RAVENSWOOD — In an era of "MasterChef Junior," baking with a miniature oven that uses light bulbs as its heating element sounds downright prehistoric.
And yet 50 years after it was introduced by Kenner, the Easy-Bake Oven continues to top kids' Christmas and birthday wish lists.
"It's a rite-of-passage toy," said Todd Coopee, author of "Light Bulb Baking: A History of the Easy-Bake Oven."
Coopee, who hails from Ottawa, Canada, will be signing copies of his book at Angel Food Bakery on Sunday.
He attributes a certain amount of the enduring popularity of the toy to nostalgia.
"People have such a strong memory of the toy," said Coopee.
The launch party for his book drew a broad range of age groups, from Baby Boomers to Gen Xers with their children.
"Parents are passing it on to their kids," he said.
Coopee also credits Kenner for understanding that children like to mirror the actions of adults.
"From a kid's perspective" the Easy-Bake Oven "allows you to manage your own kitchen at a young age and create something that's real," said the author, who grew up with three sisters and did his share of light-bulb baking as a youngster. "That's part of the appeal."
Coopee was inspired to chronicle the oven's history after a 2006 visit the National Toy Hall of Fame, which coincided with Easy-Bake's induction into the museum.
"I'm a pretty inquisitive person," he said. "The more I looked into it, the story was so interesting."
During Coopee's research, a number of his search results included Stephanie Samuels, the owner of Angel Food Bakery, 1636 W. Montrose Ave. Samuels boasts a fairly large collection of the ovens, which she displays in her shop.
The two swapped emails and have spoken on the phone.
Samuels talked about how the oven "contributed to her desire to do what she does," said Coopee.
He's eager to compare Samuels' Easy-Bake collection to his own.
"I trace all the model changes in the book and had to acquire all of them," said Coopee. "There's more than 40."
The oven is now made by Hasbro and, since 2011, no longer uses light bulbs and instead features a safer heating element similar to conventional stoves.
Coopee's ovens aren't just gathering dust on a shelf — he's putting them to use. For a recent radio appearance, he whipped up a toffee trifle cake from the winning recipe in a 1998 Easy-Bake contest.
"It's very edible," he said, contrary to most people's Easy-Bake experience.
Easy-Bake's reputation for producing subpar baked goods has more to do with children's impatience, he argued.
"When you talk to a fair amount of people, they'll say they couldn't wait" for their mix to fully cook, he said. "They often served something raw."
Coopee is appearing at Angel Food from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.