/ Food & Drink, Home & Energy

Do kitchen ‘makers’ turn cooking into a piece of cake?

Chocolate cupcakes

Cupcakes, pancakes, pies and even soup, it seems like whatever you want to cook there’s a convenient gadget on the market to help you. But which ones do you actually need, and which just gather dust after the first go?

If you’re a regular reader of Which? Conversation you may not think the world is a great place, but occasionally we’re reminded it’s not all doom and gloom. And I think National Cupcake Week is just the thing to distract us from the miserable weather and gloomy headlines.

National Cupcake Week starts today and runs all week, celebrating the delicious loveliness of cupcakes. Not the least calorific, or fat-free option, but everyone needs a beautiful-looking treat now and then, don’t they?

But if you’re not a dab hand with the oven, or a kitchen mixer, and making cupcakes feel you with fear – don’t worry – there are several handy cupcake makers you can buy.

A maker for every occasion

When I say ‘makers’, I mean all those little kitchen gadgets that fill kitchen countertops – cupcake makers, ice-cream makers, soup makers, doughnut makers, pie makers, pizza makers. There’s even a pancake maker that will imprint a smile one for you (I am seriously tempted!) and for less than £130 you can, if you wish, buy your own ‘mini donut factory’ maker.

Our researchers have tried out no end of these gadgets here at the Which? offices; and being the small appliances expert, I’ve had a go with quite a few myself for our ‘First Looks’ section.

Most of them are like Marmite – you either love them or hate them, and each has their good and bad points. Good points include being generally simple to use and very convenient; the bad being the valuable kitchen space each appliance takes up, and that they usually cost a fair few pounds.

How do different makers perform?

The Lakeland cupcake maker made acceptable cupcakes, albeit pale (but nothing a bit of icing wouldn’t cure); the Breville Gourmet pie maker was a surprising hit, making tasty little pies in 10 minutes (assuming you had some pastry handy and a fridge full of leftovers). The soup makers do, indeed, make soup without having to stand over a pan, although we’ve had slightly less success with the Breville crêpe maker and let’s not forget the noisy peanut butter maker, which kept overheating.

And who could forget the humble sandwich toaster – the staple equipment of most students returning to uni (mine’s been replaced with a health grill, which makes the most delicious toasties in about 60 seconds!).

Now, the point is do we really need them all? Which? Conversation’s Hannah Jolliffe suggested second kitchens would be needed if we bought every single maker, and I’m inclined to agree with her, but like I said above, there are pros and cons to owning each one.

They are very convenient and simple to use; just plug in, load up, switch on and wait. But they don’t revolutionise cooking – you could easily make everything in the oven or on the stove.

So, how do people decide which ones they want the most, and which they don’t like? Who has bought the latest gadget ‘maker’, only to leave it gathering dust in the cupboard after one use? And which ones have become ‘can’t live without’ items?


I try to avoid buying separate kitchen gadgets and stick with my workhorse Kenwood Chef. I’m onto my second after 30 years, and have accumulated a few Chef attachments. In descending order of use: liquidiser, Magimix-style food processor and shreader, mincer (very good, but difficult to clean the body) and ice cream maker. They are all competent at doing what they claim and, with the Chef’s 1000W motor, would run all day if required, but they all hide at the back of the cupboard and only come out when entertaining.

But the Kenwood with its dough hook lives on the counter top and sees duty 1-3 times per week. This is more versatile than a bread maker, turning out rolls, loaves, ciabatta, and focaccia drizzled in olive oil and rosemary, as the mood takes. It also copes with heavy use and does not over-heat or struggle; I make 1.5kg of dough per session in two batches. It’s also pretty good at fruit cakes, Genoese and Victoria sponges, so what else would I need?

I agree. I ‘inherited’ my grandmother’s 1960 Kenwood Chef and it’s still going strong – it does everything I could want and it’s a sturdy, well built piece of equipment unlike some of today’s plastic gadgets.

Jane Baxter says:
16 September 2011

I don’t have a huge selection of “makers”. I don’t find I need them!! The main exception is probably a Bread maker – which I find extremely useful! Less fun that making bread by hand – with all the kneading. But much more convenient as I can load up the machine and go away and do something else until the machine has finished and provided me with a tasty loaf!
I have a Kitchen Aid mixer and find it brilliant. I use it a lot – and I have the mincer attachment for it which I use from time to time.
I am not sure that I would get sufficient use from any of the specific “makers”. I don’t feel I can justify the expense really – which is why I haven’t invested in them!!

SaraJayne says:
16 September 2011

If I can do it in the oven or on the stove, I’d usually rather do that. The handheld electric mixer is essential in my kitchen (hope to get a KitchenAid one day), the George Foreman grill comes in really handy; the waffle maker is essential for my husband the waffle fiend, but the one we have does have other plates that are useful sometimes so it’s not such a unitasker; the electric juicer is really handy regularly, which is a gadget though not precisely a maker. As mentioned, I really do want a stand mixer some day, and an ice cream maker, but other than that we’re good. Cupcake makers strike me as the height of stupidity: it’s called an oven.

Skinny Liz says:
17 September 2011

The only maker I’ve had within the last twenty years, is a bread maker; and although I used this continuously for about five years, I no longer eat bread myself, and then my husband decided to have an affair – he no longer gets bread made for him by me!!

At least you’ve still got a sense of humour an I’ll
bet he misses not only your bread.

Margaret Hawkes says:
21 September 2011

Breadmaker is number one gadget in our kitchen. followed by pressure cooker, then bialletti electric espresso maker (used in conjunction with milk frother jug for capaccino).

We really only have 6 essential gadgets in the kitchen – the rice cooker, the mini-chopper, the nespresso coffee maker, the electric whisk, the toaster and the microwave. All others bought have been relegated to the back of the cupboard!

As a widower, who has a reasonable skill with cooking, I find it easier and less messy to use a ‘maker’ such as toasty, grilled meat, bread, poached egg, various microwave trays etc. when cooking for just one person. I now see there is an omelette maker. One of my favourite meals. So come on Which?, how about testing them?