When I was little, I REALLY wanted an Easy Bake Oven. I didn't have any real culinary inclination; except for some botched attempts at "Tapping Heels Griddle Cakes" from my Nancy Drew cookbook, I was perfectly content to have my cake served to me and to eat it, too.
But I was fascinated by the commercials, as I was fascinated by most commercials back then. To this day, I can still sing the jingle for "Dancerella," the doll that spins while violins begin to play. (And I can also still sing, in order, all the snippets from the Connie Francis Greatest Hits double album set advertised during the Brady Bunch. Why they thought that would be appealing to a bunch of eight-year-olds I don't know, but it worked. I did buy Connie Francis' Greatest Hits, ten years later, because of those damn snippets.) I wanted a Lite Brite. I wanted Simon. I wanted Suckerman. And Speak and Spell. And Super Sugar Crisp and Bubble Yum and Baby Alive and anything else they shoved down our impressionable little throats. And I got none of them. (Though my best friend, Monica, got pretty much everything, so it was the next best thing. Speak and Spell was our favorite. It would say, "Spell 'automobile,' and we would type in, "F-U-C-K" and scream with laughter when it would tell us, "That is INCORRECT.")
This isn't the Easy Bake Oven Commercial I remember, but it's scary and mesmerizing, just the same.
But the Easy Bake Oven eluded us. I wanted so much to be able to stir a bunch of mix in a pan, shove it in a slot, and have it come out looking like a perfect little gourmet treat. It was amazing! But alas, I never got an Easy Bake Oven. Maybe my mom knew that I would use it once and realize it was BS and it would gather dust along with all the crap I just had to have. Or that I would be the kid who shoved my hand in the slot and melted my fingers together. (I was never, under any circumstances, allowed to play with Krazy Glue. Even as an adult I am absolutely terrified by it.) Or that she knew that if I wanted a cake, I could damn well do it the old fashioned way -- open a box, throw in some eggs and water, and put it in the regular oven and save her $14.99 or whatever for a smaller, more unstable version of something we already had in a much larger size.
But one summer, we went to Wisconsin for a big family reunion, and my cousin Katie brought along her Holly Hobbie Easy Bake Oven rip off. I was thrilled. I mean, it wasn't as cool as the groovy real life Easy Bake Oven -- Holly Hobbie had that prairie or whatever thing going, so it looked more like a cast iron stove than a miniature oven that would look smart in any orange contemporary kitchen, but it would do. I could finally realize my Easy Bake dreams!
So we set about making a chocolate cake. We mixed the packet, added water, shoved it in the slot... and out came a muddy looking burnt pancake. Our less than mediocre frosting skills made it look even worse, and it tasted like burnt feet. I was terribly disappointed, but Katie just shrugged it off. That's how all the cakes turned out, she explained philosophically, but the fun of it was in the preparation. (She was two years younger than me, so at 8 she was far more practical than I would ever be.) And my mom was right -- I thought that was total bullshit. Later on in the week Katie and I got into a fight, and I took my cousin Ricky's Slime and put it in a pan and baked it in the oven as revenge. It was a smelly mess and I grudgingly apologized, but later that night I got trapped in the cabin's bathroom and the fire department had to come and get me out, so all Easy Bake sins were forgiven and forgotten in the traumatic melee. And thus ended my yearning and fascination with Easy Bake Ovens, though I did, I admit, enjoy the Slime part.
I had put Easy Bake Oven out of my mind, until two years ago they became all the rage again. A certain young friend wanted one really really really bad for Christmas, and understanding her desire, I set about finding her one. She also has more of a culinary inclination than I do -- she loves to bake cupcakes. (Actually, I wind up doing the cupcakes and she does the sprinkles. I see a bright future for this girl.) And I searched high and low, but they were all sold out. Everywhere. It was even on the news.
Yet somehow my mother, who adamantly refused to buy me one when I was a kid, managed to find the only Easy Bake Oven in five counties and bought it for my little friend. And instead of feeling resentful or deprived, I was secretly stoked. Finally! I would get a chance at a real Easy Bake Oven! That Holly Hobbie Oven was just crap. I would totally make a perfect miniature cake with pink swirls and the whole nine yards. Watch out, Betty Crocker! There's a new Easy Baker in town!
Today's Easy Bake Oven. Not as cool as the one I coveted.
The first time we played with it, we burned (literally) through all the packs and made all the cakes, and, of course, I was a bit disappointed. Okay, I'm not a perfectionist by any means -- my cakes all look like they're about to slide off the plate and straight into the garbage can -- but these tiny cakes all looked like flat little cookies. Messy and ugly cookies, the ones from the first batch that burned so they're at the bottom of the plate and still there when the party's gone home. And to be fair -- I couldn't hog the whole process. Even though my little friend was only 4 at the time (according to the box she wasn't even allowed to TOUCH an Easy Bake Oven until she was 8), she wanted to do it all by herself with the help of her older brother. So we had that going for us in the looks department. And they didn't exactly taste like Magnolia Bakery, either. I know, I know, you add a teaspoon of water to a pouch of powder and what do you expect, really... (um, deliciousness? DUH.) And being the adult, I had to worry that my little friend or her brother were going to jam their beautiful little fingers into the fiery hot orifice and melt their skin and burn the house down or be upset that the cakes were crap. Which, admittedly, made the whole Easy Bake process less appealing than it did thirty years ago.
But -- she didn't seem to mind the cruddy outcomes. "It's the baking that's fun," she declared, much like my cousin Katie on that long ago day in the cabin in Wisconsin. And that's when I realized that I have never been, nor would I ever be, cut out for Easy Bake Street.
So the Easy Bake Oven has been sitting in her closet for the past year and a half, untouched, until she somehow got it in her head that we simply had to do it today. Her dad promised her, and so somehow we wound up at Target, spending $5 per package when we could have bought a box of mix for a non Lilliputian cake that would feed more than an ant for less than $2. She thought about her options, and chose "S'mores Snacks."
Once home, she dragged out the Easy Bake Oven and got to work. She added water to the graham cracker mix (two teaspoons, aka the star spoon), she stirred, her brother plugged in the oven, I worried about their fingers. She grew bored with the stirring and I smeared it into the pan. Her brother shoved the cake in the oven, I set the timer.
After the alloted ten minutes, we took it out and it was still goop. We put it back in for ten more minutes.
After that ten minutes, it was still goop. We put it back in and distracted ourselves by making the chocolate frosting.
After that ten minutes, it was still goopy and much of the chocolate frosting was gone, though when I asked where it went she said, "I don't know!" (Words out of a mouth covered in chocolate frosting.) Her brother had given up and went to watch TV, and she sat and put sprinkles in the teaspoon, one by one.
A few minutes later it was dinnertime, so we gave up on the S'more and just left it. After she played with her Boca Burger and ate about two bites, she announced she was too full to eat anymore. (But she still had room for dessert. Funny how that happens.)
We checked on the S'more base, and it was still not done, and finally realized that the Easy Bake Oven was bunk. It had smelled funny earlier and I figured it was dusty, but I suppose it was the Oven dying from neglect. So we shoved the pan in the regular oven, and five minutes later, we had a round graham cracker that looked like a Boca Burger, the very thing my little friend didn't want to eat five minutes before.
So she made the marshmallow cream (one teaspoon of water and a bunch of sugary powder) and we smeared it on the S'more, and then it was time for what was left of the chocolate frosting.
It only took three hours, but there it was -- the S'MORE.
Granted, it didn't like like the promised Easy Bake confections advertised on the packets:
The S'more Snack is in the middle, next to the heart cookie on the cookbook.
But seriously, who the hell can decorate those cakes like that? Teeny, tiny cookies with little teeny tiny flowers? And that elaborate marble thing they've got going? I mean, talk about setting kids up for failure!!! If it weren't so ridiculous, I would have been mad. Instead I was tired of the three hour S'more and ready for it to be over.
My little friend thought something was lacking as well. So she added some pizazz:
Okay, so it's not Christmas, but it's certainly festive.
And then we all dug in -- four of us ripped that S'more apart, but the Little Easy Baker and I got the last bites. We licked our fingers (though she also wiped hers all over her dress, which I'm sure Julia Child did, too) and congratulated each other for a job well done.
And I have to admit -- it was damn tasty.
Seven down, ninety to go.