27 Nov
Iced Gems: A Colourful Journey Through Time

Iced Gems are a cherished British classic that stand out as a timeless favourite. These colourful and vibrant, bite-sized sweet biscuits have been a beloved snack for generations, transcending time and trends. Join me, as I delve into their colourful history, revealing how they have stood the test of time. 

What is an Iced Gem?

McVitie's Iced Gems consist of a flat and crunchy, circular biscuit base, topped with a dollop of hardened, fruit-flavoured icing sugar in different colours. They come in a 23g share bag which is blue and white and features a cartoon polar bear on the front.

Homemade iced gems often have a softer topping of icing and a more buttery biscuit, and you will find our recipe at the end of this post.

Packet of McVitie's Iced Gems and Unicorn Gems from 2023.

Origins and history

Iced Gems have a rich history that traces back to the United Kingdom. The first commercial production of the sweet biscuit took place in the 1850s, and is attributed to Huntley & Palmers, a renowned British biscuit manufacturer. However, the original product did not have any icing. 

The miniature-sized biscuits were accidentally created while the company was experimenting with biscuit making machinery, but liked what they saw. So, instead of simply binning them, they decided to name them Gems and sell them commercially. 

In 1910, the company came up with the genius idea of adding a swirl of colourful icing on top, giving them their iconic look - and we're all very grateful for this decision!

Huntley & Palmers was founded in 1822 by Thomas Huntley and George Palmer. Their Reading-based biscuit factory was once the biggest on the planet, before its closure in 1970.

Iced Gems are currently manufactured under the McVitie's branding, which is owned by United biscuits, and the icing is in the three flavours Blackcurrant (purple), Raspberry (white) and Lemon (yellow). However, the modern version contains no artificial colours or flavours, and no hydrogenated vegetable oil.  

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 

Bag of McVitie's Choc Gems featuring a brown bear with a cream background.

Choc Gems and Unicorn Gems

McVitie's Choc Gems contain brown swirls of smooth, brown icing. They are highly rated by many customers on popular UK supermarket websites and are widely available.

In 2019, McVitie's launched their Unicorn Gems. However, although the colours are prettier, in white, lilac, purple and yellow, the flavours are exactly the same as the standard Iced Gems. These are not currently available and have been discontinued.

How many calories are in a bag of Iced Gems?

A 23g bag of Mcvitie's Iced Gems contains 92 calories (kcal), 389kJ, 0.7g of fat, 0.3g saturates, 11.9g sugars and 0.15g salt.

This is a full list of ingredients in McVitie's Iced Gems;

Sugar, Flour (Wheat Flour, Calcium, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin), Vegetable Oil (Palm), Raising Agent (Sodium Bicarbonate), Salt, Milk Protein, Colour (Anthocyanins), Vegetable Extracts (Safflower, Radish), Natural Flavourings, Natural Lemon Flavouring with other Natural Flavourings.

Nostalgia factor

For many, Iced Gems hold a special place in their hearts as a nostalgic treat from childhood. The sight of the small, brightly coloured biscuits can instantly transport individuals back to simpler times, filled with school lunches, play dates, and the joy of discovering a favourite snack in the pantry. The nostalgia associated with Iced Gems is a testament to the enduring appeal of these timeless treats.

Versatility and creativity

While Iced Gems are delightful on their own, their small size and colourful appearance make them a versatile ingredient in creative culinary endeavours. Some enthusiasts use them to decorate cakes and cupcakes, adding a playful and whimsical touch to baked goods. Others incorporate them into ice cream sundaes or yogurt parfaits for a burst of colour and sweetness.

Wooden bowl filled with iced gems (mixed colours)

Make your own Iced Gems

It's fair to say that the commercially available products have a rather hard texture and look and feel artificial. So why not bake your own delicious home-made iced gems?

The Dr. Oetker website has an excellent iced gems recipe, which requires just 7 simple ingredients. Or try this 25 minute recipe on the Great British Food Awards website.

Ice Gems recipe

Here's how to make your own home-made iced gems;


For the Biscuits:

  • 200g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 100g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 50g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt

For the Icing:

  • 200g (1 1/2 cups) icing sugar (powdered sugar)
  • 1 egg white
  • Food colouring (various colours)



  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and a pinch of salt, and mix well.
  4. Gradually add the flour to the mixture, mixing until a soft dough forms.
  5. Roll the dough into small balls, about the size of a marble, and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Make sure to leave enough space between each ball.
  6. Flatten each ball slightly with the back of a fork or your fingers.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 10–12 minutes, or until the edges are lightly golden.
  8. Allow the biscuits to cool completely on a wire rack.


  1. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy.
  2. Gradually add the icing sugar, whisking continuously until you have a smooth, thick icing.
  3. Divide the icing into separate bowls and add a few drops of food colouring to each bowl. Mix well until you achieve your desired colours. Less is more, and if you want pastel colours then one drop may be enough.
  4. Once the biscuits are completely cooled, use a small spoon or a piping bag to add a dollop of icing on top of each biscuit. You can create patterns or designs with the icing.
  5. Allow the icing to set before serving.

We hope you have found our Ice Gems: A Colourful Journey Through Time post informative and useful.

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