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The KitchenAid stand mixer: How color, cake and nostalgia made an American icon

by Carmine Champ (2022-04-30)

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The gunmetal gray KitchenAid stand mixer was a mainstay in Stella Parks' baking life. It came into focus for her when she was 10. Already a budding baker, Parks recalls reading a chocolate cake recipe in Cooks Illustrated that mentioned using a stand mixer."That KitchenAid saw me through my entire childhood and into culinary school, and even into some of my professional forays," said Parks, who went on to become a pastry chef, a James Beard-award winning cookbook author and an editor at the food site Serious Eats.Like all the things we take for granted, her mixer eventually faded into the periphery. Parks moved on to newer models, and her old kitchen companion ended up stashed away with her parents out in the country in central Kentucky. Five years ago, the mixer reappeared in Parks' life. She spotted it as she pulled into her parent's home, on the curb, out with the garbage. "It was like I saw the family dog shot in the driveway," Parks said.So what makes this product so special?I visited the factory where KitchenAid stand mixers are assembled, dug into the company's background and talked to experts in baking, history and design to figure out how this small appliance became an icon. KitchenAid has been smart about making its mixers available in myriad colors that get people excited about picking an appliance that fits their personality. The mixers also have a well-earned reputation for holding up free coloring pages for adults decades, and KitchenAid has been in tune with the needs of its customers and the desires of the larger culture. Plus, the food we make with the stand mixers evokes memories of birthday cakes, brownies and other happy desserts.KitchenAid has achieved something with its stand mixer that's rare among appliances and consumer products in general: it's made something that's become part of our family histories. Here's how that happened.