The Mid-Autumn Festival is a treasured tradition for many Asian communities worldwide. Families gather under the harvest moon to exchange gifts, light lanterns, and enjoy delicious mooncakes. This year, try making your mooncakes at home to celebrate the occasion. Our simple recipes allow anyone to craft these ornate pastries in their kitchen.
Background on Mooncakes
Mooncakes are a customary treat served at the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is observed on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month. The round shape and imprinted pattern on top symbolize the moon and unity of families.
Traditionally, mooncakes have a thick, tender pastry crust enveloping a sweet filling. The most popular flavors include:
- Lotus seed or bean paste – This sweet, nutty filling contrasts the rich dough.
- Salted egg yolk – The creamy, savory yolk is a prized treasure inside each mooncake.
- Red bean paste – Smooth, sweet adzuki beans are another classic choice.
- Five nuts (wu ren) – A mix of walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, peanuts, and melon seeds makes for great texture.
- Dried fruit and nuts – Various dried fruits like cranberries and dates are often mixed.
While store-bought mooncakes are everywhere nowadays, nothing compares to the satisfaction of homemade. With a little effort, you can craft mooncakes that look and taste better than any bakery.
Helpful Tools and Ingredients
Making mooncakes does require some special equipment and ingredients. Here is what you’ll need:
Mooncake Mold – This metal mold presses the iconic shape and pattern into each mooncake. Wooden molds can also be used.
Kitchen Scale – Measuring the exact weight of dough and filling is key to uniform mooncakes.
Golden Syrup – This thick, amber-colored syrup helps create the soft, moist mooncake crust. Replace sugar in the recipe with an equal amount of golden syrup.
Alkaline Water – Lye water adds flavor, color, and leavening to the dough. Baking soda and water can be substituted.
Neutral Oil – Use a flavorless canola or vegetable oil to keep the crust tender.
Alkaline Water Substitute
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- Sweet bean paste
- Salted duck egg yolks
- Dried fruits and nuts
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp milk
With these components, you’re ready to start prepping your mooncakes!
Step-By-Step Guide to Making Mooncakes
Follow these simple steps to craft picture-perfect mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival:
Make the Filling
For lotus seed or bean paste:
- Soak dried beans overnight, then simmer until tender. Blend into a paste, adding sugar and oil. Cook down into a thick, moldable paste.
For salted egg yolk:
- Separate yolks from raw salted duck eggs. Rinse and pat dry.
- Steam yolks for 5 minutes to cook.
For dried fruits and nuts:
- Toast an assortment of nuts like walnuts and almonds.
- Dice preserved fruits.
- Mix with spices like five-spice powder.
- Add just enough water or oil to hold the mixture together.
Make the Dough
- Mix golden syrup, oil, alkaline water, and flour to form a soft dough.
- Knead briefly until smooth, then rest for 30 minutes.
Assemble the Mooncakes
- Divide dough and filling into equal portions based on desired size.
- Roll the filling into balls and flatten the dough into rounds.
- Place filling in the center of the dough, and pinch closed around the filling.
- Roll dough-encased filling into a ball.
Shape the Mooncakes
- Coat mooncakes in flour to prevent sticking.
- Place into the mold, and press top and bottom to imprint the design.
- Unmold onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Bake the Mooncakes
- Brush tops lightly with egg wash.
- Bake at 375°F for 5 minutes.
- Brush again with egg wash; reduce temperature to 325°F.
- Bake 10-15 more minutes until golden brown.
- Cool completely before serving.
This easy process lets you enjoy bakery-quality mooncakes straight from your oven. Share them proudly with your family to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival this year!
Unique Mooncake Recipes to Try
While traditional lotus seed and salted egg yolk mooncakes are classics, there are also many unique modern flavors to bake. Get creative with these innovative recipes:
Strawberry Cheese Mooncakes
Blend fresh strawberries into a smooth paste for the filling. Add cream cheese for tang and richness. These fruity mooncakes are sure to be a hit with kids.
Matcha Green Tea Mooncakes
For stunning jade-colored mooncakes, mix matcha powder into the dough. Fill them with red bean paste or custard for an irresistible Japanese fusion.
Tropical Fruit Mooncakes
Mango, pineapple, and coconut are fabulous mixed into the filling. Consider a chocolate dough crust for a delicious contrast.
Speculoos Cookie Mooncakes
Crumble crisp speculoos cookies and mix with a hint of cinnamon for the filling—the spiced flavor pairs perfectly with the dough.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Mooncakes
Childhood flavors come together in mooncakes with peanut butter filling and jelly topping. Use grape or strawberry jelly for fun fruitiness.
Helpful Serving Tips
Here are some final tips for serving your freshly baked mooncakes:
- Let mooncakes rest overnight before serving for the best texture.
- Slice each mooncake into wedges and serve with tea for an elegant presentation.
- Store any uneaten mooncakes in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Freeze mooncakes for up to 3 months for longer storage.
- Reheat individual slices for 10-15 seconds to refresh.
Now that you’re armed with simple recipes and baking tips, you can impress your family with homemade mooncakes that look and taste heavenly this Mid-Autumn Festival.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the traditional fillings for mooncakes?
The most common traditional mooncake fillings are lotus seed paste, red bean paste, salted egg yolks, and mixed nuts or dried fruits. These are the most popular fillings found in Chinese bakeries.
Can I make mooncakes without a mold?
A mooncake mold gives them the iconic shape and patterned top, but you can bake mooncakes without one. Shape the filled dough into rounds and bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet. They won’t have the decorative pattern, but they will still taste delicious!
What can I do if my mooncake cracks or sticks to the mold?
Cracking or sticking usually happens when the dough is too warm. Make sure the filled dough balls are chilled before pressing into the molds. Lightly dust both the mooncakes and the interior of the mold with extra flour, which also helps prevent sticking.
How do I get a shiny, golden-brown mooncake crust?
Using an inverted syrup like golden and lye water gives the traditional glossy sheen. Ensure the egg wash is thin and applied gently in two coats. Resting the mooncakes overnight helps the oils distribute evenly for a smooth, shiny crust.
Can I freeze leftover mooncakes?
Yes, mooncakes freeze very well for long-term storage. Store tightly wrapped mooncakes in freezer bags. If eating frozen mooncakes, let them thaw at room temperature and then gently reheat before serving. They will keep for 2-3 months frozen.