Wednesday, February 17, 2010


These gems are not the sparkly kind...they are the eating kind, and sweet eating at that. There is something very appealing about a small treat. That is one of the reasons why cupcakes are so popular as well as scones, donuts, and muffins.

Recently I made a batter specifically to make a small cake called a gem. In old cookbooks I've seen recipes for jems and they are usually for muffins but with creamed butter instead of melted butter or oil. Sometimes they were just made with a regular cake batter. I don't think that modern books even recognize gems as a different little cake, but they are so cute that they should be.

Last fall we had a grand birthday celebration in the small town of Benecia near Vallejo. While wandering in a shop that had antiques combined with newer items, I found a genuine gem pan! The storekeeper said it had been her grandmothers pan. Not sure if that was something she said to sell it or not, but it was well used (and had to be cleaned quite a bit before I could use it) and there is an inscription that says Ekco Chicago Patent Pend. I got pretty excited when I saw the pan because I had read about gems but had never seen a gem pan! I love the little ribs up the sides and the small round indentation at the top. I think the cups hold a little less than a muffin cup does (although I haven't measured it).

Since I only have the one pan with six gems, I baked the rest of the batter in 4 small loaf pans. One was enjoyed by Sweetie and Straight Shooter and the other three traveled to Seattle with me as gifts for my friends and daughter.

It's been a while since I've baked a Dorie Greenspan recipe, but, as usual, it is perfect and worked really well for the gems and little loaves. This is a hot milk cake recipe which has been enriched with coconut and lime for a tropical flavor.

I added an extra dollop of fun by doing a warm coconut glaze which went on the gems and loaves while they were still warm and after I had poked them well with a toothpick to allow the glaze to seep into the cakes. You really taste the coconut that way and the cakes stay moist and delicious!

Coconut Gems
Based on Coconut Tea Cake in Dorie Greenspan's Baking:from my home to yours

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk, stirred well before measuring
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter at room temperature
the juice of one lime
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
the zest from one lime
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons dark rum
3/4 cup shredded coconut

For Glaze:
1/3 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk, stirred well before measuring
2 tablespoons rum
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour the gem pan and four small loaf pans (or use a 10 - 12 cup Bundt pan instead).

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Pour the coconut milk into a small saucepan, add the butter and heat over gentle heat until the milk is hot and the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, let cool a few minutes and add the lime juice and stir to combine. Keep the mixture warm.
Put the sugar into a large mixing bowl and, using your clean fingers, rub the lime zest into the sugar until well combined. Using a whisk attachment on an electric mixer (or muscle power and a hand whisk) beat the eggs and sugar and medium-high speed until pale, thick and almost doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and the rum. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed and stopping just when the flour disappears.

Keeping the mixer on low, add the coconut, mixing only until it is blended, then steadily add the hot milk and butter. When the mixture is smooth, stop mixing and give the batter a couple of turns with a rubber spatula, just to make certain that all ingredients are incorporated. Pour the batter into the pans, filling them about 3/4 full.

Bake in the preheated oven about 20-25 minutes for the gems and about 1/2 hour for the small loaves. Test by pressing center with a finger...if cake springs back it is done. For full size Bundt pan bake for about an hour or until cake is golden brown and tests done.

Transfer cakes to a rack and cool five minutes. While cakes are cooling prepare the glaze:
In a small saucepan warm the coconut milk over low heat. When warm, add the rum and the corn syrup and whisk to combine.

Once cakes have cooled about five minutes, place pan with gems in it on a rack with a pan under it to catch drips. Place the small loaves, still in their pans, on the rack, too. Use a toothpick or small skewer to poke holes into the cakes about every inch. Slowly pour the glaze over each, using more of the glaze for the loaves than the gems. I used a 1/3 cup measuring cup for pouring so that I could pour a small amount at a time. Use all the glaze and let cakes sit for 10 minutes.

Unmold the gems and loaves. Leave gems with the small indentation side up and take the small loaves and turn them upright. Let all the cakes cool completely, then serve. Leftovers can be stored airtight for four days at room temperature. Otherwise freeze leftovers...although it is unlikely you will have any!
No photos of the small loaves...guess I was so excited about giving them away that I neglected to take photos...baaaad blogger :) These were baked at night, too, so the lighting is terrible, hence poor photos, but good enough to see that these are yummy little treats.


  1. they certainly look like culinary gems to me. loving the coconut flavors!

  2. I see how it is. You visit Benicia when we've moved away. SIGH.

    Oh, hey - we have gem pans, too, same company and everything (and we also bought them at an antique shop, only it was in Sonoma.) -- but ours are individual teensy pans, not put together like a muffin tin. It makes them tricky to use, but the little gems are adorable. Yours look tasty.

  3. How fun to find such a great little pan! Too bad about the only six holes, thing, although that did work out nicely for me. Thanks for sharing! It was greatly appreciated!

  4. Meeta, Hope you are still enjoying the warmer weather at your Mom's...and maybe some tropical flavors, too?
    Tanita, I know...and we missed each other at Christmas, too. COOL that you have individual gem pans! They are adorable.
    Lynn, It worked perfectly :)

  5. That's my kinda gem!! Love the little pan!

  6. HalfBaked, Yes, it is a gem itself :)

  7. Anonymous1:29 AM

    Mmmm, those look SO good! Will you make some for my birthday? How's that for planning ahead? ;-)

    And I love the way you wrote the post. You know what I mean.

    See you soon!!

    Love and hugs,

  8. I love vintage kitchen gadgets.
    Even better, if they can still be used.

    And that's a really beautiful picture in the header.

  9. Sigh, what a beautiful history on these and the pan! Beautiful gems!

  10. You finally made the gems! I was scanning through your blog to see what you've been up to since I last read and they caught my eye.

    Glad you were able to finally experament with the "new" pan! That would be a fun store to go back to when I come out next.

    xo, M.M.M.

  11. Natasha, Sure if I remember by then. Darn brain forgets so much these days.

    Andreas, Thank you! I enjoy making new headers. Old kitchen ware is fun to use, but hard to find.

    Tanna, Truly!

    Molly, Come back and we'll antique together...lots of antique stores around and that one in Benicia sure was fun.