To Gastronomy . . . and Beyond!

The Easy-Bake Oven turns the big 4-O.

By 1963, mankind had been to space, so all that was left to conquer was safely cooking tiny brownies with a lightbulb. The Easy-Bake Oven accomplished this task with water, a packet of powder, and a 100-watt bulb.

The Easy-Bake Oven is back, or at least back in the public eye. Don't take my word for it; for $15.95 (the price, incidentally, of the original oven) you can have a new Easy-Bake Oven Gourmet cookbook (Running Press, 2003), featuring recipes by Bobby Flay (Queso Fundido with Roasted Poblano Vinaigrette), Tom Douglas (Palace Olive Poppers), and more.

Easy-Bake Ovens are still available. Besides the traditional Easy-Bake Oven (around $20), there is the Easy-Bake Real Meal Oven (around $30), which has a larger cooking chamber and cooks without a lightbulb. (The Museum of Modern Art's 2003 holiday gift catalog offers My Real Kitchen for $130. The functioning piece of art runs on two AA batteries, but it does not cook any food; instead, the "burner" makes "frying" sounds and five scented rubber "foods" are included. How modern.)

Vintage Easy-Bake Ovens are currently getting bids upward of $60 on eBay. As a 23-year-old male, my experience with Easy-Bake Ovens is limited to a few years ago at Fred Meyer, where I was told to arrange Easy-Bake boxes on the toy shelves. But other nostalgic adults were happy to reminisce about the hottest toy in town.


I do remember that a neighbor had an Easy-Bake Oven, and whenever she invited more than two of us over for "treats," a fight would inevitably erupt. Easy-Bake's limited oven capacity meant that we had to carefully divvy up a puny excuse for a cake. This put the chef in the unfortunate position of trying to frantically crank out as many Easy-Bake cakes as possible while, at the same time, preventing a roomful of impatient sugar junkies from killing each other. But when the little packets of cake batter ran out, all hell broke loose. Needless to say, the invitations stopped.

Now if the folks at Easy-Bake could come out with an accessory item that would allow the oven to churn out cakes the way Krispy Kreme churns out doughnuts, I'd pony up the cash.


One of the last cakes I baked was when I was 5 years old. I had to have multiple stitches removed from the sole of my foot, and Grandma, being the registered nurse that she was, had the honor of pulling them out. Mom had made a deal with me: If I could be brave enough for Grams to pull all the stitches out, I could bake the dessert for that night's dinner. Mom's deal worked.


In the third grade, I was abducted by a girl in my class who was much taller and kind of intimidating. She was a bit pushy and I was a little scared, but we became good friends. I went to her house, this would have been in the early 1970s. She was black, and I am not; I didn't realize it was kind of different that we became good friends. All I remember is that I got to her house and she had an Easy-Bake Oven! I don't remember much else about the house, her family, etc., but she had the coolest thing I could imagine. We made the chocolate cake and ate it. It was fun. I was so jealous. I wanted an Easy-Bake Oven, too. Never got one. Finally, as an adult, I bought both my nieces the ovens and made them let me play.


I remember trying to open the stupid door when I first got ittook me a while to figure out it was just for looks. I remember having the occasional problem with getting something stuck inside and having a hard time getting the brownie/cake to push out the other side. It could be quite frustrating at times, but always seemed to be worth the trouble when you got to sink your teeth into a brownie that Mommy didn't have to help you with.


I remember it was the only thing I really wanted for Christmas, and I was so excited when I saw it under the tree. I couldn't wait to bake my first cake. Shortly after Christmas, I did get to bake cakes for dessert for my family. I didn't even care that the cakes weren't fully baked. Now when I think of Easy-Bake Ovens, I think of small, underbaked cakes. Don't get me wrong, I had lots of fun when I was a kid.


I remember my brother eating the powdered cake mix straight out of the package to tease me.

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