by Jane Pettigrew • Photography Courtesy of Replacements, Ltd.
The prettiest tea tables are always dressed with exquisite porcelain teacups and saucers, fine silver teaspoons, little linen napkins, and platters of enticing teatime treats. But other accessories are sometimes required to elegantly present and indulge in this delicious afternoon feast.
Muffin dishes were designed in the 19th century to keep scrumptious hot buttered muffins, hot cinnamon toast, and crumpets warm once they had been prepared in the kitchen and delivered to the tea table. Made of silver, porcelain, or stoneware, the dishes consisted of a deep plate that had a hollow chamber in its base and a domed lid to cover the warm foods. Just before serving, the hollow chamber was filled with piping-hot water through a small aperture that was then sealed with a cork stopper made to match the dish. Handy and charming additions to the teatime ritual, muffin dishes remained popular through the early 20th century and were often designed as part of the tea sets that graced Edwardian and art-deco drawing rooms and family parlors.