Yesterday Hasbro announced a new model of the Easy Bake Oven designed in response to the growing efficiency of light bulbs. This sounded to me like a perfect opportunity to bring back our post on the evolution of the toy. You’ll see the new model at the end.
My niece got an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas this year and I was shocked. Shocked!
No, not because of gendered gift giving, socialization, blah blah blah… (I don’t know where you would get that idea). Instead, I was shocked by what cooking apparently looks like in 2009. But let me start at the beginning…
The first Easy Bake Oven was released by Hasbro in 1963 (history here). It looked like a range with a stove top and an oven:
It looked like this, with minor changes in color and amenities, for a while.
Then, 1978. It turns out, in 1975, for the first time, sales of microwave ovens exceeded those of gas ranges. And, what do you know, the Easy Bake Oven was suddenly a microwave with a digital clock:
Presumably, between 1963 and 1978, what cooking looked like changed dramatically and the evolution of the Easy Bake Oven reflected that. This is what surprised me when I saw my niece’s oven.
Ironically, this year’s Oven is painted in the original turquoise, as a nod to 1963, but it is still clearly a microwave:
2011: Commercially available light bulbs are no longer inefficient enough to bake goodies. This year’s model, then, is actually a real oven, reaching temperatures up to 375 degrees:
So that’s technological and socioeconomic change as signified by the Easy Bake Oven.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
edward — December 31, 2009
I actually got an Easy Bake oven for Christmas this year (family joke) and the cake was fairly delicious for being powder and water.
Interesting look at how it has developed over the years. I remember it being pink in the 90s, though.
ani — December 31, 2009
i had an easy bake oven when i was a little kid (in the nineties). it was magenta and purple, and also looked somewhat like a microwave. fun times.
Craig — December 31, 2009
My niece got an Easy Bake a couple of years ago, and, as she was staying with us for a few days, I got a chance to put the thing through its paces.
My first reaction is that anything that teaches kids that they can cook, and that cooking can be "play," is probably a Good Thing, out of proportion to whatever quibbles I have. Pre-packaged, pre-cooked food is destroying us and our planet, not to put too fine a point on it.
Of course, there is the microwave styling. I was just baffled by this, especially the _fake_ digital clock that is nothing more than a decal. And all the knobs and buttons that don't do anything. I guess that's how Mommies and Daddies make food these days: put it in the microwave. So that's what the kids want to emulate. It puts me in mind of my rather younger sister-in-law, who actually boasted to us once, "You can just call me Betty Crocker," on the occasion of her "cooking" a frozen, store-bought lasagna by removing the plastic sheeting and putting it in a 350 degree oven until it bubbled. She was positively _beaming._ Bless--as they say down here--her heart.
Then too: Easy Bake cakes can be readily fabricated out of flour, sugar, oil, and maybe some chocolate and vanilla. See, for instance, http://www.budget101.com/kids.htm#Easy_Bake_Mixes Real cooking! Kids can learn about ingredients, ratios, all kinds of stuff. But does Hasbro include any such recipes with the oven? No prizes for guessing correctly. What they do is sell a huge array of prepackaged mixes, co-branded with various cartoon characters. Sigh. We can't let the best be enemy to the good, I guess.
Can boys play with an Easy Bake, now that it's cool to be a macho chef with an explosive temper? Well, the base model is clearly for girls, but let no one accuse Hasbro of neglecting half the population. But boys don't want to make _sissy food_, do they? And so I give you the Queasy Bake Cookerator:
No longer in production, evidently. Surprised?
The last thing that got me thinking was that incandescent light bulb that provides the necessary heat. If we found ourselves with a new Easy Bake oven today, we'd have to make a special trip to the hardware store. I wonder what they're going to do with this toy in the era of high-efficiency, low heat light bulbs?
Perhaps they'll take another step down the road of American cuisine, and sell pre-cooked, individually wrapped snack cakes. You open the wrapper, put the cake on the little plastic plate, and slide it into the Easy Bake oven which is now just a bright plastic shell that has no working parts and does nothing at all. Whenever you like, you then slide the plate back out of the oven and enjoy the tasty treat you "made!" And the radical do-it-yourself parents will make web sites about how you don't _have_ to buy the Easy Bake brand snack cakes: you can just buy Hostess Twinkies at a fraction of the cost and cut the ends off so they fit in the Easy Bake plate.
And I will rub my temples and pour a double Bourbon. But, then again, I'd probably have done that anyway.
Bri — December 31, 2009
I suppose it's worth mentioning that Hasbro did produce an "range-style" Easy-Bake with a front door (like a traditional oven) in 2005 - it was recalled after too many kids got badly burnt (250 recorded cases according to the recall release), leaving only the microwave-like side-loader on the market.
That said, I had an EBO in the early 90s, and never really considered the fact that it looked more like a microwave than an oven. Frankly, by the time I was old enough to use the EBO (9 or 10), I was old enough to use the actual oven/stove and learn to cook actual meals (splitting the job with my older brother, who'd been cooking for a few years).
tblaizey — December 31, 2009
I had one growing up, and I loved it even though it was pink and the plastic thing that you use to push the cake in and out was a pain and I tipped the pans over inside the over quite frequently.
The microwave symbolizes fast pace lifestyles where moms dont have time to cook in the oven or actually make whole meals from scratch any more.
Im interested to see how the actual mixes have changed over the years. Are they any different?
Eline — December 31, 2009
You have these actual ovens that look like microwaves, too, you know.
cynthia — December 31, 2009
The final picture reminds me a lot more of my toaster oven than it does of my microwave.
Sabriel — December 31, 2009
Hmm. I have a toaster oven that I use for baking when I don't want to heat up the house. It works pretty well, although probably not quite AS well as a real oven. I'd probably teach a kid to use that, if I wanted to teach him/her with something small and electric. It's great for mixing up a small portion of something sweet (cookies, scones, muffins) that I don't want to have a ton of around the house.
Sue — December 31, 2009
I think mine had a light bulb in it. My father was a far better and more enthusiastic cook than my mother so having an EBO didn't hurt me any.
Kelly — December 31, 2009
I've never owned an EBO, and I haven't owned a microwave in years. I am behind the times!
Janey — December 31, 2009
I vaguely remember, must have been in the sixties or early seventies having a cooking thing which created monsters that you ate. I don't remember how it was marketed though.
Kate — January 1, 2010
Turqouise is apparently the 'colour of the year', according to pantone. So it's not retro, any more than the general zeitgeist is - it's up-to-the-minute trendy.
not very creative — January 1, 2010
I'm 18, so I had the pink one that looked like a microwave. My dad cooked for my family when I was little (and by "cooked" I mean he put frozen lasagna in the microwave or ordered Chinese food), so I don't think it ever occurred to me that anyone would use anything other than a microwave to cook. Our oven was only used on special occasions, when my mom cooked.
I don't think I ever cared much about the Easy Bake Oven. I used it a couple of times when I got it, just to test it out, and then my mother would have to encourage me to use it when I didn't really want to. Oddly, my little brother started using it when he was that age, along with the plastic kitchen set from when I was younger (something I also didn't care much about), and now that he's old enough to do "real" cooking (14), he wants to be a chef. I think it's cool that we both defy gender rules despite having had them beaten into our brains since we left the womb.
karinova — January 2, 2010
I remember once visiting a friend at her dorm room, and being amazed when she got up and pulled a teeny pan of brownies out of the microwave. I'd never seen anything baked in a microwave before, but they were excellent. So this microwave styling actually kinda works, I guess?
But yeah. Like most kids, I grew bored with the fiddly little pans and all of that. I'd started baking with the real oven around the same time I got my EZ Bake Oven (which is why it was given to me), and I quickly decided that the real thing was better. (More cake, you know?)
Brownies or not, the microwave-like EZ Bake Oven makes me think of all those people who should be able to take care of themselves, but can't so much as cook a meal, and have to depend on microwaved Hot Pockets for dine-in sustenance. For example, around the same time as the brownie trip, I discovered that another classmate of mine didn't know how to cook pasta. ("Seriously?! OMG. You boil it. In water.") I was freakin' astonished. This dude had graduated high school, and was headed to an Ivy League college, but as far as I could tell, he couldn't feed himself. (He was... of a slightly different socio-economic class.) Even when I was in junior high, I remember passing the old, many-years-disused home ec classrooms and thinking, "um, I wouldn't mind taking Home Ec; I'm going to need to know that." (There were also disused shop rooms; I wanted to take Shop too, for the same reason.) But someone decided that wasn't important, I guess. We have Hamburger Helper now, so...
sciamanna — January 2, 2010
Microwaves are less common in Italy, and they started appearing in any number much later than in the US. They're also used for heating rather than cooking, mostly. So I got curious and looked for the current version of "Dolce Forno" (the Italian name of the toy). I didn't find any illustrations of the microwave style. I did find a "1990" version which is the conventional oven style: http://www.ecdl-forli.it/object/DolceForno2-.jpg
Crimson — January 3, 2010
I guess I never would have noticed that the EBO is actually a microwave rather than an oven... here in Japan (where most people have tiny kitchens and therefore no space for an oven) the two are basically the same thing. If you take out the turn-table you can use the "oven" settings. Mind you I'm still too afraid to try using my microwave-oven to bake cookies or something, but apparently it can be done.
karinova — January 4, 2010
Ha! Just happened to be surfing the web and found this: Holly Hobbie toy oven
It's a Hollie Hobbie-branded version of the EBO, from 1980.
The super old-fashioned styling caught my eye. Compare to the 1978 EBO above!
(Note: the HH character lived in the early 1800s: Holly Hobby, classic version).
I remember Holly Hobbie, but not this particular product. For some reason, I find it funny that it included pie mixes (again: chemistry can be scary!). Somehow pie really does seem more old-fashioned than cake.
Julie — January 15, 2010
My niece asked for and receive this year several products by "Girl Gourmet," which are essentially Easy-Bake ovens with a ramped up semi-Bratz aesthetic. She asked me to get them for her but I refused on principle; luckily for her, her father's family succumbed. The "food" that can be produced is much more complicated than what can be done with the Easy Bake Oven - as in, candy jewelry and fondant cakes. She loves them.
E — February 24, 2010
When I was a kid I discovered that I could make teeny tiny cookies with my easy bake oven just using my mom's cookie recipes. Spoon them out into dime sized lumps in the easy bake pan and away they go. We had dozens of tiny chocolate chip cookies before they were invented by nabisco.
Runbotrun — September 16, 2011
I am a man and I learned to bake with my sister's cheapster EBO clone.
Erica Taylor — September 16, 2011
Weird design... and the fact that it's an actual oven now... geez.
Missdisco — September 16, 2011
its a real oven? for kids? I'm surprised the h and s crowd allowed that.
PinkWithIndignation — September 16, 2011
So it's a toaster oven? An ugly one? Ugh, kids toys these days are hideous. I just hope the encephalitic obsession that mutated Little Ponies, Littlest Pet Shop and Care Bears has passed by the time I get a kid.
Amias Maldonado — September 16, 2011
Given all the times that I've heard guys talking about how much they enjoyed playing with their sister's Easy Bake Ovens, I must say I'm slightly shocked that in all these years, there hasn't been an "Easy Bake Grill....For Boys!" Especially in today's climate, where cooking has been degendered to some extent. It's like, make a cheap metal grill, add a heating element, throw in some beef jerky, paint it blue, BOOM! Cash cow.
Rachel Ann Hanson — September 19, 2011
None of these EBO look like the one that I had in the mid 90's. But still, I was so bored with mine once I realize that it was actually easier to bake in the real oven (ironic?)
Still, the evolution of the EBO is definitely interesting.
Yashakizu — September 20, 2011
Interesting enough: My grandfather, Ronald Howes, invented the Easy-Bake Oven and I never received one as a little girl because my father didn't want to gender my toys. I had to settle for using my friend's oven, if only so we could eat brownies and cakes at will.
Mjmi — November 3, 2011
Do you have any idea where I can find a vintage one from the 80s? My sister asked for it every Xmas but never got one. I guess my mother thought it was not a good toy. And I'd like to surprise her this Xmas
Greg — February 16, 2012
the original easy bake oven was even easier for kids to bur themselves seeming how it had a giant wven hole, howcome it wasn recalled?
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Truth be told — June 29, 2014
I don't believe microwaves outsold regular ovens in 1975. I got my first microwave in 1979 and it was only the second model Amana made. I think whoever find this story needs to reinvestigate her facts.