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Gem Scones – perfect for a rainy Sunday

I’ve always been curious about Gem Scones. Ever since I saw a recipe for Gem Scones dipped in jelly and rolled in coconut in one of my Mum’s old cook books, I wanted to know more.  How does the cast iron pan known as a ‘Gem Iron’, work? Do the scones come out of the irons round? Why do irons exist – why didn’t they just make them in a cake tin? If you dip them in the jelly, does it make the scones soggy? Why wasn’t I invited to a party where they were served? After years of visiting Op Shops and seeing the forlorn little irons sitting on dusty shelves, I finally decided to buy a set.  My rule about Op Shops in ‘Under $5 – just buy. Over $5 – do you really need it?’ In this case, the irons were $8 so I really had to think hard about it but as I needed to solve the questions running around in my head, I lashed out.

Gem Scone Pan
So the first thing you need to know is that Gem Scones are not scones at all, they are small cakes – probably a pre-cursor to patty cakes. The second thing you need to know is that they are delicious!

Gem Scones

  • 60g butter
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • butter for greasing


1. Preheat oven to 220C. Place gem irons into oven
2. Cream butter and sugar, beat in egg yolks & milk
3. Fold flour into creamed mixture with milk. Gently fold in stiffly beaten egg whites
Gem Scone irons filled and waiting to be cooked

4. Remove gem irons from oven. Brush hot irons with melted butter, and while butter is still sizzling, two-thirds fill each iron with mixture
5. Bake in a moderately hot oven 190C for 10-15 minutes or until cooked and lightly browned

Makes approx 30

Gem Scones out of oven
 Some Notes
  • You can halve this recipe (I did) and it makes around 15 small scones
  • If you only have one set of gem irons (like me), remove cooked gem scones from irons, place gem irons back into the oven to heat up for 5 minutes, remove and brush irons with butter and continue as before

So now I’m on the lookout for a 2nd set of reasonably priced irons. They’re quite common but as you know, I am trying to follow my Op Shop buying rule. As to the jelly dipping – it’s was wondrous when I was 8 but I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

Gem Scones cooling on a rack
 I have another recipe for Cherry & Coconut gem scones on this blog – click on this gem scone link!
32 comments… add one
  • Anonymous October 22, 2012, 5:00 pm

    Glad to here your Gem adventure turned out so well. I am an expat Kiwi living in Aus and, as every Kiwi knows (wink), those round things cannot possilby be Gems! Looking for loaf shaped irons.

    • Fiona Ryan October 23, 2015, 10:13 am

      How can we live so close to each other and have such a similar/different food culture? I’m off to Google ; )

  • sue OBrien April 24, 2015, 10:11 am

    Oh thanks for this post. My gem iron story is similar.
    A dear friend one day brought gem scones to morning tea at our sewing group in country Victoria. Dee, 83, put prunes that had been soaked in brandy inside each scone before baking…delightful. I too remember the jelly coconut coated delights at birthday parties and my favourite Aunt’s when we visited on Sundays.
    So my quest began to find myself a fair dinkum gem iron…not luck in op shops, so at an antique fare I splurged and now have my own…$15.00 was the exchange.
    So it is your recipe that will commence the journey with my own gem iron.
    Thanks again

    • Fiona Ryan April 25, 2015, 11:18 am

      Hi Sue – it’s always the way isn’t it? You see something in an op shop time and again but then when you’re after it… (I’ve had a similar experience with Romertopfs). It remarkable difficult to find a recipe for gem scones and in the end, they a really like little cakes. I love the idea of popping something inside the batter. Thanks for taking the time to read and leave a comment. I hope to see you back. cheers Fiona

      ps: If you’re interested in my Romertopf post : http://www.tiffinbitesized.com.au/2015/04/10/never-underestimate-an-op-shop-4/

  • Hannah May 4, 2015, 5:47 pm

    I bought a black cast iron gem scone tin for 50c yesterday at a fair.
    So I’m trying it out tonight!
    I knew what it was because Mum used to have one, but I can’t say she ever made us gem scones, ever.

    • Hannah May 4, 2015, 5:48 pm

      BtW there is a recipe for gem scones in the Commonsense Cookery Book, I’ll try that one out for my next batch!

      • Fiona Ryan May 8, 2015, 12:52 pm

        I have a couple of versions so I’ll have to look them up.

        Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment. I hope you return soon.

    • Fiona Ryan May 8, 2015, 12:50 pm

      50c is the bargain of the century and of course, when you are looking for one, you can never find it so that’s a double bonus!

  • Mimi September 27, 2015, 9:26 pm

    How much fun I’m having browsing your blog! I’ve never heard of gem scones, gem irons, patty tins, patty cakes, and on and on. It’s like reading in English but not! I’ve had fun Googling these terms. Now I know that a patty cake is what we call a cupcake and a patty tin is our muffin tin. But gem scones and gem irons must just belong to your country! The closest thing in my own kitchen is a cast iron corn stick pan. I heat it in the oven before baking my cornbread batter into “corn sticks.”

    • Fiona Ryan September 30, 2015, 6:43 pm

      Hi Mimi – I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Gem irons are a very old fashioned thing. The post itself is popular as it’s obviously quite difficult to find a recipe. As for corn bread pans…. you read my mind! Here’s a post from a few weeks ago:


      Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment. And thanks for the recipe for Ozark Pie. Mr Tiffin says thanks too!

  • Edna February 2, 2016, 1:23 pm

    To make gem scones instead of gem cakes – rub butter or margarine into flour & salt until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Then add other ingredients in the usual way.

    • Fiona Ryan February 2, 2016, 4:39 pm

      Thanks Edna – so a basic the scone mix but cooks them in the irons? I’ll give it a go.

  • TJ April 24, 2016, 2:10 pm

    Hi Fiona
    I am a great fan of recycling, but have need of help with my scone pan.

    I ran into two ‘rust’-tic gem scone pans at a vintage fair last weekend. He was asking $25 each, so I only bought one for $20, which was alright by me.

    I have just tried to clean and reseason it. I used a mixture of linseed oil and salt and scoured the hollows out, then washed it in hot water, scouring it further, then coated it with coconut oil and baked at 200 C for 90 minutes.
    When I pass a paper towel into the cups, there’s still some residue (all dark black) coming off. Not much, but when I add butter for your recipe, it’s bound to bind to the butter and curdle the taste?

    Do I need to revisit the seasoning process, find another pan entirely, or can I cheat and use coconut oil in place of butter? The later option won’t brown the scones as nicely, but shouldn’t absorb the residue like butter would.

    Appreciate your help!
    Cheers, TJ

    • Fiona Ryan April 25, 2016, 11:20 am

      Hi TJ – If you have seasoned and and scrubbed and re-seasoned, it sound like you have really done a good job. Are you really sure the black will come off? Maybe if you do a batch, you won’t have a problem or, the first batch will need to be sacrificed to the compost but the 2nd batch may be OK. Of course, you could use any fat but your right, coconut oil will not assist with browning and as these are in for a relatively short time, they need some help to brown. Again, you could give it a go. I wouldn’t give up on your pan as it cost you $20 and I’m sure after a few bakes, it will be like there was never problem. How about some spray on olive oil as a bit of a compromise, if you are really worried about the butter? Please give it a go and come back to let me know what eventuates. Thanks for commenting!

  • Jane May 28, 2016, 9:28 am

    Hi Fiona
    My daughter has chosen the gems tray as her history talk and as you can imagine I can not find any information and she has a series of questions to answer. Could you assist in any way?
    Thank you Jane

    • Fiona Ryan May 31, 2016, 11:47 am

      Hi Jane – I don’t know much myself but she is welcome to send them on and I’ll see if I can help. Best email is fiona(at)tiffinbitesized.com.au (replace (at) with @)

  • Carolyne June 11, 2016, 6:01 pm

    I bought 2 gem irons about 40 years ago it came with recipee card atached. To edna i am 75 @ my mum made gem scones when i was a little girl, you beat the butter @sugar then ad the egg you can also ad cheese to make savory, ism a chef and have a resturant with gem scone on the light menu. They are way better than scones @lighter than cupcakes, they are the yummiest little melt in your mouth bite you will ever tate

    • Fiona Ryan June 14, 2016, 7:41 am

      The savoury version is a great twist. I have been thinking about a new version for a while now so I’ll keep that in mind. I recently made some filled ones, which I’ll be writing about. I’m glad you’re keeping the old traditions alive by having gem scones on the menu. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and answer some of the questions from other readers.

  • Lynne Russell August 23, 2016, 6:12 pm

    Hi Fiona. Just read your item on Gem Irons, thanks for the info. Now regarding your “dip in jelly” problem. LOL You need. 1 packet raspberry jelly. (any flavour really, but raspberry is the best) desiccated coconut in bowl or large plate 1 pair of tongs Spoon. Freeze the cakes once cooled (that’s the secret) Make a raspberry jelly (as instructed on the packet) – let cool slightly. Hold each frozen cake with tongs over bowl of liquid jelly and gently spoon over jelly liquid – DO NOT DIP WHOLE CAKE IN JELLY…. it will be lost forever 🙁 then immediately roll in dessicated coconut. I did about 6 cakes in one session, leaving un-jellied cakes in freezer till ready for the next batch. They will start thawing and it is not a pretty site when a thawed cake gets a hit of liquid jelly !!!!!! You can return finished cakes to the freezer, they keep for ages, and you never know when a beautiful, raspberry dipped, coconut covered cake will take your fancy. Hope you don’t mind me contacting you but thought the tip might be helpful. Cheers me dears Lynne

    • Fiona Ryan August 23, 2016, 6:13 pm

      That sound exactly like what I remember Lynnne. Thanks for sharing the recipe. Yes, I think raspberry would be the best though I loved Port Wine jelly as a kid so think I could give that a go too.

  • Eric Barry September 7, 2016, 1:39 pm

    In Queensland they are known as peach balls. The cakes are taken out of the oven and allowed to cool. A batch of mock cream is made up, then when the cakes are cool, the top surface of one hemisphere is covered with a quantity of the mock cream. A second cake is then inverted on top of the first, and gently pushed together. Any excess mock cream is then removed using a small spatula. They are then arranged on a tray so that they can’t roll about, and placed in the freezer for a few hours. Make up a packet of Aeroplane raspberry jelly, using only one cup of boiling water. Allow to cool. Remove cakes from freezer. Separate if they have become stuck together. Pick up one peach ball at a time, using gloved left hand, and use a kitchen brush or paint brush to cover each ball with the cooled liquid jelly. It is then useful to have a helper with you. The helper then rolls each peach ball in a tray of desiccated coconut. Can be placed in a container and returned to freezer if necessary, or eaten without refreezing.

    • Fiona Ryan September 8, 2016, 3:27 pm

      Wow Eric – this is really useful information so thanks for sharing it. They also sound delicious! There is very little information around on the internet as I suppose it would have been passed down orally, through families. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Much appreciated.

    • Hannah September 8, 2016, 3:37 pm

      That sounds delicious! Do they get the name because they resemble peAches?

      • Fiona Ryan September 14, 2016, 10:55 am

        I’m guessing you are right Hannah. I think it is because they look like peaches. The Italians have a similar cake called ‘pesche di castelbottaccio’. My friend called them ‘peach bums’ because they also look like a bottom! How were your gem scones when you gave them a go? I have tried a new variation with coconut and cheery so I hope you write about these soon.

  • Lesley December 18, 2016, 1:40 pm

    Awesome stuff guys – I bought two sets of gem irons at a garage sale about 3 years ago (20NZD – a bargain) and have only used them twice. I also found a round set with ball shaped irons in an Op Shop, up until now it’s been used on the outside table for those little candles. So today I was hunting on the net for alternative recipes for the gem-irons and stumbled across this wondrous exchange of information. I also found a simple recipe for honey gems….yummm

    • Fiona Ryan December 22, 2016, 10:33 am

      HI Lesley – thanks for contributing the conversation. This particular post is very popular as there is obviously a shortage of information out there. As you can see, I’ve had many NZ visitors share their own stories of what a gem iron and gem scone is, which is somewhat different from the Aussie version. When I make these now, I just spray them with some canola rather than do the melted butter step but truth be told, butter tastes better! I have a new recipe for Gem Scones coming up early in 2017 with some additional information so keep an eye out for it. Thanks again for leaving a comment – I love them!

  • Alison March 24, 2017, 1:10 pm

    The cast iron gem scone irons cost a mint now! Eighty bucks or so!
    So what I have bought is something like thick aluminium, or an alloy ($15-20).
    I have cleaned my first one well – but do I need to season the metal before I try cooking gem scones? I have no idea how to do that! Can you help?

    • Fiona Ryan April 14, 2017, 10:38 am

      HI Alison – sorry for the delay, I’ve been away. Yes they are so expensive now. I have just been in the US where the cornbread pan prices have similarly skyrocketed. If it’s aluminium or alloy, I don’t think you need to season it as a) it is probably a more modern pans than the old style and some hot butter or spray & cook before you add the batter should be sufficient and b) it may not be able to sustain the high temperatures that seasoning requires. Please let me and other readers know how you go/went as I’m sure there will be other people who have similar question. Looking forward to your response : )

  • Alison March 6, 2019, 11:00 pm

    I finally tried these, and also tested out my gem irons (all alloy) and have returned to update. I seasoned two of the irons by coating them with olive oil and turning them upside down and cooking at 200C for an hour. My third iron I just heated, and did not season (they had all been scoured and scrubbed clean when I first bought them). Verdict after following your recipe: there was no appreciable difference with how the scones turned out – the melted butter in the hot seasoned OR unseasoned irons did the trick for all of them. So I would not bother seasoning alloy gem irons.

    But I do have two questions:
    Q1. After cooking, we tried the raspberry jelly and dessicated coconut treatment of them found here in the comments. I could not even taste the jelly – we spooned it over as a tepid solution – was it meant to be spooned over when the Aeroplane jelly mixture was hot?
    Q2. Should the gem scones be kept in the fridge, or all frozen? They do defrost quickly. I don’t know what will happen to them (especially with jelly on the outside) if they are just left out at room temperature.

    Perhaps you could revisit making these and post a jelly and coconut version of them?
    Thanks for the recipe! 🙂

    • Alison March 6, 2019, 11:05 pm

      I have re-read the jelly comments and I think we made normal strength jelly, not how someone said to use only one cup of boiling water … which would be stronger.

    • Fiona Ryan March 10, 2019, 2:38 pm

      I’ve not had any experience with the jelly version but think storage depends on where you live. In Qld, they would have to be stored in the fridge. To be honest, I actually thought the scones might have been rolled in the unmade jelly powder (ie: sugar and food colouring) so to read that they had been dipped was news to me.

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