bronmarshall
Home * About Bron * Portfolio * Recipe Index * Unit Converter

Friday 26th May 2006

Nanna Moorehouse’s Ginger Gems

Nanna Moorehouse was my great-grandmother on my father’s side. She was a fairly good cook from what I can remember, although strangely I more remember her darning my father’s socks than being in the kitchen.

Ginger Gems on cookie rack

This was her recipe for Gems. So what on earth are gems?

Gems, Ginger Gems in particular were traditional afternoon tea fare in New Zealand when Nanna Moorehouse was alive. Many shearers (a person, generally a male who shears; that is, he clips wool off sheep. As you may have heard New Zealand farms a few sheep!) have enjoyed some of these hot buttery gems with their ‘cuppa tea’. Gems are small, light and fluffy cakes cooked in a very hot oven for a short time. They’re a perfect alternative to scones, whether you choose plain gems with a little raspberry jam and cream, or hot ginger gems straight from the oven with lashings of butter.

Gem Irons

Gems are made in a heavy cast iron pan, which has 12 small rectangular compartments with rounded bottoms akin to aluminum or gold ingot moulds. If you can’t get hold of any, you could perhaps use cast iron cornbread stick moulds or muffin pans. I hadn’t made gems for such a long time, and the truth be told the last time I used the gem irons wasn’t to make gems, but was to mould museli/granola into cute little snack log bars. When I read how Caroline at Bibliocook missed her gem irons, it reminded me of mine rusting away in the far depths of my kitchen cupboards. I thought: “I must pull out my trusty (rusty!) old irons.” Anyway, after getting the wire brush onto them, I cooked myself up a batch for this ginger themed hosted by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast.

Having enjoyed them so much, I now envisage my gem irons having a busy winter! I’ve already been dreaming up several new flavours and variations to try!

Ginger Gems

  • Nanna Moorehouse’s Ginger Gems
  • 2 oz of soft brown sugar
  • 2 oz of butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons of golden syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of plain white flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of ground ginger
  • milk to mix (approximately ½ a cup)
  • 1 oz of extra butter to grease
  1. Preheat your oven and gem irons in a hot 220 deg C oven
  2. In a large bowl, cream the sugar, butter and golden syrup.
  3. Add the egg and beat in well.
  4. Sift in the flour, baking and ground ginger and gently fold into the batter with enough milk to make a dropping consistency.
  5. Remove the hot gem pan from the oven and put a dot of butter into each of the 12 compartments.
  6. The butter should sizzle if the pan is ready. Brush the melted butter around the sides quickly.
  7. Take a dessert spoon and drop batter evenly into each compartment until three-quarters to nearly full. Return the gem irons to the oven and cook for 10 to 12 minutes until golden.
  8. Eat immediately while still piping hot with lashings of butter.
  9. Makes 12

A hot Ginger Gem with lashings of butter

Enjoy!
Bron

31 comments »

  1. Oh, Bron!

    I’m so glad you rescued the gems tin and that you made these. They look beautiful. And what a lovely story behind them!

    Ivonne — Sunday 28th May 2006 5:47 am

  2. They sound and look delicious! The photo with the gems in their mould looks particulairly beautiful!

    linda — Sunday 28th May 2006 6:21 am

  3. Thanks for sharing these “gems” and it’s easy to see why they’re called that.

    Look for the SHF roundup on Monday.

    Ruth — Sunday 28th May 2006 8:11 am

  4. Those look so tasty. I must find the right pan! Think it’d be good if I used honey instead of golden syrup for these? (My boy thinks they look great, but wishes they involved cornmeal somehow.)

    Danielle — Sunday 28th May 2006 4:03 pm

  5. Hi Bron, Great recipe. Its nice to see some tradition kept alive. Curious about what is in the back of the photo - is it a mid winter christmas at the Marshall household??
    Cheers,
    Paul

    Paul — Sunday 28th May 2006 11:44 pm

  6. Gems is perfect for these. I think I may even have this pan. I certainly want to try these. Lovely story!

    Tanna — Monday 29th May 2006 6:36 am

  7. Yummy! These look fabulous and the photos are so good I can almost taste them too!

    Catherine — Monday 29th May 2006 12:38 pm

  8. wow, these gems look wonderful. I can imagine that they would be all soft and fluffy, perfect for a wintery afternoon tea!

    Cin — Tuesday 30th May 2006 1:58 am

  9. That last picture with one of the gems sliced open with a sliver of butter in between looks delicious, im salivating.

    jenjen — Tuesday 30th May 2006 7:26 am

  10. I got the chills. I want that NOW

    gabriella true — Tuesday 30th May 2006 9:12 pm

  11. Hi Bron,

    I love the term “lashing of butter”… as if you’re whipping these little beauties into shape. (well, come to think of it you are!!) They look like they’d be mighty tasty on a cold New Zealand day!

    Cheers…

    Bruno

    Bruno — Wednesday 31st May 2006 4:34 am

  12. Bron!
    I love these! They look so delicious and that cast-iron pan looks perfect for many treats. Your pictures are fantastic.

    Dianka — Wednesday 31st May 2006 8:22 am

  13. Thanks Ivonne, I’m very glad I rescued the gem irons too!

    Thanks heaps Linda

    Thank you Ruth, ‘gems’ certainly are a cool name for them. Thanks again for hosting this round of SHF and choosing such a delicious them.

    Hi Danielle,
    Thank you! Yes, sure honey would be fine instead of golden syrup.

    No no Paul, most years we wait for some snow before we celebrate our mid-winter Christmas out here. The shiny round things in the background are some little copper urns.

    Thanks Tanna, I hope you do find the pan and try them, they’re really good!

    Thanks so much Catherine and Cin, they’re awesome for afternoon tea and so easy to whip up in a hurry!

    Hi Jenjen and Gabriella, I’d love to share some with you all!

    Hehe yes Bruno, lashings of butter is a neat term, these wee gems sure take a beating in their short wee lives.

    Thanks Dianka,
    yes I’m sure I’ll be using the gem irons a lot more in future, I was delighted with the gems.

    Thank you all for your lovely friendly comments, sorry I’ve taken so long to reply to you all.

    bron — Friday 2nd June 2006 11:23 am

  14. They do look gorgeous, Bron - you’re making me miss my gem irons even more! I don’t think I can justify getting them sent over from NZ to Ireland, though…

    Caroline@Bibliocook — Thursday 8th June 2006 3:29 am

  15. […] There are some food bloggers I always end up linking to, and Bron is one of them. Her ginger gems got me scouring the web in search of an affordable gem iron, but I found none. The hunt is still on. […]

    Habeas Brulee » Blog Archive » Roundup of Food Blog Posts I’ve Enjoyed #3 — Sunday 2nd July 2006 2:40 am

  16. Bron,
    The ‘Gem Pan’ you have shown is known in the Cast Iron Cookware collecting community as a “New England Style French Roll Pan.” It is a very common pan in the North Eastern part of the U.S. These were popular from the late 1800’s through the 1930’s. Gem pans come in a wide variety of shapes and styles from a large number of foundries making them an interesting collection to persue. For more information on the pans check out Cast Iron Collecting sites like ‘Flash ‘n the Pan’.
    Thanks much for the great recipe, I’ll try it tomorrow morning as a break from my usual corn muffins cooked in the same style pan.
    Roger B.

    Roger B — Monday 9th October 2006 12:20 pm

  17. I am a Kiwi now having lived in Perth Western Australia for the past 20 years! For the past few months I have been trying to locate in NZ some gem irons - tried second hand shops, Sally Army shops = I’m desperate for them! Any ideas how I can get a couple of them! The picture of your gems make my mouth water. What on earth did I do with my original gem irons - now it seems so hard to get hold off!
    Probably sold them in a garage sale when I left little old Dunedin!
    Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.
    Regards
    Liz

    Liz Wood — Thursday 16th November 2006 1:01 am

  18. Wow, Bron, fantastic. I am going to try and make some of your “gems”
    to have with ginger wine on a nice cold day.

    Philomena Shutler — Monday 22nd January 2007 12:29 pm

  19. I enjoyed your photos and the comments about your ginger gems.
    When my children were young I made thse all the time.My daughter now 41 has just retuned from Antactica where she was in discussion with others about ginger gems her comment”my Mum makes the best ginger gems” so I have just hunted out my gem irons to make a batch for her.I have a cast iron set and an alluminium set of irons both work equally as well.

    Dierdre — Wednesday 24th January 2007 4:35 pm

  20. […] Gingernuts and Ginger flavoured beverages, biscuits, slices, cakes and not to mention desserts are hugely popular in my family and in New Zealand as a whole. […]

    Baked Gingernut Cheesecake with Kiwifruit — Saturday 17th March 2007 4:47 pm

  21. Hi Bron,
    These are fantastic! I have been experimenting with Ginger gems since procuring some irons last February. Your Nanna’s recipe wins hands down. Would love to include a link to here if it is ok with you. Wonderful photography as usual.

    cheers,

    Mary — Wednesday 28th March 2007 10:44 am

  22. […] Nanna Moorehouse’s Ginger Gems […]

    This Time Last Year - Ginger Gems — Monday 28th May 2007 9:29 pm

  23. I adore vintage cook/bakeware and I know I will not be able to find anything like that in South Africa. If I had the dimensions I could get someone who works in the local foundary to make me one I am sure. Bron could you be so kind as to pass some dimension info on to me please? And thank you so much for passing on your Great grandma’s recipe on to your readers. The recipe in itself is a vintage gem and as for GINGER?? My alltime favourite spice. Your Nanna’s ginger gems look wonderful and I would love to try and make them. Can it be possible to bake them in normal nonstick single bun size pans or in large muffin pans perhaps? Or would they not be the same if not done in cast iron? I would appreciate any feedback that anyone can give me. Thanks a bunch :) Colleen

    Colleen — Tuesday 29th May 2007 9:56 am

  24. Bron, I finally came across a decently priced real cast iron gem pan on ebay. It arrived yesterday. As soon as I head to the corner to buy some milk, I’m finally making these gems of yours. I’m very excited!

    Danielle — Saturday 2nd June 2007 4:10 am

  25. All right, I made ‘em. I used honey instead of golden syrup, a little extra ginger, and I threw in a tsp of vanilla extract, too.

    The apartment smells heavenly and half of them have disappeared already.

    Thank you again for sharing this recipe.

    Danielle — Saturday 2nd June 2007 11:15 am

  26. Hi Bron,

    I’ve been wanting to make some ginger gems, ever since leaving NZ and even more after finding your recipe! I finally bought a gem iron on eBay. Have had some problems finding golden syrup here in the US, so just made plain gems. The American hubby loved them. He’s experimenting this afternoon and has made some gems that have half a jalapeno pepper, stuffed with cream cheese, in the middle of the gem. Hopefully, the leads that I have been given re where to buy Lyle’s golden syrup,here in Reno, will work out and we’ll be having ginger gems this weekend!!
    Cheers, Karen

    Karen Hayward-King — Monday 9th July 2007 1:31 pm

  27. I have just been reading your article on ginger gems & being a kiwi girl from Dunedin from way back can remember my mother making them at least twice a month. I have been searching high & low in the hope of getting a cast iron gem iron but the Aussies dont really know what I am talking about any way I will be in Auckland in Feb & was wondering if you knew of any place where I could buy one. I certainly hope so. Thanks for your time Regards Hilary

    Hilary Jackson — Saturday 24th November 2007 7:10 pm

  28. Hi, I have recently bought gem irons off TradeMe (NZ’s equivalent of eBay):
    http://www.trademe.co.nz/Browse/SearchResults.aspx?search
    Type=0004-0371-0563-&searchString=gem&x=0&y=0&searchRegion=100&type=Search

    For Hilary, have a look here. Maybe you can get them sent to someone you’re visiting in Auckland and pick them up when you’re here in February.

    I made the gems from the Edmonds cook book and my hubby who LOVES ginger didn’t rate them at all.

    Today I felt like ginger gems so went in search on the net and came across your recipe.

    They are great! Surprisingly there were some left so they went next door to a family from Zimbabwe who I had tried to describe what ginger gems are.

    Hubby really liked these ginger gems so a big thumbs up on Nana’s recipe. Cheers Anita

    Anita — Sunday 6th January 2008 3:08 pm

  29. Greetings from Hong Kong….. Hooray! I’ve been trying to find out what gems are ever since seeing a tray on EBay (although it was one with round sections). Your photographs explain everything. I couldn’t work out why it had to be cast iron, Now I realise.

    Best wishes,

    Brenda

    brenda — Monday 14th July 2008 12:47 am

  30. Made my first ever gems using your recipe - worked beautifully! Thank you.
    Will try cinnamon & cardamom flavouring next … and will check your blog regularly. :)

    Britta — Tuesday 12th January 2010 4:35 pm

  31. where can i buy the ginger gem cast iron pans in the usa

    caroline summerwood — Sunday 4th April 2010 6:27 am

Please leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

All content and images copyright © 2005 - 2014 Bron Marshall - New Zealand Food Blog.