To the untrained eye, they look like funky waffle irons, but look closer and the machines you're seeing in the Black Friday circulars are actually cake-pop, donut, mini-pie and muffin makers. They look pretty cute; buying one of these machines could actually be less expensive than buying a dozen cake pops or fancy muffins for a party. But do they save as much time as they promise?
JC Penney's includes the Bella Cucina Cake Pop maker in its circular for $9.88, less than half it's normal price of $25 at Penney's and cheaper than its $20 price at Amazon.com. There are only two reviews at Amazon.com for this machine; both reviewers say it's a good, and that their cake pops baked well. One owner notes, however, that decorating cake pops is the real time consumer. The problem we see with this cake-pop maker is that it only makes six at a time. Meanwhile, the BabyCakes Cake Pop Maker in the Kohl's circular makes a dozen round cakes, but at $19.88 on Black Friday, it costs twice as much. It currently sells for $25 at Amazon.com, where it has about two dozen reviews. There are some complaints that the machine was broken on arrival, and others had trouble getting a nice round ball shape; instead, they ended up with flying saucers instead of spheres.
Our take? Single-function appliances like this don't tend to get used very often -- maybe for a party or two, then into the closet. For our money, we'd go for the cheaper JC Penney model even though it only makes six. For $10, it's cheaper than a cake pops from a bakery.
Donut makers are pretty much the same thing as cake-pop makers, just a different shaped product. Note that these make cake donuts -- not traditional fried donuts. Best Buy lists the Sunbeam Donut Maker in its Black Friday circular for $19.99. This model currently sells for $30 at Amazon.com, where it has about 30 owner reviews. According to those reviews, the Sunbeam donut maker is a big hit, making five cake donuts in a few minutes. Donuts are also a lot easier to decorate than cake pops, which require several trips to the freezer to firm them up between decorating steps. Interestingly, several owners say they use this machine for making non-traditional recipes like gluten-free donuts.
JC Penney lists the Bella Cucina donut maker in its circular for $9.88. This model makes seven mini donuts as opposed to five larger ones. It sells for about $20 on Amazon.com where it has about a dozen reviews, but several owners say donuts don't bake evenly, that one side comes out darker than the other.
Kohl's lists the BabyCakes donut maker in its circular for $18.99. This model goes for $25 on Amazon.com, but only has one review. So if you're jonesing for a machine that makes cake donuts, we think the Sunbeam version looks like the best bet.
Same deal here -- instead of donuts or round balls (for cake pops) these machines make cupcakes. Best Buy is advertising the Sunbeam version for $24.99 in its Black Friday circular. Amazon.com sells it right now for about $40, and it has just over 30 very enthusiastic reviews. Many say they were pleasantly surprised by how well their cupcakes turned out. The Sunbeam machine makes six at a time. JC Penney's is adverising the BabyCakes version in its circular, for $28.88, not much cheaper than what it sells for on Amazon.com right now. The BabyCakes version has only one user review, however. It makes eight smaller cupcakes.
We were surprised by the great reviews for the Sunbeam cupcake maker; we didn't think cupcakes were that difficult to make in the oven, but many parents say their kids love to help bake with this machine. For $24.99 on Black Friday, it's a good deal.
Does anyone really need any of these machines? They're all bulky, and each of them can only do one trick (it would be neat to see one of these with interchangable plates for making different items). But users say they are fun to use, especially with kids. Given that viewpoint, one of these might make a fun gift.