Energy efficient compact fluorescent lamps are replacing incandescent light bulbs in the US, the EU, Australia and Canada and may, according to the specific laws of where you live, completely replace them by sometime in 2012. This might not seem like important news for the baking community, but it is if you ever had an Easy Bake Oven. Introduced in 1963, Easy Bake Ovens were playtime staples for generations of kids and let many of us bake our first cakes. The heating element in these toy ovens is a 100 watt incandescent lightbulb, which heats up when in use and is what allows those miniature cakes to cook through. The transition to compact fluorescent – which don’t heat up when they’re in use in the same way that incandescents do – means that all of those classic Easy Bake Ovens are out of a job.
While I certainly don’t use an Easy Bake for my baking these days – although you can still pop over to the toy store and pick one up for a young baker-to-be, if you like – I did have one as a kid and have some nostalgia about these toys. Sure, the mixes didn’t taste very good (that didn’t stop me from eating them!) and didn’t even always bake properly – but they were my own creations made without the assistance of grownups, and that was all that mattered at the time.
Easy Bake Ovens will still be around, made with a new heating element that doesn’t require the use of a lightbulb. But the little ovens won’t be quite the same as they were before, and there will be no going back once the 100 watt bulbs burn out and replacements become more difficult to find. My Easy Bake looked something like the one pictured below. I think I might get a couple of old fashioned lightbulbs and stash them away someplace safe – just in case I want to relive those memories of early baking attempts with a vintage toy oven and some 100 watt heat.