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Remembering the Easy-Bake Oven

Easy-Bake Oven

credit: Jenny Turknett

Raise your hand if you had an Easy-Bake Oven.

Yep, me too. Okay, well not technically. My sister would dispute that point. She had one, though I considered it my own.

I remember when she first got it. I was enamored with the set of tiny pans and dishes — replicas of those my mom used in the kitchen. I remember watching as my sister baked her first cakes, desperately wanting to join in the fun. I have a flood of happy memories swirled with the sweet-warm smells of cakes and cookies when I think about those Easy-Bake Oven days.

So, naturally, my own daughter has to have an Easy-Bake Oven. What a perfect Christmas gift — almost a gift to myself. She receives it with excitement and is ready to bake one of the numerous “products” for which we have mixes.

With a mixture of nostalgia and anticipation, I open the box to set up the oven for our first baking experience. I try to shove aside the disappointment with what I find. I try not to think “That’s it?” No, this will be great, just as I remembered.

Cake batter made according to instructions

Cake batter made according to instructions, credit: Jenny Turknett

We start with the yellow cake. It will be iced with chocolate frosting — a separate mix. We attempt to combine the powdered cake mix with the required drizzle of water. The batter is not moist enough to dampen the entire mixture. Thinking there must be a misprint in the directions, we sprinkle in more water (almost double what was intended) until the batter is the appropriate texture.

Easy-bake cake pan

Cake batter ready for oven, credit: Jenny Turknett

We scoop the batter into the pan coated with nonstick spray. There is not enough batter to cover the bottom of the tiny pan. Did I mention how tiny these pans are? We maneuver the cookie into the side of the oven with the safety arm, having minor difficulty. After 12 minutes our cake is ready.

Okay, this cake is from a mix. Understood. But, it’s crunchy around the edges (overcooked) and misshapen because there was not enough batter to spread it to the edges of the round pan. A little disappointment.

We try the sugar cookies and brownies also. Each recipe has the same problems — calling for too little water and too much cooking time. The goods taste artificial, but my daughter doesn’t seem to notice. The best thing about the Easy-Bake Oven? A good lesson in portion control.

Cookies ready to bake

Cookies ready to bake, credit: Jenny Turknett

Now I have a love-hate relationship with the Easy-Bake Oven. I still have the fond childhood memories of cooking in ours. But, as an adult and baker, I am overwhelmingly disappointed, as I now admit.

I grapple with the question of whether to continue using it. It’s exciting for my daughter. That’s great. I want her to form positive associations with cooking and the kitchen. I

credit: Jenny Turknett

credit: Jenny Turknett

want her childhood memories to be as fond as mine. But, is it better to just bake together –from scratch– with a focus on the quality of ingredients and techniques we are using? Maybe a bit of both.

Here are a few pictures of the Easy-Bake Oven to take you back down memory lane. Check out the slide show — an Easy-Bake pictoral history — and this photo of reader Gina Dunlap with her Dad and their Easy-Bake in 1973.  Also check the comments section below where John Kessler inserted a piece he wrote about the Easy-Bake Oven in 1998.

Photo submitted by reader Gina Dunlap

Photo submitted by reader Gina Dunlap

Did you have an Easy Bake Oven? Have you tried one lately?

Jenny-Turknett-Tagline–by Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog

– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team. She also publishes her own blog, Going Low Carb.

34 comments Add your comment

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Jen

January 25th, 2011
5:56 am

Yeah, not only are the mixes usually gross, they’re also pretty expensive. There are a ton of from-scratch recipes floating around the web that work well.

http://www.ehow.com/how_4701778_cheap-easy-bake-oven-mixes.html
http://www.squidoo.com/Easy-Bake-Oven-1

Jenny Turknett

January 25th, 2011
6:03 am

Jen, you’re right. Putting your own batter/dough into the little pans is probably the best way to go!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by brokesocialite, John Kessler. John Kessler said: Remembering the Easy-Bake Oven http://bit.ly/fn1mk2 [...]

Colly

January 25th, 2011
8:08 am

I couldn’t agree with you more – and thank you for validating me! We have four girls (3 grown now with one still easy-bake age) and have also been sooo disappointed by the icky-tasting, absurdly tiny portions that today’s Oven produces. We, like Jen, use our own recipes now which definitely work better. Shame on you Easy-Bake…you forgot that even if kids don’t really notice the diffference, moms do.

Kim

January 25th, 2011
8:19 am

Laughing so hard reading this, since we too experienced the same frustrations after excitedly opening this highly anticipated christmas present! We have only made the sugar cookies, and after an hour to make 4 cookies – most were thrown away due to edge burning!?! Glad to see the suggestions of using your own recipes.

Reds

January 25th, 2011
8:19 am

I had one growing up… and was always so excited to pull it out. And then was always so bummed out that the “1 thing” i made was gross. Those packets were expensive then too, and my parents weren’t fond of buying them. Luckily, we have the internet now and can search for more recipes! Jenny — if you try it again with homemade recipes, let us know how the homemade ones turn out in a part 2. :)

Maggie

January 25th, 2011
8:21 am

I begged and begged for one as a kid. I think my mother was horrified and gave me a toaster oven for Christmas. I kept it in my room and made cookies in it once or twice, but it was not the AMAZing LIGHT BULB cooking that I imagined. So I, like you, got one for my daughter a couple of years ago and was sorely disappointed. She was thrilled, of course, but I was frustrated by just what you’ve said – the batter doesn’t work! It doesn’t even fill the pan! My friend and neighbor had one as a kid and I don’t think they skimped (as much?) back then. Anywho, there was a recall and I shipped that thing back as fast as I could! But she’s noticed they’ve come out with a new model and is asking again. I just sit her in front of the computer with a recipe showing and hand her the mixing bowl and measuring spoons. I think she’s moving on.

Nora

January 25th, 2011
9:48 am

I always wanted one and never had one of my own (although I played with them at friend’s houses). It was the coolest thing EVER! I did get the Easy Curl which was a set of hot rollers based on the same light bulb heated system. I was always disappointed because I couldn’t get my hair to make that Marlo Thomas flip like they showed in the booklet. But I digress….

Are there any “water only” cakes mixes available that you could buy in regular sized boxes and dole out in small packets to make better cakes in the Easy Bake? I’m thinking Jiffy makes some water only mixes (?)

Sorry you were disappointed. No toys are ever as cool as the ones we grew up with in the ’60’s and ’70’s!

Nora

January 25th, 2011
9:53 am

Sorry, I had to come back and add another thought.

I think the reason toys aren’t as fun as we remember is because there is too much emphasis on safety nowadays (ducking and running!) For example, my brothers had the Creepy Crawlers set. Yes we all burned our fingers on it, but so what? We were more careful the next time and we had FUN!

Kar

January 25th, 2011
10:09 am

Do they still have a version for little boys? Bad gender stereotyping, but it’s supposedly for monster-related icky things with stuff like “lava cakes” or spidery frosting.

Lisa

January 25th, 2011
11:11 am

Skip the creepy ancient mixes and experiment with the world of “cooking with light bulb.”

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1534572

LindaK

January 25th, 2011
12:53 pm

There’s actually a whole cookbook devoted to the easy bake oven – gave it to my niece a few years ago. Don’t know that she actually ever tried anything, but everyone thought it was “cool”….. The Original Easy Bake Cookbook from you favorite online bookseller.

Qua

January 25th, 2011
1:42 pm

Can’t help but laugh at this. I never had one as a kid so quickly bought one for my daughter when she was 6 or 7. Well the excitement of the easy bake wore out quickly – the cookies and brownies were yucky! she loved it and i had to “love” eating what she made. The mix was in my opinion too expensive but it was a fun experience. I guess it was a little rite of passage. These days we have moved on to the real stuff! and can bake two dozen cookies at a time instead of two at a time!

Michele Hays

January 25th, 2011
1:46 pm

I made an easy-bake cookbook for my niece, along with a batch of homemade mixes. I blogged a few of them here: http://quipstravailsandbraisedoxtails.blogspot.com/2010/12/sundays-with-sparky-easy-bake-christmas.html

There is also a book, entitled “The Easy-Bake Oven Gourmet” that offers miniaturized recipes, many of them savory. For instance, quiches work well in the Easy-Bake. The important thing to remember is that the baking pan holds only 1/8 cup of batter (which allows some room for expansion, but you need to remember that expansion varies from recipe to recipe.)

Kev

January 25th, 2011
2:51 pm

That microwave thing isn’t a true Easy-Bake Oven. This is the real thing.

http://adventuresofaglutenfreemom.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/easy-bake-oven.jpg

Mary Ann

January 25th, 2011
3:40 pm

Ahh, the memories!!! I too got one for my daughter but instead of buying extra mixes, I got the slice and bake cookies, they’re perfect for the Easy Bake. And I agree with the comment that too many safety features takes out the fun – Creepy Crawlers RULED!!! (burned fingers and all!)

John Kessler

January 25th, 2011
4:40 pm

I totally remember the Creepy Crawlers, Mary Ann. Both the rubber ones and the edible ones, which were easy to confuse.

For what it’s worth, here’s an Easy-Bake Oven piece I wrote in 1998.

COMMENTARY
35 years of easy-come, easy-go for Easy-Bake
Dad, the dining critic, extols its virtues to next generation

John Kessler / DINING CRITIC,

By my unscientific straw poll, the Easy-Bake Oven was a hot seller for Christmas 1997. My daughter Rachel, who had long coveted this toy, got one. So did the other two Rachels in her first-grade class, her cousin Sam and the 9-year-old nephew of a colleague of mine.
Not bad for a decidedly low-tech toy whose basic trick —unchanged in 35 years —is cooking tiny baked goods with the refracted heat of a 100-watt light bulb.
And though five random children is no basis for a market study, I’d still say that one important demographic shift is revealed nonetheless. More boys seem to be joining the ranks of easy bakers, even though Hasbro spokeswoman Audrey Basso admits that the ovens are still marketed primarily to girls and their mothers.
That wasn’t the case back at Christmas 1970. Back when I wanted an Easy-Bake Oven of my own.
When I told my parents they looked concerned —nearly aghast. My four older brothers and sisters snickered ruthlessly. I might as well have asked for a set of hot rollers and a jar of Dippity Do.
But on Christmas morning a large, potentially Easy-Bake-sized box appeared under the tree with my name on it. I ripped into it, took it out of its box, plugged it in. Bliss.
I remember the 1970 model came not only with an oven, but also a griddle on top. Right there, under the tree on Christmas morning, I fried a hot dog. The only way my parents could drag me away from my Easy-Bake was an excursion to see “The Aristocats.”
Later on I worked through the mixes that came with it —miniature boxes decorated with idealized pictures of layer cake that belied the tasteless little hockey pucks they actually produced. Before long the oven was retired to the attic without much fanfare, as doubtless millions of others have been since the fad heated up.
Sales have been steady since the Kenner toy company (now a division of Hasbro) introduced the Easy-Bake Oven in the early 1960s. It was was an immediate success, selling more than 2 million units by 1967. Soon a household word, it begat a number of product-line extensions including the Easy-Pop Corn Popper, the Easy-Bake Bubble-Gum set as well as a taffy machine and a blender/juicer.
Improvements on the basic model, introduced at various times, have included a 20-minute timer and a dual-temperature oven. The “slide-thru baking pan” that keeps little fingers from reaching into hot baking chambers was introduced in 1968 and has remained a feature to date.
But though the basic mechanism inside has remained unchanged, the design of the oven casing has undergone a major face lift. Twenty-seven years to the date after I first laid delighted eyes on my own Easy-Bake Oven, I’m staring at Rachel’s gleaming white model, and I’m in shock.
It looks like a microwave! Right down to the purple sticker botton panel that flashes a perpetual time of 12:30.
She, however, is entranced. And desperate to get cooking. “Daddy, come oooon!” she implores, tugging on my hand and urging me up and out of an armchair. She had already taken grandpa on a tour through every convenience store open on Christmas morning to find the required 100-watt standard light bulb. She had already cajoled mommy into removing the back of the oven with a Phillips screwdriver and installing the bulb. Now it’s my turn to help her cook.
Cooking Easy-Bake style is not difficult. You select a mix and combine it with a precise teaspoon or two of water, measured from the provided M&M teaspoon. Rachel and I make a batch of seven dime-sized sugar cookies and slide them into the oven with the long sliding stick. After a few minutes we push them through to the cooling rack. They are actually delicious.
Later on we prepared the yellow cake with chocolate frosting and carved it into six itty-bitty wedges that Rachel passed around after dinner. Another winner. Now she’s out of mixes and wants me to pick up more at the toy store. She also wants to melt nacho cheese in the warming cup you put on top of the oven.
The Easy-Bake Oven will celebrate its 35th anniversary at the Toy Fair in New York next month. Cagey sources at Hasbro plan to make a “big announcement” about the toy, but they can’t tell me what it is yet, so stay tuned. Maybe they’re introducing contemporary mixes for creme brulee and tiramisu.
I hope not. With any luck they’ll reintroduce the griddle top. Then Rachel and I can pop “The Aristocats” into the VCR and fry up some hot dogs.

melanie

January 25th, 2011
5:51 pm

I had a blue one…loved it!! I made everything..so small!!! I did learn to use the real cake batter & flour for the biscuits & cakes…..it was great fun & I am still cooking after 40 something years!!! With a real oven of course!!!

Michigander

January 25th, 2011
6:54 pm

Gosh, I loved my Easy-Bake Oven. I undercooked and burned many a cake in those tiny little pans. It wasn’t love at first bake, though. I saw Easy-Bake as settling. It had to be about 1980 and I had asked for a Holly Hobby oven. It had a paddle, and I think it cake with an apron. Plus, my mom refused to buy the little packets of cake mix and instead would give me boxes of Jiffy cake mix because they cost so much less. My grandmother helped me appreciate the toy the most, because we’d bake cakes, cookies and pies from scratch in the real oven and would then put miniature versions in the Easy-Bake. I served them at tea parties at my dollhouse.

Jim R.

January 25th, 2011
8:03 pm

Dear Sis,
After 40 years it’s time to ‘fess up. It was not a packaging error that caused your cake and icing packages to be empty. I ate them. Sorry I made you cry. They were good.
Jim

Stacy

January 25th, 2011
11:09 pm

My sister had one about 35 years ago & the cakes were great. I don’t have any girls to buy one for and thanks for letting me know I’m not missing anything. Companies always try to make a product “better” when sometimes the BEST thing to do is stick with what always worked before because they’re not updating, they’re tampering with memories, then you’re disappointed when your little girl doesn’t get to have the same memory you did.

Diane

January 25th, 2011
11:11 pm

Michigander: Wow you are really pulling out the memories now, a Holly Hobbie oven, great minds think alike, I’m from Michigan too! Anybody have an inchworm? My kids are too old for it now, but when I saw it at Walmart, I nearly cried. That was my favorite when I was five. I should buy one and leave it unopened for the day I have a grandchild (hopefully in the next 10 years).

tammy

January 25th, 2011
11:12 pm

How about a lightbright or the Barbie Corvette? Forget all those tiny pieces that got sucked up in the vacuum and jammed it making mom mad, it was so much fun to turn off the lights and watch the picture glow.

tammy

January 25th, 2011
11:15 pm

This is sooo wrong. Why does the easybake oven look like a microwave? What happened to the light bulb that baked the cakes and the oven open on both sides for you to use a spatula looking utensil to slide the pan in and take it out on the other side.
I guess now the babyalive will feed herself and refuse to do such a crass thing as poop in a diaper cause she’ll have a phD.

[...] posted here: Remembering the Easy-Bake Oven | Food and More with John Kessler Uncategorized atlanta, daughter, daughter-doesn, easy, good-lesson, goods-taste, kessler, [...]

Jenny Turknett

January 26th, 2011
4:32 am

What a great time I’m having reading your memories! And, some great suggestions on the recipes. John, thanks for sharing the article. Sounds like you had a better experience revising the Easy-Bake. Btw, I love the picture of your daughter in the slide show!

Reds

January 26th, 2011
8:18 am

@Jim R. – bwah ha ha ha. That almost made me spit my coffee out. :)

Sis

January 26th, 2011
10:12 am

Brother….I’ve been waiting the same forty years to come clean. I saw you. I replaced the icing with chocolate laxative. Sorry I made you cry. It was funny.
Sis

Patty

January 26th, 2011
1:21 pm

Back in the 70’s I had a friend who had an Easy bake over but I had a floor style (small) type one that all my mom had to do was give me some of the cake mix batter in the little pans it came with and put it in and the door would lock until it was done. Turned out perfect everytime. After it did not work anymore my Dad cut off the plug in back and I used the oven to play with as a kid. Had lots of fun with it. Good memories of baking with my mom!

Lorenzo

January 26th, 2011
2:17 pm

Creepy Crawlers was a molding toy by Mattel that made inedible rubbery shapes. A similar molding toy by Mattel that made edible shapes was known as Incredible Edibles. Both were a lot of fun. I think I secretly wanted an Easy Bake Oven, too, but by the time I was ten or so I was secretly cooking “soup” in the basement on a scrounged hot plate. Kessler’s 1998 piece is a hoot.

Hard to believe that the Easy Bake is still made. Even with all the safety features, it still has parts inside that get hot, and as far as I can determine, anything that we enjoyed as kids that was the least bit dangerous seems to be banned now. I’m also surprised that cakes and cookies are still the focus. I mean, in this day and age, no local, organic sustainable stuff? No Easy Sous Vide Recirculator?

Foodgeek

January 26th, 2011
4:15 pm

We need an Easy Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream Maker. I’m sure no one will sue Mattel after their daughters freeze their fingers and then shatter them on the counter.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Pam Cornelius , Jenny Turknett. Jenny Turknett said: Remembering the Easy-Bake Oven http://t.co/cfWl7LK [...]

Martha Stuart

January 30th, 2011
2:41 am

What heat source will the easy bake ovens and other light bulb sourced toys have to use now that incandescent light bulbs are banned or being banned? I had a Suzy Homemaker oven and not the easy bake oven, the mixes were great and there was always enough to cover the pan – brownies were the best though.