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What are Muffin Cups?

O. Wallace
O. Wallace

No breakfast buffet would be complete without the requisite muffin. Before manufactured muffin tins, the early muffin most likely started out as a small cake or roll made as a variation of a favorite bread or cake. With the advent of muffin cups, bakers and homemakers could make several uniform muffins more easily than making them individually or with the use of muffin rings.

The word muffin may have one of two etymologies: either from the French word moufflet, meaning “soft,” or the German word, muffe or “cake.” Early muffin cups were referred to as “gem” pans, and were more oval or tablet like in shape than today’s round muffin cups. Manufactured pans along with prepackaged mixes in the 1950s propelled what are known as “American muffins” to the forefront of breakfast and snack foods.

Muffin cups may be made from silicone.
Muffin cups may be made from silicone.

Today, you can easily find the traditional muffin cup pan in aluminum, stainless steel, cast iron, non-stick, and the newest fad in cooking, silicone. They not only vary in material used, but also in size, number of muffin cups per sheet, muffin shape and theme. Muffin cups typically come in mini (in sheets of 12 to 24), regular, jumbo and king size. Typically, mini muffin cups measure ¾ inch (1.9 cm) deep, and are 1 5/8 inches (4.12 cm) across on the top and 1 ¼ inches (3.17 cm) across the bottom. Standard muffin cups usually have a 3.5 ounce (99 g) capacity, come in sheets of 6 to 12, and vary in size depending upon manufacturer. Jumbo and king size muffin cups are even bigger, depending upon the manufacturer.

In addition to size, muffin cups are available in a variety of shapes and themes. There are sheets of mini bundt muffin cups, tube muffins, rose shaped bundt muffins, cups in the shape of pineapples, shells, hearts and even the alphabet. For lovers of popovers, many muffin cup manufacturers make popover pans as well. The newest twists on muffin making include silicone muffin cup trays and individual silicone muffin cups for use on a cookie sheet. There are even muffin cups that you can use to make muffin tops — made a pop-culture icon by an episode of Seinfeld.

Along with the variety of muffin cups is an equally diverse selection of paper and foil liners, which help keep your muffin cups clean and facilitate easier transport of the cupcakes and muffins. They are available in a range of colors and designs to fit any party theme or occasion.

Discussion Comments


You can still get the old gem shaped pans. In fact you can still make "gems" which seem to be closer to a small cake than a muffin. I've made ginger gems several times and they turn out lovely.

I'm not sure what the difference is that they require the square or oblong tins, but they come out looking very nice and are a good contrast in a plate of different small cakes. Particularly as cupcakes and muffins and most cookies are round.

I always dust them with a little bit of icing sugar as well, and eat them still warm from the oven. Yum!


I really like using silicon muffin cups because they are so easy to use. You can just pop the muffins out by bending the pan, although you need to be careful when you are putting them in, because it might flop over and spill the muffin batter.

I do find them a bit difficult to clean though, as they seem to hold stains a little bit. So, if you burn the muffins, even just a little bit, it can stay on there.

As long as you don't burn them, and thoroughly grease the silicon beforehand though, I think it is the best way to go.

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    • Muffin cups may be made from silicone.
      By: nito
      Muffin cups may be made from silicone.