You have to hand it to whoever thought up the irresistible idea of Strawberry Shortcake decades ago: little scented dolls with names like Apple Dumpling, Angel Cake, Orange Blossom, and Gingersnap, who live in a candy-shaped world and have pets named Pupcake and Honey Pie Pony. Like retro favorites such as The Care Bears and My Little Pony, the franchise has experienced a resurgence in the past few years, as an entirely new generation of girls has discovered the now-updated brand. Strawberry Shortcake: Cooking Up Fun follows the adventures of Strawberry Shortcake and her friends as they try to create a cooking show for television. Apple Dumpling, who is younger than the other girls, wants to help them cook, but she succeeds in making a mess and inadvertently undermining their efforts in the kitchen. When she falls asleep after being banished from the kitchen, she dreams she is grown and that the other girls are babies for whom she must provide care. Once the novelty of this wears off, however, the storyline drags a bit. Later on, Honey Pie the Pony suggests that the girls start a kitchen cooking show, and they follow suit.
Cooking tips are given as well, such as keeping hair tied back, having an adult present to supervise, washing fruits, vegetables, and hands to avoid germs, and being "berry careful" not to get burned by the oven or stove. These tips are quite useful, although they are delivered as a list of sorts, rather than interspersed throughout the story, so it is unclear whether or not young viewers will actually remember enough to heed the warnings. Some themes, such as hand washing, are repeatedly emphasized, which is a good thing indeed. The overall story, however, is quite choppy – it shifts from Apple Dumpling's dream to the cooking show with little transition.
Girls over the age of 10 will find this disc to be babyish, but it's suitable for younger girls, who will be able to relate to the themes of the often annoying interference of younger siblings and the wish to be more grown up in order to participate in activities. It is somewhat alarming, however, that with the problem of childhood obesity and the related health problems such a hot topic, that the stick-thin characters spend practically all of their time either conceiving of, baking, or eating sugary treats. So, realistic this is not.
There is absolutely nothing objectionable in terms of content; it is hard to argue with themes of friendship, safety, and cooperation. That said, with so little drama and few problems to solve, the entire mixture comes across as, shall I say, bland.