Mooncake is a Chinese dessert that has been enjoyed for centuries. It’s traditionally eaten during the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, and it’s definitely worth a try! Mooncakes come in many flavors, colors, shapes, and sizes. They are usually round or rectangular and filled with different kinds of sweet fillings such as lotus seed paste.

Learn how to make traditional Chinese mooncakes with egg yolk, and collect all the important tips for the perfect Mooncake for the Chinese Mid Autumn Day.

mooncakes|China Sichuan Food
mooncake with black sesame filling
mooncakes|China Sichuan Food
Mooncake with yolk and lotus seed paste

Mooncakes- overpriced Chinese gifts

Elaine was born on a Mid Autumn day 30 years ago. Eating mooncakes and homemade sticky rice cake along with the birthday cake have been our family activities for 30 years.

Mooncakes have become increasingly popular over the years and are now considered a luxury item. We bought well-pancaked mooncakes and use them as gifts for families and friends, this has led to them becoming quite expensive — some Chinese delicacies can cost up to 500 Chinese Yuan ($71 USD) per piece! But the ingredients used for mooncakes are quite simple and humble.

Types of mooncakes

Since it has a great popularity, we also developed lots of other types of mooncakes from no-baking versions- snow skin versions made with wrappers from sticky rice flour to traditional versions made from particular dough combinations and fillings like lotus seed paste or red bean paste. Other more modern mooncake recipes have also risen in popularity, such as Oreo mooncakes.

Shapes of Mooncakes- with the mold

Starting last year, Elaine makes mooncakes for my family instead of purchasing some from the market. Chinese eat mooncakes to celebrate family reunion day. In order to make the mooncake, you need to buy mooncake molds. Those mooncake molds are either round or square-shaped. We also have flower mooncake molds now. Most of the traditional mooncakes are round. The roundness symbolizes completeness and reunion. Family members usually share mooncakes together.

Mooncake Fillings

Mooncakes fillings can be different too. Recently mooncakes are a large group, for example, Su style savory mooncakes(minced pork as filling), snow skin mooncake (this one does not need baking), Yunnan ham and flower mooncakes, ice cream mooncakes, chocolate mooncakes, etc.

We even heard of reman noodles mooncake this year. Cantonese sweet mooncakes usually use different pastes, nuts, and egg yolk as the ingredients for the filling including lotus seed paste, red bean paste, black sesame paste, mung bean pastes, or mixed nuts(五仁月饼). 

Lye water (枧水)

Lye water sometimes called alkaline salt is an alkaline solution. Tradition Chinese lye water is made with Kansui powder (蓬灰) and alkaline. But today’s version is a combined alkaline solution containing potassium carbonate and sodium carbonate. The ingredient label on the store-bought bottle contains 80% pure water, 15% sodium carbonate, and 5% potassium carbonate. The lye water can raise the alkalinity (pH) to neutralize the acid in the golden syrup. Baking soda does too, but sodium hydroxide is far more potent. Another purpose is the Maillard reaction, which is responsible for the crisping and browning of crust skins.

Where to get lye water and how to substitute

Lye water might quite hard to find.  Lye water You can try to search for it at large Asian stores, especially with lots of bakery ingredients.  There are several approaches to making substitutes for lye water used in mooncakes. They might work slightly differently
but can yield a very similar result.

Approach 1: dietary alkali powder with clean water at a ratio of 1:4.
Approach 2: If you use baking soda directly, you will get a much softer and less browned crust. So first bake baking soda on a lined baking tray at 120 degrees C  for around 1 hour to turn it into stronger alkali. Do not touch it during the process to prevent skin irritation. And then mix 1 teaspoon of baked soda with 4 teaspoons of water.
Approach 3:
A better substitute than baking soda due to its high pH is sodium carbonate. The pH value is between the pH of baking soda and lye water. I find this one on amazon.

mooncake ingredients|golden syrup

Golden syrup

known as artificial honey usually used in moon cakes and other cakes to replace sugar. It can add a sweet taste, create a deep dark color of the final cakes and maintain the water. You can either choose the homemade version or a store-bought version.
If there is any chance that you need to make mooncakes soon and do not want to bother simmering for 40 minutes or access Asian stores, you can replace golden syrup with honey at the same amount. I have tested several batches last year. Honey can work as a reliable substitute. The following picture is the batch using honey instead of golden syrup. There is little difference in texture and taste, but it yields a light color compared with the ones using golden syrup.

I have tested several times with my fellow housewives, golden syrup can be replaced by honey.

mooncakes made with honey
mooncakes made with honey instead of golden syrup
mooncakes three days after baking
mooncake with golden syrup

💭Tips for homemade Mooncakes

  1. You need a kitchen scale to measure all the ingredients, accurate amount really matters to the final texture and taste.
  2. Success mooncakes=well balanced taste+well wrapped fillings+well kept shape (including the clear pattern on the surface)
  3. If you are using homemade paste filling, make sure your paste is dry enough. Moist fillings might cause cracks on the skin.
  4. Cover all the fillings and divided the wrapper dough with a plastic wrapper to prevent drying out.
  5. Do not use too much flour to dust, otherwise, it influences the pattern.
  6. Mooncake assembling needs patience and skill.  I even spoil my first one during this batch(as it is my first batch this year). But wearing plastic gloves can make the process easier. But be gentle and slow down when pushing the wrapper up.

How to Make Mooncake at home

Attention: The following recipe is based on 7: 3 (filling vs wrapper) for 14 moon cakes around 50g. If you want to use a ratio of 8:2, adjust the ingredients accordingly.  And this is based on a 50g moon cake shaping tool. If your egg yolk is too large, divide them into halves and wrap it in two moon cakes.  I am using New Moon Cake Decoration Mold mold to shape my moon cakes.

Mooncake dough wrapper

prepare all the other ingredients: golden syrup, alkaline water, flour, and vegetable oil together. Combine golden syrup with vegetable oil and alkaline water in a large mixing bowl. Add flour in. Mix well. Knead to a ball, wrap with a plastic wrapper, and knead several times until smooth. Reset for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator.

mooncake skin

Firstly all of the fillings should be prepared previously. I usually make them on the previous day. I combine lotus seed paste, mung bean paste, red bean paste, and black sesame paste this time. But it is ok if you choose only one filling.

Prepare the egg yolk

If you can find fresh salted duck egg, crack the egg and then wash the egg yolk in clean water. Set aside to drain before using. If you are using packaged salted duck egg yolk, remember to sprinkle some white spirit (白酒) on the surface to remove raw taste.

Prepare the filling

I made 14 mooncakes in the video tutorial and 8 of them are loaded with salted egg yolk (Measure: egg yolk+paste filling=35g) and 6 of them are pure filling (30g).

Wrap the egg yolk with the filling

Carefully shape it into a round ball and set it aside. It is quite important to cover all of the ready fillings with plastic wrappers to prevent drying out. 

  1. When the crust dough is ready, use a kitchen scale to divide them into 14 balls (each 15g). Take one portion of the wrapper, press it into a round wrapper (larger is better but do not break the wrapper), and then place one filling ball in the center.
  2. Push the wrapper from bottom to top little by little until the whole ball is completely wrapped.
  3. Shape it into a round ball. This step can help to make the skin as even as possible. Then slightly shape the ball into an oval so you can easily place it into the mold.
  4. Dust your mold with flour and then shake it several times to remove the extra amount of flour. Use a mooncake mold to shape it.
  5. When the assembling process is done, coat the ball with a layer of flour. Also, coat your tool, please. Place the ball on your board, then carefully cover it with the shaping tool, press the rod, and gently remove the cake from the tool.
Chinese traditional mooncake step--asseme the mooncake

How to bake mooncake

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C  (356F). Spaying a very very thin layer of water on the surface of the mooncake can help to avoid cracking surfaces. But too much water will spoil the pattern on the surface. Bake for 5 minutes to firm the shape.
In a small bowl, whisk one egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of egg whites.  Transfer the mooncakes out and brush a very very very thin layer of egg wash on the surface. Low the oven temperature to 170 degrees C and put them back in the oven and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes. I baked around 16 minutes.

Mooncakes |China Sichuan Food

When well-baked, transfer out the cooling rack to cool down completely.


How to keep Mooncakes

When the mooncakes are out of the oven, the skin is not oily like the ones on the market. We need the last step: place them in an airtight container (I am using a single package as I need to ship them to my family). Wait for around 1 or 2 days for the pasty to become soft (This process is named”回油”, meaning the process of returning the oil to the surface). After this last step, mooncakes can be kept for around 2 weeks in the fridge.

Mooncakes |China Sichuan Food

Other mooncake recipes

1. Snow skin mooncakes – no baking, a super soft and lovely wrapper made from sticky rice flour.
2. Nuts mooncake – if you are tired of sweet filling, check out this version with lots of nuts.

snow skin mooncake with custard filling
snow skin mooncake with custard filling
mooncakes with nuts|
Nuts Mooncakes

Chinese Mooncakes—Traditional Version

Traditional Cantonese Chinese Mooncakes.
5 from 14 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: mooncake
Servings: 14 Making 14 moon cakes (50g*8 and 45g*6)
Calories: 178kcal
Author: Elaine


Wrapper dough

  • 115 g plain flour
  • 28 g peanut oil ,around 2 tablespoons, or other vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon flour for coating the tool
  • 75 g golden syrup homemade or store bought
  • 2 g lye water


  • 8 salted egg yolks ,each 10g
  • 380 g bean paste or black sesame filling ,25g*8+30g*6

egg wash:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon egg white


To make the wrapper

  • Combine lye water, golden syrup, and vegetable oil in a small bowl and then mix with flour. Stir until well combined. Wrap with plastic wrapper and then knead several times until smooth. Set aside in fridge for 2-3 hours.
  • Transfer out and then divide into 14 equal balls (each one 15g)


  • Measure the fillings for egg yolk mooncake: paste+ egg yolk=35g. Measure the fillings for pure paste filling: paste filling=30g. Wrap the egg yolks with paste firstly. And shape all the filling into round balls. Take one portion of the wrapper, press into a round wrapper and then place one filling ball in center. Push the wrapper from bottom to top little by little until the whole ball is completely sealed. Shape it into a round ball firstly and then into an oval.Slightly dust your mooncake tool and press the rod and gently remove the cake from the tool.
  • Preheat oven to 180C (356F). Spray a very thin layer of water on surface to avoid cracking surface (especially you used larger amount of dusting flour). Bake for 5 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, whisked the egg yolk and combine with egg whites. Transfer mooncakes out and brush a very thin layer of egg wash on the surface.
  • Continue bake for around 15 to 20 minutes until the mooncake becomes well browned.
  • Transfer out to a cooling down crack to cool down completely. Place in an airtight containers. Wait for around 1 or 2 days for the pasty to become soft and oily. After the “oil return” process, keep the mooncakes in fridge up to 2 weeks.



For mooncakes, smaller duck egg yolk around 10 grams each one is highly recommended. If your egg yolks are larger, for example near 20g. Divide it into two halves and wrap in two moon cakes.
When pushing the outer wrappers, be carefully and slow down your process. Do not break the wrapper. If you do, pinch any small holes together. The time needed for assemble one moon cake should be around 1 minute even you are quite skilled. Be patient during the process.


Calories: 178kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 125mg | Sodium: 7mg | Potassium: 20mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 165IU | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 1.1mg

How to serve mooncakes

With tea or coffee: Mooncakes can be served as a dessert with tea or coffee. Chinese mooncakes are usually served as a snack in the afternoon and can be enjoyed with family and friends. Chinese mooncakes are a perfect companion for Chinese tea. Chinese people often pair the pastry with Chinese tea such as pu-erh or oolong. The flavor of tea can bring out the sweetness and fragrance of Chinese mooncakes. To serve Chinese mooncakes, you should first slice them into small wedges for easier sharing.

Serve as breakfast: Mooncakes can also be served as breakfast. Chinese people enjoy mooncakes with hot soy milk or even congee in the morning. It contains a lot of nutritious ingredients such as sesame, nuts, Chinese dates, and lotus seeds. So will be a good energy boost for a day.

FAQs about Mooncakes

What’s inside mooncakes

You may encounter different types of fillings in a mooncake, including but not limited to the followings: red bean paste, lotus seed paste, mung bean paste, date paste, taro paste, black sesame paste, mixed nuts, custard filling, salted egg yolk or even pork.

Is mooncake healthy

Mooncakes are generally not considered to be healthy. The majority of mooncakes are made with high amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates, such as wheat flour and sugar. Additionally, many varieties contain high levels of fat from lard or vegetable oil. While there are some healthier versions available that use whole wheat flour and less sugar. Therefore, it is best to enjoy mooncakes in limited amounts every day.

Why it is called mooncake

The shape and design of these cakes often symbolize the moon and its symbolic importance for cultural celebrations. The name mooncake comes from this symbolism, as it is a cake typically shaped like a full or crescent moon, which is associated with the festival’s celebration of the autumnal equinox. Moon means 月 while the cake is 饼 in Chinese (cakes, pastry, and such).

Hope you have a nice felling about this lovely Chinese traditional desserts and also has a perfect life with families.

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    1. Hi Maria,
      Thanks for stopping by and leave me this lovely comment. Recipes on happyebelly look so yummy too. Happy cooking ahead.

  1. The recipe made far less than we expected – we only got 7 small moon cakes. The recipe specified way too much bean paste for the actual amount of dough. Things like size of eggs are not specified (assuming these are probably small size, but we routinely bake with large or extra large size eggs. The recipe does not specify which size tool. We bought the larger size tool from Amazon, and it was way too big for this recipe. Also, the recipe does not clearly say the amount of alkaline water. We made our own with one half teasoon baking soda to two teaspoons water. I suggest that you test your recipe multiple times with different cooks in different kitchens, and then revise and proofread your instructions very carefully. Also we went to H Mart, which is one of the larger asian food markets and they had never heard of golden syrup or alkaline water.

    1. Hi there,
      Thanks for your suggestions. And I am not surprised that guys in H Mart did not heard of golden syrup and alkaline water because even in China, lot of people have not heard about the two stuff too. They are available in bakery ingredients stores around the festival. So that’s why even I can get store bought version, I spend much time testing and recording the process at home just in case that your guys cannot find them.
      For the alkaline water, I have noted that we need around 3 gm for this recipe. So I suggest making a large batch based on the ratio and take 3 grams out. Because it would be quite hard to measure 3/5g and 12/5g.
      For the size of the tool,it is my fault I did not specify the detailed guide about how to use it. I have added this section in the post. The weight of the wrapper and fillings should based on the ratio of between 3:7 to 2:8 for professional makers. The thinner the wrapper is, the better the moon cake will be. Since some of my batch does not use egg yolk. I use more red bean paste. I have updated the recipe to clarify the problem.
      And thanks for that egg size suggestion, I will pay attention in future recipes.

  2. hello
    i’ll be grateful if it would be possible for you to help me and tell me how I can make the alkaline water at home.

  3. hi Elaine Luo
    thank you
    you know I’ve prepared some alkaline water as what I read in some papers by adding some lime juice to water at the ratio of 1:4
    but when I tested it by pHmeter I saw an acidic pH instead of alkaline one(as what I saw in some papers and many websites.)
    thank you again

    1. Hi Sedna,
      No lime juice is not right for alkaline water because lime juice is acidic not alkaline. You need to find a food additive named as edible alkali or possibly alkaline powder.

  4. Hi Elaine, it’s a helpful recipe you have here.
    After reading this, I’m quite interested and curious to make a “baked” snowskin moon cakes, by using the wrapper in this recipe and the filling in your snowskin moon cakes recipe.
    I want to ask you a question about a process in this recipe.

    “Place in an airtight container with film wrapped. Wait for around 1 or 2 days for the pasty to become soft (This process is named as”回油”, meaning the process of returning the oil to the surface).”

    Is this process required in this recipe because of the egg yolk inside the filling recipe? Or is it because of the wrapper recipe?
    It would be great if you could help me, Elaine! Big thanks!

    1. Hi Anthony,
      That’s a good question! That’s a complex process. Firstly the ingredients of the wrapper including the Golden Syrup, flour and oil will form well-mixed texture. However during the baking process, the wrapper will loose water, then the water from the filling (also include extra oil) will transfer to the wrapper to soften it. After absorbing the water and oil, the previous well-mixed texture will be destroyed, causing the separation of water and oil. So the moon cakes will be shiny and soft. So it is neither because of the wrapper nor the filling. I hope I make myself clear because it seems quite confusing.

      1. Ah, I see. Thanks for the answer, Elaine.
        But still, I have some other questions.
        1. In the ingredients section, it’s written 2 grams in Alkaline water. Is it the total alkaline water used in the recipe or just the amount of dietary alkaline in the mixing?
        2. What if I use a different filling method? I was thinking about using the filling of your Baileys Chocolate Snowskin Mooncakes recipe, which doesn’t require the soaking and draining process. Do you think that would be a good idea for this recipe?
        I’ve been reading some articles that Snowskin is better to be eaten while it’s cold because it isn’t baked and because of the bacterial factor. So I was trying to make an alternative for that, by making a baked one using the wrapper from this recipe and the filling from the other recipe.

  5. Hello!
    I really love your recipes but I noticed a really awkward typo on this one.
    In the ingredients you wrote
    “Golden Syrup, I just recommend boil a little bit more each bitch for later usage (need 75g for this recipe )”
    I think you meant to write batch instead…

  6. Hi can u be more specific with the recipe on how to make the alkaline water?? I am still confused what u mean by ratio 1:4. Are u able to tell me in how much ml in breakdowns etc? Can i buy alkaline powder then mix with boiled cool water u mean??

    1. Hi Erica,

      I have updated the recipe with teaspoon measurement concerning about the alkaline water. And yes, you can mix alkaline powder with boiled cool water. But you can use clean water directly also.