McKenna found the response disappointing.
"All they really told me is that boys play with their products. I already know boys do play with your products, so why are you only marketing them to girls?" she said. "I don't want them to make a boys' Easy-Bake Oven and girls' Easy-Bake Oven. I want them to make an Easy-Bake Oven for kids."
The debate over whether toy companies are reinforcing gender stereotypes — pinks and princesses for girls, guns and gross things for boys — seems to flare every year, particularly at Christmas, and has involved such things as Legos, toy microscopes and Barbie dolls. Now, it has extended to another one of the most beloved baby boomer toys, introduced in the 1960s.
Flay, 47, said he asked for an Easy-Bake for Christmas when he was about 5. He remembers it as a "putrid green" and recalls baking cakes with his mother from mixes. (The Easy-Bake Oven back then used a light bulb as a heating element; now it operates more like a real oven.) At the time, he said, the stereotype was that only women cooked, but a lot has changed since then.
"I cannot tell you how many young boys are my fans. And they want to grow up, and they want to cook," the Food Network star said.
Jim Silver, a toy expert and editor-in-chief of Timetoplaymag.com, played with an Easy-Bake himself when as a kid and said boys still play with it, just as girls play with Hot Wheels cars. He said Hasbro is simply marketing to the audience most likely to buy the oven and there's nothing wrong with that.
About seven years ago, Hasbro had a cooking product aimed at boys, the Queasy Bake Cookerator, which included recipes for gross-sounding treats such as Dip n' Drool Dog Bones and Mud n' Crud Cake. "Sales failed miserably," Silver said.