**Please note: To see the photos contained within a post, you must click on the title of the post to open it separately. Why? I don't know. I just know that it needs to be done to see the pics. :)
I love cake. I particularly love cake on the day it’s baked, and fortunately, I love baking too. My grandmother was a wonderful baker, and whenever I make a cake I feel her spirit in the kitchen with me. Admittedly, sometimes her spirit is wondering what on earth I’m doing when I accidently swap teaspoons for tablespoons or burning the pecans when they’re meant to be lightly toasted, but it’s still there, cheering me on!
I was nervous when I started making skillet cakes. My skillets were GREAT for searing meat, or frying eggs, but I wasn’t sure whether the non-stick surface would still work with baking cakes. I also burned the first couple of muffin batches I made, so I was a bit worried about making a mess.
To get around this, I started using parchment paper (baking paper to some) sprayed with a little Pam to line the skillets. I never had a problem with a sticking cake and there was minimal washing up! The only downside is that the cakes were a little uneven, but that didn’t matter when you could cover them in icing!
After a while though I wanted to start making layer cakes, and for that you need a more consistent shape, so I decided to use the old fashioned method of rubbing butter on the inside of the pan, and then dusting with flour. It took a little more attention getting it out of the pan, but it worked perfectly too!
So what should you use? Frankly, it doesn’t matter – try both, and pick what works best for you! Cast iron is nothing if not versatile!
Your cakes will taste great, regardless!
My favorite event of the year is the G&CICA National Conference. G&CICA is the Griswold & Cast Iron Cookware Association (http://www.gcica.org/), and it’s full of people who love vintage cast iron as much – or even more! – than me.
Folks bring fabulous iron from all over the country to sell, trade, or just show off. It’s traditionally one of our biggest buying events of the year, though last year’s Simmons Auction, and a couple of collections have eclipsed that.
The event is held in a different city every year. Last year was Springfield, MO and this year it was Baton Rouge, LA from 19-22 April. Baton Rouge was a great pick this year, as my home city of Minneapolis had 2 feet of snow drop in a blizzard the weekend before I left.
Most years, the event starts on the Thursday, with check-in day, but not this year! Two of the hosts, Clayton M. and Malinda F. started the the party early, and invited everybody over to their house for a southern meal. They brought their friends in to help, and there were multiple grills going out the back of the house, with everything from crawdads to alligator!
The next day was the official start, and check-in day. It’s meant to be an easy day where people check in, get their registration kit, and unpack, but it’s full of catching up with old friends, and best of all – Room Sales! Many G&CICA Members bring boxes and boxes of cast iron to sell. These people know what they’re doing, so most of the pieces have been cleaned and seasoned. I always reclean and re-season every piece I get, but having all the hard scrubbbing done by somebody else is quite the blessing.
I think my favorite score from Room Sales was this Selden & Griswold Waffle Iron from the late 1800’s.
It has a button hinge, and a circular waffle pattern. Thank you, Sonny McCarter for such a cool piece! This one is going into my private collection. Sorry folks!
The serious iron starts on Friday, with Show & Tell of interesting and unique pieces that people have collected in their travels!
Bob Kellerman was the next speaker. He had just retired from being the CEO of Lodge Manufacturing, and had a 48 year career with the company. He is the direct descendent of Joe Lodge, who founded Lodge Manufacturing in 1910. Of all the foundries that our vintage pans come from, Lodge is the only one still in operation today.
Bob was an interesting, and highly entertaining speaker. Of course there was a Q&A afterwards, and if there was one crowd that was going to stump the guy who’d know the most about Lodge, it was G&CICA Members!
Not only that, he generously gave everybody in the audience a Lodge Skillet to take home. What a cool gift! Bob stayed around to talk cast iron and answer questions for quite some time after the presentation.
The first afternoon presentation was something special. Joel Schiff had been an avid cast iron collector, and an incredibly knowledgeable member of G&CICA and WAGS (Wagner and Griswold Society). He had a 10,000 piece collection of both American and European cast iron cookware, and his big dream was to create a cast iron museum. His heirs have been working towards that dream, and have spent thousands of hours cataloging his collection. You can see some of his pieces at http://schiffcastironcollection.com/.
That evening was the cast iron auction. I love cast iron auctions!
Items are laid out on tables so you can check their condition, and give them a closer look prior to bidding.
Everybody is furtively making notes on condition and their maximum bid, and trying not to let anybody else see them.
There were all kinds of cool items, pretty much every size skillet and dutch oven, a George Washington Bicentennial Skillet Lid, a Wagner No. 13 pie logo skillet, toys of all shapes and sizes, hammered items, a Wearever salesman sample cast, and what was really cool – a set of Wapak Indianhead pieces, not only skillets in multiple sizes, but waffle irons too!
I try and look casual about the things that really excite me (like the Griswold Loaf Pan, and the Lodge Acorn skillet), whilst keeping an eye on who else is lingering in front of those items. Will I have fierce competition with deep pockets?
One cool piece is the aluminum Wagner Oven Skillet to the left.
It has a wooden handle that you can remove – so you don’t have to worry about the handle getting hot, or catching on fire (if you’re on a campfire).
It was made in the 1930’s, and in retrospect, I wish I’d bid on it. I’d love to take this camping!
The auction took several hours. I was exceedingly pleased to get both a Griswold Loaf Pan, and the Lodge Acorn Pan. Of course, I ended up with more pans (and a blue Griswold Skillet Cover) than I planned but that’s pretty normal for me!
We had a treat when G&CICA Member, and retired cattle auctioneer Harold Henry (pictured) jumped in to auction off a few pieces. Harold has an extensive collection, with a preference for Lodge. Pan Handler founder Mary wrote a blog on his collection, which you can read here.
A confession – every auction I go to, I seem to make one mistake. This year I wasn’t paying attention, and launched into some enthusiastic bidding for what I thought was a set of pans. When I won, I was surprised to find out I won a #3 Griswold Lid! I’d jumped in one lot too early! Fortunately I was able to sell the lid to another member.
I studiously avoided the swap meet the next morning. I had overspent my budget at the auction the night before, and the last thing I needed was more temptation! Not only that, I had – perhaps foolishly – flown to this event, rather than driven, so my ability to transport cast iron back to Minnesota was limited.
I did make it to a talk on the Martin Stove & Range Co from Florence, Alabama. Did you know that Lodge made some of Martin’s skillets for them? If you find a vintage pan with the customary Lodge 3-notch heat rin, but a Martin logo on it, you’ll know what it is! I’ve uploaded some photos of the lesser known Martin pieces below.
Later that afternoon, members displayed the more interesting parts of their collections during Table Topics. Personally, I would be happy with an entire day of table topics, there is never enough time to talk to people about their pieces!
As you all know, I have a special place in my heart for hammered pieces, and local boy Eric McAllister had just the table for me, with a hammered muffin pan, hammered corn stick pan, hammered griddle…. hammered everything!
Following Table Topics was the club’s Annual General Meeting, and at night was the Banquet! It was the best kind of banquet too, with lots of prizes, and very few speeches! I even won a Service Award, for helping with both the club’s newsletter and website, so I came away with TWO free skillets from this conference!
Next year, the event is being held in Florence, KY (right near Cincinnati, OH) and I can assure you of two things:
1. I’m driving, not flying, and 2. I”m taking a Very Big Trailer for all my cast iron!
PS – If you want to join G&CICA and come to this, and other events around the USA, you can join right here. The membership fee is $25 per person, or $30 for a family. Tell them Anna sent you!
This, as you know, is cast iron blog. I usually post about cooking, or cleaning, or identifying cast iron cookware, or fabulous collections that enthusiasts have shared with us.
Today though, is Veterans’ Day, so instead of talking about cast iron, I will start by talking about my grandfather.
My grandfather’s birthday was July 4, and this year he would have turned 100.
He was an army sergeant in World War 2. He was a Rat of Tobruk, battling Rommel’s forces in Libya, caught a spy, and fought in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, where he contracted malaria and was retired honorably from the Army.
He went on to live a happy, peaceful life as a suburban accountant, raising his family, gardening, volunteering in the community and enjoying a glass of scotch every day at 5pm.
My grandfather, however, was not unscathed. He refused to watch anything on television associated with war. He couldn’t talk about his time fighting the Japanese in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, and there was a very strict rule in our house that under no circumstances could we slam a door of any kind, for he would leap into the air in shock, thinking the house was under attack.
Back in those days, returned soldiers were understood to have missing limbs, or horrific physical scars, but there was no acknowledgement of the psychological wounds that would be inflicted. They were left untreated. We were fortunate enough that my grandfather was able to have a happy life with softly closing doors and judicious changing of the television channel, but others were not so fortunate.
In writing this, I could find plenty of data on the numbers of soldiers killed in the world wars, or how many were wounded, but nothing on suicide rates, or alcoholism, or fractured families or domestic violence of returned combat veterans from that era. There were only whispers in one’s family or village that a person who had returned “was never the same”.
It seems to me that there are many ways for a soldier to die on the battlefield. Your heart doesn’t always have to stop beating, the eyes stop seeing and the limbs stop moving. They may still come home, but they are strangers, both to themselves and their families. The person they were has died. The body may continue on, or it may blow its head off, or hang itself in the barn, but that person died at war.
So today, let us remember, and respect, and thank all our veterans, the living, the thriving, the surviving, and the fallen.
You are all our warriors in the service to our country, and we wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms we do today without you.
Stephanie from the Pacific North West wanted to know more about this Griswold Corn Bread Pan.
This corn bread pan was one of Griswold’s most prolific baking pans. Even though it has “Corn Bread Pan” inscribed on the underside, it is known as the “Griswold No. 22 Bread Stick Pan, pattern number 954” and was made in Erie, Pennsylvania from the 1880’s all the way up to the 1950’s. According to the book ‘Griswold Muffin Pans’ by Jon B. Haussler (available from Amazon here) there are 15 (!!!!) known variations of this pan.
Stephanie’s pan is variation 12, which is one of the most common variations of this pan. It’s one of the later iterations of the pan, and has the hanging holes (which started appearing in Variation 7) and the Griswold name inscribed on the underside (which started in Variation 10).
Whilst there are no particularly rare variations, many collectors have fun trying to hunt down them all. These pans are pretty easy to find, in flea markets, antique stores or garage sales. We always have some of these (usually Variation 15, below) available on the site too.
Don’t think you’re limited to just making bread sticks in them – I made crab cakes in a bread stick pan during a fun competition that founder Mary had a couple of years ago. She even wrote a blog post about it here (with recipe)!
All in all, this is a fun, accessible baking pan to have.
Happy Cooking, Stephanie!
Question: Bill C from Virginia wrote “I have a Griswold #11 or model 717 fry pan. It works good with gas but I want to use it on a flat surface electric stove. Can I grind down the ring on bottom side of pan without affecting function of pan?”
Anna’s Answer: You can use pans with heat rings on electric stoves, so I’m wondering if the pan already has a significant wobble, or maybe some warpage.
Many vintage pans, particularly the larger ones, do have a small amount of movement. This doesn’t preclude them from being used on all cooking surfaces, a pan doesn’t need to be pancake flat, but if it has a severe rock or it spins, or you can slide something bigger than a nickel under the side then it’s not going to be a good cooker on a flat cooking surface such as an electric stove or induction cooktop. Of course, if you have raised burners such as with a gas range, or you want to use it in the oven or camping, you’ll be just fine. Mary wrote a great blog on pan movement here.
Let’s say Bill’s pan does have a big wobble, and preheating the pan isn’t enough to compensate. Bill can grind his heat ring down, but how flat the surface would be will depend on a combination of how evenly the heat ring is removed, and how flat the pan is otherwise, so Bill needs to be careful to stop at various times during the grinding process, and check how flat is pan is, and where the wobbles might be. This way he can adjust until both the heat ring is removed, and the pan sits flat on his stove.
After all, once you’ve ground something off, you can’t put it back on again, so be very conservative in your approach!
It’s important to note that grinding the heat ring off a Griswold such as this will reduce its value, and its desirability as a collector’s item. Generally, the Griswold #11’s are harder to find than the #10’s or #12’s, so personally I would acquire another pan, or another stove, before doing this.
It’s clear though that you want to use this pan, rather than have it for decoration, so if the value to you lies in its function, rather than its resale, then the change in value doesn’t matter.
Bill C – I hope you can let us know what you decide to do, and if you do grind the heat ring off, tell us how it went, and send a few photos!