Ginger gems

Sometimes it is nice to just bake something simple. Sure, there’s a time and place for fancy cakes and a two day dough process, but mostly we just want something that’s ready to eat in under 30 minutes. Our grandmothers were the queens of fast baking and often they only had a short time in which morning or afternoon tea needed to be ready. I was delving back into my nana’s cookbook to find something quick, when I remembered that I’d inherited her ginger gem irons. Decision made.

As far as I can tell, ginger gems seem to be a uniquely kiwi treat. These little spiced ginger loaves are cooked in cast iron gem tins, and are delicious served warm with butter. Most gem irons now seem to be made with aluminium, so if you see cast iron ones in a second hand shop, grab them! You’ll be buying a little piece of NZ history.


300g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
35g butter, softened
200g sugar
2 eggs
4 tablespoons golden syrup
milk, around ¼c


Preheat your oven to 200°C.
In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and ginger together and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together for a couple of minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs. Mix well, scrape again if necessary, then add the golden syrup. Mix until everything is well incorporated.
Add the flour and mix until just combined, then add enough milk so the mixture is thick enough to spoon. You don’t want it thin enough to pour. I used exactly ¼c. The below photos show the batter before and after the milk has been added.

Pop the ginger gem irons into the hot oven for 5 minutes. Carefully remove them, place them on a heatproof board, and give them a very light spray with a cooking oil. (I’ve just started using an olive oil spray. I used it on these and don’t believe it altered the taste at all.)
Using a dessert spoon, scoop the batter and drop it off the side of the spoon into the gem irons, kind of like a quenelle. You don’t need to spread it to the edges, that’ll happen by itself.
Bake for around 15 minutes, or until the gems are risen and golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. I had to loosen mine with a knife.
If you need to use the same gem iron again, place it back in the oven for 5 minutes, before repeating with greasing, filling, and baking. See the notes below for cleaning your irons.

Serve the ginger gems warm with butter. These are best eaten on the day they’re made. Store them in an airtight container and reheat them the next day.



  • Recipe makes about 18 ginger gems.
  • To clean your irons, fill the sink with hot water and soak them for a couple of minutes. Brush off the crumbs then return them to the still warm oven to dry off.

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