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Easy Bake Oven: The Joy Of Cooking With A Light Bulb

Culture | August 5, 2020

Pachaging for a 1960s Easy Bake Oven. Source: Flickr

In 1963, the light-bulb-powered Easy Bake Oven by Kenner arrived in stores, a thrilling development for young girls. The gender roles were set in stone, and the cultural guidance in those days was clear: You will grow up, get married, have children, and cook wonderful meals for your hard-working husband and 2.5 children. A miniature oven that cooked edible food was in these times as appealing for girls as a toolbox with real power tools would have been for boys. This was real cooking, this was grown-up real life stuff. Though its aesthetics would change with the times, this phenomenally popular product would survive with the same essential mechanism for 40 years.

Kenner Did Not Invent The Toy Oven Concept

A toy oven before the Easy Bake Oven. Source: Chemung County Historical Society)

Toy cook stoves have existed since at least the 1800s, heated with wood pellets or coal. In the 1920s, child-sized enamel stoves appeared, with the ability to reach 500 degrees. In Little Men published in 1871, the sequel to Little Women, Jo gives her niece a toy kitchen with a stove that actually cooked. These early toy stoves posed real dangers to children. In the 1920s, child-sized enamel stoves appeared, with the ability to reach 500 degrees.

The appeal for young girls of cooking on a real stove was clear; the mess and danger of cooking with real fire was a problem. If only someone could come up with a way to heat the food without putting coal and flames in the hands of the prepubescent chefs...

Packaging of the post-1973 Easy Bake Oven (note Betty Crocker branding). Source: Pinterest

Then, in 1963, kids were introduced to baking with the Easy Bake Oven, a much safer alternative to the early toy stoves. The heating element consisted of two 100-watt light bulbs which actually heated the interior of the oven to 350 degrees. Ronald Howes, who originally conceived of the oven, was inspired by street vendors; James Kuhn then designed the oven.

The Easy Bake Oven was created by Kenner Products, a company based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Prior to the Easy Bake Oven, Kenner, which had formed around World War II, was known for a toy bubble blowing gun called the Bubble-Matic Gun.

As Kitchens Came In Different Shades Of Ugly, So Too Did The Easy Bake

The first Easy Bake Ovens. Source: (wikimedia)

The original oven, which looked like a full-sized oven, mainly because of the fake stove top above the cooling unit, was available in pale turquoise blue during the first year. For the second year of production, the company introduced a pale yellow version. The colors changed again in 1969, when they produced it in avocado green and red, and then in 1971, when the oven was yellow or mint green. The original ovens included slide-through pans and the mixes to bake cakes and brownies, and mixes for the frosting as well. The mixes were packaged in polyethylene-coated aluminum foil as they needed to last at least two years. All the budding chef had to do was add water and pop the creation into the oven. In four to sixteen minutes, the baking was complete, producing what amounted to an edible hockey puck. 

A Changing Oven For Changing Times

Source: (Livesofthefamily.com)

In its first year, the Easy Bake Oven sold 500,000 units, which led to an expansion beyond the basics during the 1960s and 70s. The manufacturer introduced a popcorn popper and a potato chip maker and included a recipe to make bubble gum. In the late 1970s, they introduced a harvest gold and fake wood double oven model. Once General Mills acquired Kenner products in 1968, they began to include Betty Crocker mixes with the oven and the offerings of mixes expanded beyond simple cake and frosting. The offerings included pretzels, s’mores, cheese pizza, and even Kellogg’s Pop Tarts and Oreos. They also released an Easy Bake Oven cookbook. Then, in 1973, they rebranded the product to call it the Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven. In 1973, they also produced a “warm bake oven,” which cooked with hot water. With the rebranding, the oven was once again red until 1981, when it was yellow, and the design also changed to look like a microwave oven

Bobby Flay And Michelle Obama Were Easy Bake Oven Fans

Source: (WorthPoint)

The oven has stood the test of time, even though it has evolved. In the early 2000’s, after the 100-watt lightbulb was banned in the U.S., they began using a real heating element to cook, allowing it to reach 375 degrees. In 2002, they introduced the Queasy Bake Cookerator, which included recipes for Mud ‘n’ Crud Cake and Drool Dog Bones, marketed specifically for boys, but it didn’t have much success. In 2006, the toy was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame and a gourmet cookbook featuring Bobby Flay’s recipes was released. Bobby Flay was reportedly inspired to start cooking when he received an Easy Bake Oven as a child. He was not the only celebrity who loved the toy; it was Michelle Obama’s favorite Christmas present as a child.  

Today's Easy Bake Looks Like A Warped Microwave Oven

A design that looks like something out of The Jetsons. Source: (My Coupon Expert)

The oven was redesigned as a front loading model in 2006, but was recalled in 2007, when children got their hands stuck in the oven; some of them suffered burns. But the oven continued to sell. In 2011, the Easy Bake Ultimate Oven was released, it was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 All-Time Greatest Toys, and by that year, more than 23 million of the toys had been sold. In 2013, Todd Coopee released a book about the Easy Bake Oven, Light Bulb Baking.  

You Can Make Truffle Lobster Pie In An Easy Bake (If You Really Want To)

Source: (ClickAmericana)

Despite the cookbooks for Easy Bake Ovens, which include recipes for dishes like deep dish truffle lobster pie, and the proliferation of recipes on the internet, Hasbro, which eventually acquired Kenner, has included the warning to only use the packaged mixes which have been "specifically formulated and tested for compatibility."

Tags: Easy Bake Oven | Remember This?... | Toys Of The 1960s

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Cyn Felthousen-Post

Writer

Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!