The Uneasy History of the Easy Bake Oven

Tom Blank of Weird History Food travelled back into the past to dig up the uneasy history of the classic Easy Bake Oven, a working toy oven that originally baked cakes with incandescent light bulbs.

Its first iteration featured two internal 100 watt incandescent light bulbs one that cooked the food from above and another that cooked from beneath and it was available in two distinct colors the elegant turquoise and the more feisty yellow for whichever type of home your child was keeping. It likewise came with some basic cooking supplies like a miniature spatula a rolling pin and a bright red mixing bowl despite its hefty price tag. It cost parents $15.95, which is about $160 in today’s money.

Kenner Products introduced the Easy Bake Oven right before Christmas in 1963, marketing the toy to young girls. Sales skyrocketed from there, reaching half a million sales by the end of 1964. By 1966, over 2 million Easy Bake Ovens had been sold. Seeing that they were onto a good thing, executives at Kenner approached Jim Henson to create a muppet version of the gooney bird, the company’s cartoon mascot. Henson agreed, and a new character was born.

In 1968 Kenner hit up Puppeteer Jim Hensen to update the Gooney Bird’s image and this all new version of their mascot soon showed up in Easy Bake Oven commercials. The Gooney Bird then became so popular that he landed himself a spot on ‘Sesame Street’s first season, revamped and renamed to become Big Bird’s tiny counterpart ‘Little Bird’. 

Over its history, the oven has undergone a number of changes. There was a partnership with General Mills, focusing on the Betty Crocker line of cakes, and constant redesigns. Kenner later became part of Tonka, which was sold to Hasbro in 1991. It was at this time that trouble began bubbling in terms of safety.

For a time, the Easy Bake Oven seemed on top of the world but unbeknownst to Hasbro, trouble was brewing with their 2006 Easy Bake classic oven, the first of the Easy Bake lineup to forego light bulbs alt together and instead use a more contemporary heating element. Apparently kids were getting their fingers stuck in its front loading door… so in early 2007 Hasbro recalled all 985,000 Easy Bake Classic Ovens.

If that weren’t enough, a 13 year old named McKenna Pope started a petition to make gender neutral Easy Bake Ovens, as the then current models only came in pink and purple. Hasbro acquiesced.

This new model initially only came out in purple and pink, but after 13-year-old McKenna Pope began an online petition asking for Hasbro to release gender neutral colors of the toy and that petition accumulated 45,000 signatures including those of prominent chefs like Jeff Mayan and Manuel Trevino. The first ever black and silver Easy Bake Oven was served by 2013.

Despite these challenges, the Easy Bake Oven is still a very popular toy for children.

One of the most iconic toys in our history, the Easy Bake Oven has helped teach young children cooking and baking techniques. While the Easy Bake has had its share of highs and lows, nobody can deny its place in our cultural zeitgeist.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.