Not to be confused with Ready, Set, Fail!.
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- "Chemistry: it's a piece of cake."
- —Ms. Frizzle
Ms. Frizzle is fixing the bus and it capriciously malfunctions. Inside the classroom, the class practices a surprise for her surprise birthday party. When Arnold feels that something is missing, Dorothy Ann remembers her chemistry experiment and mixes water, sand, and cement to "get something new", concrete. They then realize that they forgot the cake and cancel the surprise. A gloomy Ms. Frizzle walks in and informs them that the field trip is canceled due to the bus malfunctioning. It was going to be to a bakery to learn about chemistry and Carlos decides to convince her to continue on with it, prompting her to schedule it regardless of the bus' issues.
As the bus rides through the city streets, it shrinks down. But Ms. Frizzle doesn't let that stop the field trip. She accelerates it through the mail slot into the bakery, where the baker is working. It then transforms into a moth and flies over the baked goods while Ms. Frizzle explains the possible parts of it that might be on the fritz. It grabs the attention of a baby in a backpack, who cheerfully exclaims, "Bus! Bus!" Her father agrees, assuming she said they were going to take a (different) bus home. Carlos suggests that they should make their own cake, but they have to do it while inconspicuous from Ms. Frizzle's eye, for they want it to be a surprise for her. So he convinces her to go to the auto parts store next door and she puts Liz in charge before leaving.
Liz drives the bus into the kitchen, where the baker catches it and mistakes it for a real moth. He swats at it with a fly swatter and it disappears behind a couple of jars before transforming into a normal mini-sized bus. As the baker leaves, the class reads the cookbook for the cake recipe. Carlos orders Ralphie to get two eggs, Tim and Wanda to get sugar and flour, Liz to get salt and cream of tartar, Keesha to get milk, Phoebe to get butter, Arnold to get baking soda, and Dorothy Ann to watch to see if Ms. Frizzle will approach the kitchen. They get to work and Carlos runs off to get the chocolate.
The class grabs all the ingredients for the cake and Ms. Frizzle returns to see how they are doing on their work. Dorothy Ann, who learned that baking soda mixed with water makes vinegar, distracts her and asks for her help with an experiment. While the others work on making the cake, Arnold complains about the situation, to which Ralphie states it could be worse, but he disagrees, until the bus shrinks down again in an arbitrary manner, shrinking the class even smaller than they were before, much to their dismay.
Carlos leaves after telling his classmates he has another idea. While he is away, they find cubes of salt and diamonds of sugar. They learn that minerals look much different when looked at in a much smaller perspective. Meanwhile, Carlos uses the spoon as a catapult to fling salt into the bowl. The class enters the bus and adds the flour and sugar. They eventually learn that flour, when viewed close up, is made of different parts as well. When they mix it into the chocolate, they learn how the colors change and that they could still see which of the bits are chocolate. Little do they know, the baker is watching them and is convinced that the bus is a moth flying inside the kitchen. So he calls the Smug Bug Pest Control.
As the class uses the Bus to continue to add the ingredients, they unwillingly fly to Ms. Frizzle, who is still focused on Dorothy Ann's experiment. So she distracts her again and shows her what happens to a bunch of baking soda with a sparse amount of water inside, which causes it to overflow inside the test tube. So Dorothy Ann puts a balloon on top of it and Ms. Frizzle tells her that baking soda and vinegar makes a gas that pushes the balloon out, which is tantamount to filling a tire with air. Ms. Frizzle then concludes that the bus needs new tires and goes back to the auto parts store to find out the price of new ones.
Meanwhile, it is revealed that the Smug Bug Pest Control thinks that the baker is crazy, prompting him to do the work himself. While Carlos (via the bus' whisk extensions) mixes all the ingredients together in the bowl, the class learns that air is getting beat into the mixture and all the ingredients coalesce to create one new thing, cake batter.
The class then learns that cooks and chemists are alike: both measure out ingredients and mix them together to make something new. The only difference being the cook gets to taste it. When the baker comes back into the kitchen, Carlos turns the bus into a submarine and dives it into the cake batter. The baker sees the bowl of batter and pours it into a baking pan. He puts it in the oven to bake the cake, much to the class' horror as they are getting baked along with it.
While the class is getting baked inside the cake, they notice a person dressed in white approaching the bus, who enters and turns out to be Ms. Frizzle, who reminds Liz of the heat shield. So she turns it on and the class feels much relieved. Dorothy Ann explains that the baking soda is making bubbles around the batter. When they hear a steaming sound, Ms. Frizzle explains that the water in the batter is vaporizing, thus expanding the bubbles and making them warmer. Just then, the batter solidifies, and the class learns that the cake is done. A pessimistic Arnold fears that they will get eaten along with it. Ms. Frizzle pushes a button on the dashboard, and the bus quickly breaks down. Dorothy Ann has a solution and decides to use baking soda and vinegar to create the gas pressure to push it out of the cake.
So just as the baker finally removes the cake from the oven, the class uses the vinegar mixture to propel the bus out of it and back to the classroom, where they finally throw Ms. Frizzle the surprise party and offer her the cake. Arnold cuts her a slice with a hole shaped like the bus, and she states that "chemistry is a piece of cake", evoking laughter from the class.
Hosts: Baker and Liz
Back at the bakery, the baker gets out his baked goods to sell. Then he tells himself that all his baking is "done for the day". Meanwhile, a boy walks inside to ask if it's the same bakery the bus was in, to which the baker responds he played his role well. The boy then bets some donuts that he could tell the baker some crucial information missing from the show, to which the baker guesses that Dorothy Ann would be far too young to do such experiments. The boy disagrees, as Mrs. Frizzle was already there, and a child using chemistry experiments is okay as long as an adult is around, not to mention she was wearing goggles as well. The baker then guesses that some people think chemicals are bad for them, to which the boy responds that some are good and that it depends on its usage. As Liz sneaks around to swipe some baked goods, the baker then decides to bet three donuts instead and guesses that even though the viewers learn that ingredients are made out of parts. It was never explained what the part themselves were made out of. The boy disagrees and states he knows they're all made out of atoms, and it goes on and on. The baker then guesses that the boy doesn't really believe that salt and sugar aren't really made out of blocks and diamonds, to which he replies they do at a microscopic size. Fed up, the baker says to the boy that he should bet the boy every donut in the store if the boy can't tell him what information is missing. The boy then replies the baker never explained Ms. Frizzle's age. The baker tells the boy that he is right about that and sells all the donuts to the boy. Finally, all the baked goods are gone (thanks to Liz). The baker complains that he has been used to crumbs as Liz snacks on the last cupcake.
- The TV tie-in book is called "Gets Baked in a Cake". Others with different titles are "In the Haunted Museum", "Gets Cold Feet", "Attack of the Plants", etc.
- This is the first episode to focus on the three characters, Arnold, Carlos and Dorothy Ann.
- The color scheme for this episode is noticeably darker than in others. This applies to the DVD releases, Netflix, and other streaming platforms. However, on the VHS tape, the colors are corrected.
- "Goes to Seed" has a similar trivium, with its color scheme being cooler than normal.
- This is the first episode to celebrate a character's birthday, that being Ms.Frizzle's. The second is Dorothy Ann's in "Sees Stars", and Arnold's in "The Frizz Connection".
- The video release was called "Ready, Set, Dough!", and it is still sometimes called that even today.
- Veteran film and television comedian Dom DeLuise voiced the baker.
- Neither producer appears in said segment, nor is the phone ever used. Instead, the host is the baker, and a young boy appears in person, making this the first of a few times a child who saw the show did so.
- Since "Happy Birthday to You" was considered to be under copyright at the time, "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" and "Hail to the Chief" are used as insert songs.
- This episode prompts shippers to ship Carlos with Dorothy Ann. That ended in "In the City", which is another popular shipping of the series.
- Arnold's voice was deeper in a few of his lines in this episode. This was because his voice actor, Amos Crawley, was starting to go through puberty at the time.
- A clip from this episode was shown in a 2018 Chevron Stem commercial.
- The spinning sound effect when Carlos turns the bus into a submarine is reused in "Blows Its Top", "A Magic School Bus Halloween", and "Makes a Stink".
- The DVD version of the episode is used for the Discovery file.
- The bus' coughing and panting proves its sentience.
- This is the first time the bus malfunctions and glitches.
- On TV guides, it mentions that the Shrinkerscope is glitching, but really, it's another part of the bus called the Hinkoblemonflemonjab.
- A similar plot happened in "Flexes Its Muscles", "Revving Up", "Making Magic", and "In the Zone".
- This episode never says how old Ms. Frizzle is turning on her birthday. However, in "Frizzle of the Future", she states that her sister, Fiona, is younger than her.
- A clip from "For Lunch" was used while the class celebrates (the zoom-in to the school).
- Dorothy Ann's concrete hardened impossibly quick.
- In the scene where the class is getting the ingredients for Ms. Frizzle's cake, the list in the cookbook changes between shots. In one shot, the flour is at the top, and the eggs are below it. In the next shot, the eggs are at the top, and the flour is below it.
- When the children from all around the world over the telephone say, "I want The Magic School Bus! I want The Magic School Bus!" closed-captions read, "COME ON THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS. CLIMB ON THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS." They are accessible through Netflix and the VHS tape, and both retain the goof.
- During the spinning transition to Ralphie's and Phoebe's report after the line "But if Ms. Frizzle asks, it's chemistry!", Arnold's and Wanda's mouths seem abnormally close to their noses.
References to other media
- Ralphie and Carlos mention two Wizard of Oz characters.