Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Muffineer or a Sugar Castor?

Years ago a friend gave me my first 'Muffineer' which has resided in my china cabinet all by itself.  It's silverplate, and stamped made in India, so I know it's not an antique, but I like it anyway.

A couple of weeks ago when I was in my favorite antique store, LaBelle's, I saw another one and bought it.  It too is silverplate, made in India, and was labeled [by the store] as a 'Muffineer.'

Today, while browsing in a gift shop after attending the October tea at O'Mara's [tomorrow's post], I saw another one.  This one was labeled 'Sugar Castor.'  The price was right, and I had a 25% off coupon so it came home with me for $14.73.   Like the others, it's silverplate, and made in India.  

I don't possess a genuine antique Muffineer yet, but with the purchase of this third one I now have an official collection!  ;-)  All three are different heights.

I had to find out their official name - are they muffineers or sugar castors?   Here's what I discovered:  "You may hear a muffineer referred to as a castor [or caster], depending on regional dialect, and it's sometimes called a shaker too which is perfectly acceptable, since that's what it is, but it's official name is a muffineer.  It's a utensil like a large salt shaker for sprinkling sugar, cinnamon, or other granular condiments over muffins." A perfect accoutrement for the tea table.

Our Victorian ancestors loved their sweets and would liberally sprinkle their muffins [and many other edibles] with sugar.  Muffineers were part of the Victorian tableware along with so many other serving utensils.  Many were quite elaborate, and they are very collectible today. They were made from silver, china, porcelain, and/or glass.

With the change in lifestyles after World War I extending into the 1960's, muffineers were referred to as sugar shakers and were no longer as elegant or elaborate.

Muffineers became a part of spice sets, and were used during the homemaker's baking day, rather than being set on the table.  Some, however, were paired up with a cream pitcher and filled with confectionery sugar and set out for desserts, being referred to as berry sugar and cream sets.  At breakfast the set would contain sugar and syrup for pancakes, waffles, or crumpets.

Besides the muffineer and the sugar bowl, there were two other elaborate utensils for sugar. One was a sugar sifting spoon, shaped like a lading spoon with holes in the base.  Sugar was lifted from the bowl and sprinkled over the food or coffee/teacup.  The other item was a sugar scuttle.  It had the shape of a coal scuttle, and was usually accompanied with a shovel style spoon.

I bought a silverplate repro when I visited the Elmwood Inn gift shop before the tea room closed.

Back to muffineers... they range in size from a tall tower of eight inches, but most range from five to seven inches in height.

And just to make things a little more confusing, a muffineer can also be a dish or container for keeping muffins warm, or it can be a vintage, wooden three-tier stand [according to Google images], also called a pie stand or curate stand. Pictured below is one I have that I use to display my teapots.  

Do you collect muffineers in any of its forms?


  1. I have learned something new today! I had never heard of or seen a muffineer, but now I know what they are and what they look like. I wonder, with my new knowledge, if I will see them now when I'm out browsing? I like the "teapot stand" version, too.

  2. I have been stcking antique & vintage muffineers, sugar casters or sugar shakers for years...but then I am a Victoriana and tea nut. Other favorite tea desserts you didn't mention were crumpets buttered with caster sugar (which in England is a super fine granulated sugar) or powdered sugar and also pancakes...really like crepes...with lemon juice and caster or powdered sugar. From a Brit family, we grew up with those. Maple syrup came MUCH later in our lives!

  3. What a great new collection! Whatever you choose to call them, they sure are pretty!


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