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