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Monday, February 6, 2017

Cooking History - Meet the Gem Pan

Occasionally when I have a bad day I need a little retail pick me up – I know, it’s a bad habit to get into, however it’s not one that I choose to participate in that often – thankfully! So last year before we had made the amazing decision to close Two Cooks, I had had enough of my day-to-day routine and went antiquing. This way I get the joy of retail therapy without getting too much. My favorite things to hunt for, and any of you that have antiqued know this is a true thing “the hunt”, are kitchen gadgets/pans/utensils.

I drove to my favorite spot, and found this – it’s called a GEM pan and dates back to around 1867. Mine is by R&E Manufacturing Co out of New Britain, CT. So what is a gem pan you ask – well, they’re a cast iron baking pan with individual cups and cut outs in between to allow air to circulate, this is called an “open frame design”. They were used to make unleavened cakes/muffins, typically with fruit mixed into the batter. I have been unable to find any specific recipes for making gems, but have played around with a few that were fairly tasty and easy to make.

If you’d like to learn more about gem pans, please hop over to Cast Iron Collector’s website HERE 

I did find the following information at WiseGeek.com you might find useful if attempting to bake with your own gem pan:

To make a simple gem, fine whole wheat flour and water are mixed. The resulting soft bread will be springy and fluffy. Some cooks prefer to use graham flour, and salt may be added to flavor the bread. If a gem pan is unavailable, a similar popover pan may be used.
Other spices and flavorings that some chefs use include ginger, maple syrup, and brown sugar. Dried fruits and nuts may be added as well. If creating a sweeter gem, other baking ingredients, such as shortening, baking flour, eggs, and butter may be needed.
Dozens of different shaped gem pans are available. Sunburst patterns may be used to create an elegant effect when serving small bites or hors d'oeuvre at a stylish event. Heart-shaped cups are utilized for personal occasions, children's parties, and crafting sweetheart desserts.
Rectangular patterns that resemble small bread loaves are also popular. The most common gem pan, however, is the standard cup form. 

And sorry but I’m not sorry - I’m not sharing where I go if word gets out, it will be harder for me to find goodies!


  1. Many older cookbooks have gem recipes. I have a copy of Fanny Farmer's 1898 cookbook and it has a number of gem recipes.

    1. That is correct - older cookbooks would have recipes for them because the pans were still in fashion at that time. Modern cookbooks don't have mentions of gem pans.

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