CNET Smart Home
The KitchenAid stand mixer makes its mark on home bakingThis nearly 100-year-old small appliance has become an icon in the American kitchen. Here's why.
A stand mixer can make baking at home pretty simple. All you have to do is dump in the ingredients and let the stand mixer do the hard part. Plenty of companies make stand mixers but there's one brand that stands out above the rest. [MUSIC] So stand mixers you know brought not only a lot of power to mixing at home, but also the design changed. If you think about the shape of a KitchenAid paddle attachment, it's like a thumb width kind of broad flat beater. And the design of it allows for a creaming motion which is when butter, sugar are smeared in a flat plain and then folded over each other. And when you look at doing something by hand, or the hand mixer, and that's just cutting the butter. It's not folding it over, it's just slicing it very rapidly. And so being able to have a machine Machine that incorporates so much air into baked goods and doughs and batters really changed the style of the goods that were available in America. The first version of the stand mixer arrived in 1919 from the Hobart Manufacturing Company, which would eventually become the brand Kitchenaid. We talked to Megan Elia. a historian and the director of Boston University gastromny program. About the new machines that arrived in the kitchen during this time. It comes along really with electrofication when you start to see electricity in ordinary peoples homes which is really the 1920's and when you have electricy you can have applicances. So mixers first certainly Professional kitchens, they have them. The smaller version that comes into the home kitchen, they're really an object of the post-war period. So 1920s [MUSIC] people are still going out for their entertainment. But it's in the 50s with suburbanization that families starting really inviting other folks over and having parties in the house. Household. As people hosted more gatherings in their home, KitchenAid wanted to give them a product that was worth showing off. Something that was less industrial and felt more like it belonged in the kitchen. How do you make appliances more approachable? The answer across the industry was to add color. [MUSIC] We've always tried to be on the leading edge of color. So we went from having just a handful of colors maybe 15, 20 years ago to now we have over 90 different colors. The ability to personalize the stand mixer added to Kitchenaid's appeal. One of the early projects I was involved in as and engineer was launching several new colors. I remember our customer service manager that was in house come to me and was asking for [MUSIC] Some samples of the new colors and stuff, and I wasn't sure exactly why. And they actually knew of a customer that was constanty calling in and asking about new colors, because this person actually collected them. In fact, some people designed their entire kitchen around their mixer's paint job. There's just something really powerful about the allure of that kind of customization, and that you can have these bright and alluring colors for yourself. As I mentioned earlier, I got one in a burgundy red and painted my kitchen to match. It does seem to be a way that you make a statement about what kind of kitchen you have, right? Is it a kind of throwback, retro kitchen and you have a pink mixer or pale green one? Or are you being in a modern, slightly masculine kitchen with a black mixer or a steel mixer? Machinery in the kitchen expanded what desserts you could make at home. Before this people ate more pies, they ate more puddings. There are lots of lots of differnt kinds of desserts that you don't see anymore. But the stand mixer makes specifically layered cakes much easier to do. And so that becomes the standard of, wow you really did something. We invited professional baker and editor Stella Parks to show us how stand mixers make angel food cake possible. [MUSIC] What's really cool about my method is with most angel food cakes you start whipping the meringue and then you like really careful add a little bit of sugar, add a little bit of sugar, add a little bit of sugar. But the thing is that that method is based on 19th century technique where people just had like a Dover hand beater hand crank situation. But with a mixer as powerful as a KitchenAid, you can literally just put all the sugar and egg whites in there and then just whip it up. [NOISE] Okay, [BLANK_AUDIO] So the goal of this kind of meringue is a really runny meringue. You don't want it to be anything that is stiff, by any means. But you do want it to have enough structure that It begins to mound up on itself in the bowl, and that's how you know it's ready. This particular technique is based on the availability of a stand mixer. And it's not something you can do without one, it's now something you can do with a hand mixer. It's definitely a recipe that's tailored to the power and design of a modern stand mixer. [MUSIC] Are business is all about building kind of passion around cooking and part of that comes from the memories of using our product with Our mothers, our grandmothers, our dads in the kitchen, and the fact that the design has been consistent since the early 60s, the product still looks like what we would've remembered with our parents in the kitchen. In a factory in Greenville, Ohio, about 1,200 people paint [NOISE] Inspect and assemble KitchenAid stand mixers. Much of this work is done by hand. You find that perfect mix of quality and design that kinda touches that nerve with people. And the first thing that comes into mind is What Coke went through with New Coke. They had a product and they had a design, they had something that work. And then they changed it. We really haven't, it worked really well in the 60s, it works really well now. Our product looks just as good in the kitchen now as it did 50, 60 years ago. Each stand mixer has a history. Take this yellow model. It's almost 50 years old and it's still making cookies. These things last for so long, people get attached. [MUSIC] I [MUSIC] I have this beloved Kitchen Aid mixer that was like the family mixer growing up that I learned to bake on. And I was coming over to like visit my parents. And I was like driving to their house and it was a rainy day. And I pulled into their driveway and I saw my precious baby sitting on the curb by the side of the road just rained on. I'm just like what is it doing? No and so like I jump out of the car and like haul it in. I'm all like wet and dirty because like dirt's splashed up on it. I'm like what are you guys doing? I can't believe it was like. I don't know it was like seeing your dog get put down or something. It was precious. It was precious memory of my childhood. Just not by the curb. [MUSIC] So I took it back up to their house, and honestly at that point, it really did need to be sent off to the farm. But I just couldn't bear to be aware of that transaction. I just, it's in a better place, I need to not think about it. [LAUGH] [MUSIC] It's just very important that people never have a bad or negative memory of the product. About it not working or about it not doing it's job because then their not gonna have that desire passion open to own one and most of our customers are passionate about what they do in the kitchen and they really want that product. But its important that they always have good memories and solid memories of it working when they were a kid. When they were growing up. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO]