I love cooking but I’m not the best baker. I don’t think I’d even get through the first round of Great British Bake Off. I like to flick through my cookbooks for inspiration, but then I always end up making it up as I go along. A bit of experimentation is fine when you’re cooking dinner, but not so much when you’re making cakes and and hoping for light, even bakes. I also don’t have the patience, and most often the time, to put in the elbow grease needed to whip up a sweet treat, I’d rather bung it all in bowl and get it in the oven quickly (mainly so I can just get on with eating it!). As it is I don’t do much baking, but with the right tools to hand, even the most complicated recipe can seem a lot simpler and easier to manage. Let a mixer do its magic and you’ll be a star baker in no time.
I’ve been testing out Smeg’s Stand Mixer (SMF01), which comes in seven different colours. This award-winning design has Smeg’s signature retro style, with a curvaceous, die-cast aluminium body and high-polished stainless steel bowl. The Smeg Stand Mixer may look vintage but its innovative technical design makes it a strong, robust, expert multi-tasker.
It’s powerful and functional yes, but it’s also a solid, hefty machine that makes a stylish statement in any kitchen. Smeg’s Stand Mixer is a design object to have out on display, to admire and use everyday. When I unpacked my black version, I literally couldn’t stop stroking its sleek shape. Against a minimal grey and white backdrop, it just commands you to look at it. I couldn’t wait to get back into baking and try it out with a recipe for an easy peasy, Italian-inspired, orange polenta cake.
Of course the mixer isn’t just for baking, but I thought it was a good place to start. The Smeg Stand Mixer comes with three attachments – a stainless steel wire whisk (for whisking and whipping ingredients such as butter, eggs and cream), an aluminium flat beater (for combing and mixing, ideal for cake batters and pastries, and icing) and a dough hook (for slowly combining and kneading leavened dough type mixtures). Other accessories include a slicer and grater set, a pasta roller set, a multi-food grinder and a ravioli maker, so the recipe options are literally endless. You can make pizza and pasta, bread and biscuits, meringues, mayonnaise and much more.
It couldn’t be simpler to use, I didn’t even need to look at the instruction manual (I hate reading them anyway!). The 4.8 litre capacity bowl slots into the base, you twist it to lock it in place. Anti-slip feet also keep the machine steady. The body of the mixer lifts up and down by a release button at one end, you can see below how the neck of the silver metal base slides to the left, a nice streamline detail I think.
The mixer has a 800W direct drive motor for speed and efficiency, with a planetary action. Not sure what that means? No, I wasn’t sure either. Basically, the attachment moves and spins around its axis in the opposite direction to the rotary movement of the mixer, so the attachment gets into contact with the entire bowl, meaning all the ingredients are combined evenly and you don’t have to keep scrapping the contents into the middle. The mixer also comes with a pouring shield that can be fitted onto the metal bowl to help you add ingredients without stopping the mixer entirely and protect against any splatters.
A metal lever on the top of the mixer’s body adjusts the speed. It varies from 1 to 10, with the lower range perfect for kneading and the top end for high speed whisking. There’s also a smooth start function, which starts the appliance up with a reduced initial speed, progressively increasing until the set speed is reached. Ideal if you’re mixing large quantities and don’t want ingredients to keep flying out of the bowl.
I looked up various Italian recipes for all sorts of fancy biscuits and sweets but then I thought I’d play it safe and cook a delicious orange polenta cake that I would be more likely to make normally. I had never actually make a cake with polenta before, but I love its nutty, crumbly texture, especially when combined with vibrant green pistachio nuts. Lots of lovely, refreshing orange also lifts the recipe and the heavy texture of the cake for the summer.
We also tried the dough hook another evening to make pasta dough, it was so quick to make (it was the rolling out in the pasta machine that was the time consuming bit) and was much less mess doing it in the bowl rather than mixing it by hand on the worktop as I usually do (making a well in the flour and mixing in the eggs).
And here’s the recipe I used…
Orange and pistachio polenta cake recipe
(adapted from Anna Jones’ Pistachio and elderflower cordial cake, in her cookbook A Modern Way to Eat. I’ve replaced the lemon and elderflower cordial in the recipe with lots of fresh, zesty orange, for an Italian-inspired, sweet cake.)
125g butter, room temperature
125g Greek yoghurt
250g light brown sugar
250g pistachio nuts, blitzed to a powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
grated zest of one orange and juice of two
100g Greek yoghurt
4 tablespoons icing sugar
Zest and juice of one orange
A handful of pistachio nuts, chopped up
Preheat your oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
Place the butter, yoghurt and sugar into a mixer and cream together on a medium speed until light and fluffy.
Blitz the pistachios in a food processor until they resemble small crumbs. It’s OK to have a few larger chunks as well, they’ll add texture. Add the pistachios, polenta, baking powder, orange juice and zest to the mixture and mix well on the same speed.
Then add in the eggs, mixing them in one by one. (For best results use eggs at room temperature. Mine curdled and I think it’s either because of the temperature or because I added the eggs too quickly all at once, it turned out fine though and after a quick Google search I found that it doesn’t really matter if your cake mix does curdle, because it rights itself in the oven anyway!)
Pour into the cake tin and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool on a cooling rack, clean your mixer bowl and prepare the icing.
For the icing, combine the yoghurt, icing sugar and orange zest and juice in the mixer on a medium speed. Pour over the cooled cake, letting it dribble artfully down the sides, it doesn’t have to be perfect!
Sprinkle on some pistachio nuts and it’s ready to eat!
So there we have it, an easy cake that’s full of subtle flavours and nutty texture. Perfect with a dollop of cream and a nice cup of Earl Grey. I would definitely be more inclined to bake more and try out new recipes with this super duper, versatile machine – it does all the hard work for you! Leaving you to relax and enjoy what you’ve created with a little smug look of satisfaction.
The Smeg Stand Mixer is heavy and bulky though, so I would think it would need to stay out in one place rather than be moved around often. You couldn’t really store it in a cupboard then keep getting it out. But then when something is this smart, why would you want to hide it away? Which is great if you have a lot of space, but we don’t have that much worktop space, I would have to use it everyday or maybe think about getting a smaller coffee machine. Now that’s a hard decision, coffee or cake!
But if you are stuck for space, there is also lots of other retro-style appliances in this range available in the same colours – there’s a citrus juicer to create fresh, homemade juicers (it’s compact and dishwasher safe too) and a blender for soups and smoothies.
I was really impressed with the Smeg Stand Mixer, it was such a smooth process from mixing bowl to oven, to dessert plate! I love that it’s such a versatile machine, it even comes with a pack of recipe cards to get you started. I’m all for anything that can make our daily lives a little easier, and this is one handy trick to have up your sleeve when it comes to cooking and baking.
This post is a sponsored post with Smeg, all images: Cate St Hill