- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 14, 2011

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — This is not the Easy-Bake Oven you remember.

The latest version of the famous toy oven first marketed in 1963 with a carrying handle and a fake stove top is now all curves and purple and snazzy graphics. And — perhaps most shocking of all — it comes with a new instruction: No light bulb necessary.

Chalk it up as an unintended consequence of the federal government’s move to phase out the incandescent light bulb. The compact fluorescents that are becoming the new standard for household use are so energy efficient that they’re useless in baking a brownie, or any of the other miniature treats the Easy-Bake has been cooking up for nearly 50 years.

Initially, news of the death of the 100-watt bulb prompted rumors that the Easy-Bake might be going the same way. Instead, the toy got its 11th redesign, at the heart of which is a new heating element much like that of a traditional oven.

The forced re-engineering also handed Hasbro an excuse to give the Easy-Bake, which in the 1960s and 1970s came in the era’s popular kitchen decor colors, its most modern makeover yet.

“This gave us a reason to do it completely differently,” said Michelle Paolino, a vice president of global brand strategy and marketing at Hasbro.

“We wanted it to look more like a real appliance, not a plastic toy,” she said.

About the size of a big bread box, the Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven is clearly designed to fit on any kitchen counter, assuming a parent is willing to shell out $49.99, a steep hike from the last model’s price tag of $29.99.

“It looks sort of like an art deco toaster with wings — a purple one,” said Patricia Hogan, curator at the Strong, which includes the National Museum of Play and the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, N.Y. “It’s just so cool.”

The oven targets girls between 8 and 12. The beauty of the oven, the company and users say, is that children can mix and bake mostly themselves — the food gets pushed in one end of the oven, cooks, then comes out the other side. Still, Hasbro says parental supervision is required.

The company says the cooking chamber temperature of the new model can reach approximately 375 degrees; the outside of the oven remains only warm to the touch.

Hasbro says the product, voluntarily recalled in 2007 because of reports of burns, meets all safety regulations. Nearly a million ovens were recalled after reports of children getting their fingers or hands stuck in its opening and suffering sometimes serious burns; a 5-year-old girl was injured so badly she had to have part of her finger amputated.

Inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2006, the Easy-Bake Oven has become something of an icon, spawning at least one “gourmet” cookbook that includes recipes from Food Network chef Bobby Flay. Some families, to be frugal, would use regular, less expensive cake mixes than the Easy-Bake ones, or create their own.


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