Ramekins are one of the few baking dishes that actually have their own name, setting them apart from generic sounding “cake pans” and “baking dishes.” Ramekins are small, cylindrical dishes that are used for baking individually-sized dishes. They are ideal for baking small souffles, as their straight sides make it easy for an egg white-based souffle mixture to rise up the sides of the dish and gain a lot of height, as well as for baking individual desserts, since they offer built-in portion control. I’ve use them for little pudding cakes and baked egg cups, and have also used them for chilled desserts, such as panna cotta and chocolate mousse.
Ramekins can be made out of any heat-proof material, and are most often made out of porcelain, pyrex or something similar. They can come in any size, but are most often found in 4-, 6- or 8-ounce volumes. Some will have very shallow sides, but most have a rise of about an inch or so, depending on the size of the dish itself.
Their small size actually makes them useful for applications outside of the oven. For instance, they’re often used when a cook is doing prep work in the kitchen, separating chopped ingredients into individual dishes to be used at a later time. They’re also a nice way to present side servings of dressings, sauces and dips, like the au jus for a french dip sandwich.