Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Muffin Rings, Muffin Pans

Initially muffins were what we call "English Muffins" - a yeast dough cooked on a griddle in muffin rings.  Later American recipes for a cake-like muffin used pans or cups.  Both types of muffins with recipes, and the rings and pans are described below. ...


Recently I started researching muffins... actually I tried to find how early in the 19th century apple muffins or apple cake using chunks of fresh apples [not dried or fresh apples cooked down to marmalade] were made. 

A picture of cakes baked in cups [1906] can be seen in my blog posting for "cup cakes" HERE and more info on cups, patty pans, saucers I posted in "Queen Cakes" HERE

The muffins were to be baked on a griddle or "... an iron plate... about eighteen inches square and three quarters of an inch thick. The surface should be perfectly level and very smooth, though not polished." [Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine, 1861] To "... prepare the griddle as for buckwheat cakes... "heat the griddle, and rub it hard with a coarse cloth; have a piece of pork about four inches square on a fork; rub the griddle with it..."   [Dollar Monthly Magazine. Boston: 1864]

The dough, made with yeast, was formed "...into round ball-like shape…for two hours to prove." [Godey] "...butter the muffin-rings;Set the rings on to the griddle, filling them half full of the batter; bake them about five minutes; then turn them with the rings, or bake them in the oven about fifteen or twenty minutes. [Dollar]  The muffins and rings were to be turned "...by means of a knife somewhat resembling a painter's palette knife, only broader and longer, sufficiently thin to bend easily, and about sixteen Inches in length."  [Godey]

After the early muffins were baked, they were toasted.  “When you eat them, toast them crisp on both sides, then with your hand pull them open, and they will be like a honeycomb; lay in as much butter as you intend to use, then clap them together again, and set it by the fire. When you think the butter is melted turn them, that both sides may be buttered alike, but do no touch them with a knife, either to spread or cut them open, if you do they will be as heavy as lead, only when they are buttered and done, you may cut them across with a knife.” [ Glasse, Hannah.  The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy.  London: 1784]

An American author, Parloa, described the English Muffin.  "With little doubt the most delicious of all breakfast muffins is the old-time English muffin, which is never eaten in perfection except fresh from the toasting fork, the English cook never thinking it possible to serve this favorite breakfast dish unless it is first split and toasted by the fire. They are really a bread dough, well floured, baked in a ring on a slow griddle, then turned and baked on the other side. This leaves the centre hardly done, and the muffin is split and toasted on the inside. Served with coffee they are peculiarly sweet."

By 1880, Parloa differentiated the American muffin from the "bread dough" English muffin.  "In this country a muffin usually means a cake baked in moulds in the oven."

Although a couple early recipes mentioned cups rather than rings – such as The Pennsylvania Farm Journal, 1853: "butter your muffin cups," muffin pans appeared in the latter part of the 19th century. Muffin rings continued to be mentioned in recipes into the 20th century.   In an 1872, Parloa presented a recipe for muffins which used saleratus rather than yeast, but still cooked them on a griddle.  A few years later she used soda and muffin pans. [recipes below]  Marion Tyree's Housekeeping in Old Virginia, 1879, had a muffin recipe like pound cake baked in snow-ball cups.

Parloa suggested using muffin pans, muffin cups, and muffin tins since muffin rings were passe. [New Cook Book and Marketing Guide] Next to a sketch of a muffin pan she wrote: "There are muffin pans of tin, Russian iron and granite ware. Those of iron should be chosen last, on account of their weight. It is a good thing to have pans of a number of different shapes, as a variety for the eye is a matter of importance. The muffin rings of former years have done their duty, and should be allowed to rest, the convenient cups, which come in sheets, more than filling their place."

In 18th cen cookbooks, Glasse, Collingwood and Briggs all had a similar long directions, but Mason had a short version.


1777  "English Muffins"  muffin rings
To make Muffins. TAKE two quarts of warm water, two spoonsuls of yeast, three pounds of flower ; beat it well half an hour, and let it stand an hour or two; bake them on an iron bake-stove, (rub it well over with mrttcn-suet, as often as they are to be laid on) as soon as they begin to colour, turn them; when coloured on both sides they are baked enough. [Mason, Charlotte.  The Lady's Assistant. London: 1777]

1872  Saleratus and muffin rings
Muffins, No. 2.
One pint of milk, one cup of sugar, five cups of flour, one teaspoonful of saleratus, two of cream of tartar, two eggs, and butter the size of an egg. Beat the butter and sugar together, and then add the eggs well beaten; with this mix the milk, and then beat in the flour in which the saleratus and cream of tartar have been mixed. Bake in buttered muffin rings in a quick oven. 
[Parloa, Maria.  Appledore Cook Book.  Boston: 1872

1880  Muffins with soda, muffin pans
Muffins, No. 1. One quart of flour, two cupfuls of milk, half a cupful of sugar, two eggs, two teaspoonfuls of cream of tartar, one of soda, half a teaspoonful of salt, butter the size of an egg. Mix the other dry ingredients with the flour, and rub through a sieve. Melt the butter with four table-spoonfuls of boiling water. Beat the eggs light, and add the milk. Stir into the flour, and add the butter. Beat thoroughly. Bake in buttered muffin pans from twenty-five to thirty minutes, in a quick oven.  [Parloa, Maria.  New Cook Book and Marketing Guide. Boston: 1880] 
©2011 Patricia Bixler Reber


  1. I love this blog! I am so glad that you researched this. Do you know when muffin tins started to be manufactured or where I could look it up?

    1. Thanks! According to Linda Franklin's hugh book - Kitchen Collectibles - on April 5, 1859 Nathaniel Waterman patented an "egg pan" of separate cups with cutouts in the cast iron... what would be called gem or muffin pans. The year before he patented roll pans.