Traditional Cantonese-style baked mooncakes with a fragrant thin skin, sweet filling and salted duck egg yolks. A Chinese treat prepared for the mid-autumn festival!
What is the Mid-Autumn festival?
The Mid-Autumn festival occurs on the 15th day of the 8th Lunar month, this year falling on the 21st of September. At this time the moon is the roundest and brightest. This festival was originally a time to celebrate the autumn full moon harvest, in a time of successful harvest families come together to celebrate and appreciate the moon, light lanterns and eat mooncakes!
This is an important day for not only Chinese, but many other South-East Asian cultures, each using the day to celebrate differently!
What are mooncakes?
Mooncakes are a traditional Chinese treat eaten during the Mid-Autumn festival. There are so many different styles of mooncakes, each coming from different areas of China. The filings range from lotus paste, beans, custards, nuts and meats. Yes there are both sweet and savoury kinds!
The most commonly known mooncake is the cantonese-style mooncake, characterised by it's golden and glossy, thin and soft crust with a delicate pattern. The most common filling for these is lotus paste, a sweet paste made from lotus seeds, and salted duck egg yolks. This combination is sweet, fragrant, slightly salty and delicious.
Another popular kind of mooncake are snow-skin mooncakes. These aren't baked and the skin is made from glutinous rice flour. These are often bright and colourful and filled with a variety of fillings from the classic lotus seed paste to custards and even ice-cream. I've got a recipe for coconut and matcha snow-skin mooncakes here!
These mooncakes aren't as labour intensive and have a much soft and slightly chewy texture similar to mochi!
Growing up snow-skin mooncakes were always one of my favourites... but my true favourite is the Shanghainese style savoury pork mooncakes. These have a super flaky crust and are filled with a juicy, pork filling. Growing up these were always a treat my parents would buy me during the mid-autumn festival- but now I make them for everyone to eat!
The mooncake recipe I'm sharing with you all today are traditional Cantonese-style mooncakes. While the method can be a little intimidating at first, if you use store-bought pastes for the filling it's not too difficult and can be a fun project for this years moon festival!
You'll notice that the mooncakes have an intricate pattern on the surface, these are created using a mooncake mould! There are a lot of moulds easily available online, however they come in a variety of styles and sizes. Traditionally the moulds are carved out of wood, but now they have a plastic variety with interchangeable patterns. Not only do they make it fun because you can change up the design, but it also has an easy release system so you can unmould the mooncakes without much struggle.
When it comes to sizes it depends on what size mooncake you would like to make. I use a 100g mooncake mould which is perfect for two egg yolks and a good amount of filling. However, feel free to use a small mooncake mould and create more small single yolked mooncakes. Link to the one I used is here!
Making mooncakes without lye water
A lot of mooncakes will use lye water to create the skin. Lye water's alkaline properties help the mooncakes take on a deep golden brown colour. However it can be difficult to find lye water, especially in Australia since it's been banned. Lye water is very strong and too much is poisonous! This recipe uses baking soda instead and the results don't pale in comparison.
Many people bake their baking soda to increase its alkalinity, but honestly there is no need.
Simply mix ½ tsp baking soda with the same amount of water and add it to the dough.
You'll find that this does make the dough more crumbly, however it will still form mooncakes easily!
Tips on creating perfect mooncakes
Here are a couple of tips to help you create the perfect mooncake and wow all your family and friends!
- Weigh your filling and dough out
It's important that you carefully portion the dough and skin for the mooncakes as this ensures that it fits into your mould perfectly. It also guarantees a perfect balance between filling and skin.
If you use less it can make it difficult to wrap the filling without it cracking. If there is too much skin the mooncake will have a super thick pastry.
- Lightly oil your moulds
It is important to oil your moulds as the pastry can get stuck in the mould while you are forming the pattern. Use a pastry brush dipped in a little vegetable oil and lightly coat the inside of the mould for easy mooncake release!
- Use baking soda
I use baking soda as a replacement for the traditional lye water, and it works a dream to create beautifully golden brown mooncakes
- Spray your mooncakes with water
Giving your mooncakes a light spritz of water after its first bake adds some moisture back into the skin, preventing it from cracking and helps brown the pastry evenly
- Use a fine brush to glaze your mooncakes
When brushing on the egg wash use a fine brush and get in between the details. If the glaze is baked in-between the delicate patterns it can cause them to blur and lose detail.
- Glaze and bake your mooncakes several times
You can repeat the glaze and bake process as many times as needed to create the perfect golden colour. Keep in mind that after your mooncakes sit for a couple of days the colour will deepen
- Allow your mooncakes to mature
After baking keep your mooncakes in an airtight container at room temperature. This allows the skin to absorb oils from the filling. This increases flavour, colour and glossiness to create the perfect mooncake.
Let's get baking!
If you've never had a mooncake before this is the time to try them out! If you are a fan of traditional mooncakes you'll absolutely love this recipe. Make sure to choose a filling that you love! The fillings are easily accessible at your local Asian grocery, so take your pick from the traditional lotus seed to red bean or even taro!
If you make these make sure leave a comment and rating down below, I would love to know how it went. Also tag me on instagram @catherine.justdessertsau and hashtag #cattycakes so I can see and share your creations.Print
Traditional Mooncake Recipe
- Prep Time: 60
- Cook Time: 20
- Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- Yield: 8 1x
- Category: Cake
- Method: Intermediate
- Cuisine: Chinese
- 230g Plain flour (1 ¾ cup + 4 tsp )
- 130g Golden syrup (⅓ cup + 1 tsp)
- 50g Vegetable oil (3 tbsp 1 tsp)
- ½ tsp Baking soda
- ½ tsp Water
- 1kg Filling of your choice (red bean paste, lotus paste, chestnut paste, sesame paste, etc.) (35oz)
- 16 Salted duck egg yolks
- 1 Egg yolk
- 1 tsp Egg white
- ¼ tsp Sesame oil
- ¼ tsp Golden syrup
- 1 tsp Water
- Mix baking soda and water together in a small bowl
- Combine flour, golden syrup, vegetable oil and baking soda mixture together in a mixing bowl
- Stir the mixture until a shaggy dough forms, then knead with your hands to form a dough
- Form the dough into a rough ball and cover with cling wrap
- Allow the dough to rest for 1 hour
- Meanwhile prepare the filling
- Using a scale portion out each mooncake's filling with two egg yolks and your choice of filling- the total weight should be approximately 75g
- Enclose the egg yolks in the filling and roll into a ball
- Continue with the remaining filling and form 8 portions of filling, set aside until use
Assembly + Egg wash
- Preheat the oven to 180C/355F
- Uncover the rested mooncake skin dough and portion into 8 x 50g portions, roll into balls
- Place one portion between two pieces of cling wrap and roll into a circle that will enclose the filling
- Remove the rolled dough from the cling wrap and carefully cover the portioned filling, bringing the edges together and shaping to close gaps
- Place the mooncake ball on a baking tray lined with baking paper, smooth side up
- Lightly oil the mooncake mould (I used a 100g mould) and use it to press the ball into a mooncake shape
- Remove the mould and repeat with the remaining filling
- Bake the mooncakes for 6 minutes
- Remove from the oven and lightly spray with water, prepare the egg wash as they cool
- Combine all egg wash ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until combined
- Using a small food-safe brush lightly brush the mooncakes with the egg wash
- Bake for another 6 minutes
- Remove the mooncakes from the oven and brush with another layer of egg wash
- Increase the oven to 200C/390F and bake the mooncakes for 10 minutes, until golden brown
- Remove from the oven and cool completely before placing in an airtight container
- Allow the mooncakes to sit at room temperature for 2-3 days for the skin to soften and soak up oils from the filling, the colour will deepen and the skin will become glossy
- Store at room temperature for up to a week and enjoy!
Keywords: mooncake, traditional, double yolk, egg yolk, duck egg, baked mooncake, moon cake, red bean, chestnut, lotus, mid-autumn festival