and a dough hook (which I haven’t used yet). It also has a 4L stainless steel bowl, which fits into a crevice in the base, and has a handle, which makes pouring cake mix into pan extra easy. The bowl crevice is lined with stainless steel, so if you do happen to spill something in it, it’s easy to wipe out.
The drawback with the Patissier is that it can’t whisk a single egg white (whereas this is a no brainer for the Mixmaster). It can’t do it with the paddle beater and it can’t do it with the balloon whisk either (so what’s the point in having one). I began mixing butter cake batter with the paddle beater, and was getting a relatively good result. But it wasn’t as light and fluffy as what I produced on the Mixmaster. So I switched to the balloon whisk, and the result was so gelatinous and fluffy, I really have nothing to compare it with. I can’t help wonder if this was exacerbated by the poor quality butter I used, but I can’t be certain – I will have to try it with different butter to see what happens.
The Patissier DOES excel at whipping icing. I use a lot of butter cream frosting, and I prefer the quick mix approach (everything in the bowl at once, then fire the machine up). The Patissier does a great job at this with the paddle beater. I like this machine a lot, and I’m glad I have it.
UPDATE: I've been using the Patissier consistently for the past four weeks and I'm alarmed to report one of the wires on the whisk attachement has snapped. While it should be easily fixed, the fact that it has broken after only a month of use is a major issue. I'm only mixing cake batter and icing with this attachment - so it's very disappointing so see just how poor a quality the parts are.
Further Update: Kenwood (DeLonghi) sent me a replacement whisk attachment, which was very nice, since it's under warranty. Unfortunately it broke within four days of receiving it!
Final Update: I took the Kenwood Patissier back to David Jones last night, and after some negotiation, they gave me a refund. So that is the end of the Patissier.
But which is best? My final verdict is avoid the Patissier if you are a high-end user of benchtop mixers. It simply can't handle the workload. The Mixmaster is still at the repair shop, but it did a mighty three years of work for me before breaking down, and that says a lot for Sunbeam. I will use the Sunbeam for lighter work when I get it back. I'm going to return the Kenwood Patissier and ask for a refund on the grounds that the attachments are poorly made. The authorised repair dealer (a very unhappy individual, I might say) has advised that the whisk beater costs $55 to replace. And quite frankly, I could go through one of these a week at the rate they keep breaking. If I had to choose between the two, I’d say just get a Kitchen Aid. Every salesperson has told me a Kitchenaid will last for 30 years. So my expectation is high. I'll let you know what happens when I make the purchase!