by Ian Koss
EasyBake Oven And Snack Center
It’s surprising how well this old standard has survived. The typical little girl is inclined to mimic the actions of her mother, and as gender lines in the home and workplace have blurred, it would be normal to expect the EasyBake oven to be supplanted by newfangled toys and games like “Ready, Set, Spreadsheet!”, “My Pretty 18-Wheeler” and “Leverage: The Game of Creative Financing.”
The ol’ plastic box has held up fairly well, I must say. EasyBake Oven 2003 resembles a microwave more than anything, with decals imitating a numeric keypad, LED display and even a frustratingly non-functional ‘Open’ button. However, it functions in the same way as it always has, essentially a 100-watt lightbulb surrounded by a protective metal housing which in turn is encased in a plastic simulacrum of a cooking appliance.
For $20, you get the oven, a couple of specially-fitted pans, two double-ended plastic utensils (combining spatulas, mixer, spoon), two small plastic pitchers intended for preparing frostings and such, and a selection of special mixes — ours came with a sponge cake, chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies, along with a chocolate frosting. About the only items to have benefited from modern technology are the pans, which come with a special non-stick coating.
Assembly is straightforward, if time-consuming. To install the lightbulb (none is provided, I suppose to avoid the unpleasant litigation and publicity resulting from glass shards decorating Susie’s very first sponge cake), you have to remove six screws. This method of child-proofing — dependent on a lack of patience rather than intelligence or dexterity — is new to me and not really appreciated. But it works, and I suppose it’s better than the alternative, which would involve emergency rooms and/or fire trucks.
To use the oven, you mix the supplied powders with a small amount of water. By “small” I mean a teaspoon or three… it’s hard to believe that a few drops will be enough to congeal the mound of powder from a packet into its corresponding gloop, but it does. Once the mixing is done, the batter/dough is transferred to a pan for baking.
The baking chamber itself lies deep in the heart of the EasyBake, guarded by small spring-loaded metal flaps. To insert your pan into this inner sanctum, you must place it in a plastic slot on the side of the EasyBake, then use a fork-like plastic implement to push it into the core.
After 7-10 minutes (depending on the recipe), you use the fork to push the pan out of the chamber and into a corresponding slot in the other side, where it’s recommended to sit 10 minutes for cooling.
The fork-like part can then be used to extract the finished baked good in a very dramatic fashion, as if it were a cauldron of molten steel or something.
Sitting atop the EasyBake, directly above the baking chamber, there’s a small depression that can hold the frosting cups, along with a clear lid to trap the heat and melt the whatever, while allowing a young one the joy of watching stuff melt. We haven’t used this part yet, but the enclosed instructions suggest melting chocolate, and offer a recipe for making nacho sauce (basically, cheese and water).
Overall, the EasyBake 2003 is a good value at $20… of course, the real expense lies in purchasing additional “special” EasyBake mixes, which retail for about a dollar a mix. That doesn’t sound too bad, until you realize each mix is good for about 8 quarter-sized cookies, or a single cake the size of a hockey puck. It’s worth experimenting with “grownup” mixes for some suitable alternative — I imagine a single box of Duncan Hines pound cake would outlast your typical child’s interest in their new toy.