Baking DeathMatch: The Easy-Bake Oven versus the Super Hero Cookbook

cover copyright Downtown Bookworks
© Downtown Bookworks

I loved my Easy-Bake Oven when I was growing up. I adored it. You could make cookies and cakes all by yourself and eat them without permission. But I didn’t buy an Easy-Bake for any of my kids  because they never seemed interested and, besides, they were already helping with regular baking.

Instead, we looked up kid-friendly recipes on the internet, using my own time-tested recipes and invested in some kid’s cookbooks. The latest one we’ve been using is The Official DC Super Hero Cookbook by Matthew Mead.

But this year, my youngest son, already a teenager, got an urge for an Easy-Bake because he thought it might make learning to bake simpler and so a friend, who heard about it, bought him one for Christmas.

“Okay,” I thought. He’s a little old for it but, hey, he’ll be able to have fun without creating the mess of the kitchen that regular baking seems to require.

So which is better for kids to use in the kitchen?

The answer wasn’t what I expected.

First, the Easy-Bake.

1970s Easy Bake Oven. Image via wikimedia commons, user rdmsf
A 1970s Easy-Bake Oven, just like the one I had. Image via wikimedia commons, user rdmsf

This isn’t the oven I remember. I was a child of the 1970s and my Easy-Bake was basically a little miniature oven. It looked like one  and the controls were on buttons or dials.

What I didn’t know until we opened the box of the new one this year is that the Easy-Bake has been completely redesigned in the last 35 years.  Food goes in one end and is lifted out the other via a specially designed spatula. It’s now energy efficient but that so far seems the only good thing about it.

This Easy-Bake doesn’t teach how to cook proper food, just how to prepare food for this type of oven. The digital clock doesn’t work, it’s just for show. The redi-mixes that are designed for the toy aren’t simple and often don’t produce good baked goods.  The pretzels took the same amount of time as the regular size pretzel mix for a regular oven and tasted worse. The various cookies and cakes mixes had erratic cooking times and often had to be altered to get the right consistency.

Then there’s the effort spent in actually putting the square pan just right into the oven, and there’s a little trick of lifting the pan up just so to remove it from the oven. My son only just managed this on his own and he’s a teenager. I can only imagine the problems younger kids would have with it. I never had this problem with my own Easy-Bake.

Boo all around.

So how about the DC Super Hero Cookbook? Is that any better?

The good: The recipes range from very simple to somewhat more complicated. They tend to produce good results when following the recipes: always nice, they’re bright and colorful, and great for smaller kids. There are also a variety of stencils of superhero logos included, along with character cut-outs.

The cookbook contains 50 recipes in six chapters: Flying Start Breakfasts, Hero (and other) Sandwiches, Super Salads and Sidekicks, Mighty Main Dishes, Sweets and Treats, and Power Drinks.

I gave the book to my twins to pick a recipe. Their first choice was the Aquaman Ice Cream Float.

Ingredients are:

  • 12 oz. of orange soda
  • 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream
  • 1 optional fresh orange slice
  • 1 optional package of Swedish Fish

We left out the Swedish Fish (not fans), they made the float themselves and the results were delicious.

We also tasted the Super Hero cookies at an event in New York City in November, and they were good sugar cookies. The tricky part is adding the logos. The book recommends that this can be done by using the stencils with edible pigment powders but it can take some fiddling to get those powders to stick exactly right.

The downsides: There are healthy recipes in this book but it’s definitely not a book for those wanting only healthy-style cooking for their kids. Sometimes, the recipes have little to do with the superheroes that inspire them. However, they all make great use of the colors inherent in each of the superheroes, like with the Star City Lettuce Wraps (Green Arrow).

So, the winner is definitely the cookbook over the toy oven, and the loser is my nostalgia for a toy that isn’t quite right anymore.

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Writer, Mom, Geek and Superhero. though usually not all four on the same day. Author of the award-winning Phoenix Institute Superhero series and the steampunk novel, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract.