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- overpriced Chinese gifts
- Types of mooncakes
- Shapes of Mooncakes- with the mold
- Mooncake Fillings
- Lye water (枧水)
- Golden syrup
- 💭Tips for homemade Mooncakes
- How to Make Mooncake at home
- How to keep Mooncakes
- Other mooncake recipes
- How to serve mooncakes
- FAQs about Mooncakes
- Why it is called mooncake
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.
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.
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.
💭Tips for homemade Mooncakes
- You need a kitchen scale to measure all the ingredients, accurate amount really matters to the final texture and taste.
- Success mooncakes=well balanced taste+well wrapped fillings+well kept shape (including the clear pattern on the surface)
- If you are using homemade paste filling, make sure your paste is dry enough. Moist fillings might cause cracks on the skin.
- Cover all the fillings and divided the wrapper dough with a plastic wrapper to prevent drying out.
- Do not use too much flour to dust, otherwise, it influences the pattern.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- Push the wrapper from bottom to top little by little until the whole ball is completely wrapped.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Chinese Mooncakes—Traditional Version
- 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
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon egg white
- Prepare the filling paste in the previously, lotus seed paste, mung bean paste or red bean paste.
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.
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.
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.
Hi there, hope I can get some expert advice to make my mooncake better 🙂 You are definitely right, it is fun to make mooncake if we got time. I find it is just like playing puzzle. heh
I came across that my dough is a bit dry. Therefore, I am not sure if I need to increase the syrup or the oil. Which one should I increase and help the dough better?
I have gas oven and all my heat come from the bottom. Should I bake it on top or lower rack or it doesn't matter?
Some recipe ask to spray some water before baking, what do you think about it?
You can slightly add more oil if the dough is too day. As for the oven, I never tried to bake mooncake in a bottom heating oven. But I think as long as the temperature is even and exact enough, it does not matter.
Yes, spray some water before baking can prevent the moon cake dry out during the baking process especially if you are using a slightly larger amount of during flour. But not too much and avoid spoil the patterns.
And thanks for the tip, I will update it in recipe
Hello, just wanted to say your recipe is AMAZING and thank you for taking the time to share it. I had a quick question about leaving the final product for 2-3 days. Do you leave it out or put it in the fridge for 2-3 days? Thank you 🙂
Thanks for stopping by and leaving me such a lovely comment.
If it is cool on your side, it is ok to leave them in room. However it is over 28 degree, refrigerator will be a better place.
I was so excited to see this recipe with such detailed instructions when I was searching to find out how to make them for the mid-autumn festival! We are adopting a little girl from China and she will be home with us in March, we are very excited but I think it is really important to be able to cook for her the way that she is used to so I will be following your site for more authentic recipes! I will search all of your posts but do you also have recipes for steamed bread or low mien? According to her orphanage she loves those foods especially!!! Thank you so much again! Cant wait to start! And I can not wait to incorporate all of the amazing Chinese traditions and holidays in our own family celebrations!
You are so sweet and caring. I bet the little Chinese girl will have wonderful childhood with you guys. I have lots of steamed bun recipe and noodles recipe on the site. You can search by using the searching bar on the side. Hope you will like my recipes. Happy cooking ahead.
My Chinese wife was disappointed not to find mooncake at our two local Chinese stores last week, so I thought I'd give her a pleasant surprise by making some at home in the next few days while she's out at work. My main question is about the red beans for the red bean paste. The ony ones I can find in Western supermarkets are red kidney beans. Is this the right variety of bean to use? If not, please tell me exactly what to buy and I'll look for it at one of the chinese stores. The only other point is the alkaline powder: I guess you mean bakng soda?
Thanks in advance for your help.
You are such a caring husband! For the red bean paste, you need to use small red bean or Adzuki red beans but not kidney beans. I found they available on Amazon. As for the alkaline powder, it is different from baking soda. But if you really cannot find it, you can use baking soda instead. However I would recommend testing the baking soda water overnight before using.
Good luck and I am looking forward to your good news.
Thank you very much Elaine for the prompt reply. It's a good job I asked! I'll let you know how it works out, but it won't be for a week or so because of other commitments.
Take your time and enjoy the adventure. Peter. Good luck!
Thanks but I find your recipe quite confusing. The castor sugar, water and fresh lemon juice are the ingredients for the gOlden Syrup so it is be much clearer if you place put a ":" behind the golden syrup. It looks like those 3 ingredients and the golden syrup are separate ingredients.
Thanks Annie for the suggestion. This recipe in fact is quite complex and I just tried very hard to get myself understood. Please tell me if you find any other confusing expressions. Thanks again!
Then you have a double birthday - one at autumn day and one at calendar day. I like the idea. And the pretty mooncakes really fit the occasion.
That's true! I usually celebrate the calendar birthday with my friends and then mid-autumn day with my family.
thanks for the recipe and I have tried to bake the mooncake and now sitting in the air tight container for 1 day already, just wondering why the moon cake turn very hard like rock once I have taken out from the oven and let them cool down. are they will turn soft and moist again after 3 days? the moon cake top didn't crack and the colour also look ok not too dark, so I'm not sure which part going wrong, I'm not sure if I over baked so they turn hard once they cool down? you advise much appreciated
It is quite normal for the wrapper to be stiff like "rock" because there is a very small amount of water in the wrapper due to emulsification and baking. After 1 to 3 days(possibly longer due to your syrup), the mooncake wrapper absorbs the water of the the filling, which further breaks the emulsification. Then wrappers release oil and turn soft and moist again.
So just be patient and pass everything to time.
thank you for your reply Elaine. you make me feel less worry 🙂 hopefully my moon cake will turn soft and moist in next couple of day.
Wee Chong Tee
Moon cake video I saw.
I like it very much Very prefect. My comment is *****
Thank you for this recipe and the video! Of all the recipes I've looked at, this seems the most doable.
Question - you don't have a link to a recipe for the black sesame paste you used. I found a recipe on your site (Tang Yuan recipe) - is this the paste you used here? Also, did you leave the egg out of the black sesame filled cakes?
In every batch, 6 of the 14 mooncakes have only paste filling. No egg yolk as one of my family member do not eat egg yolk. The black sesame filling of Tangyuan is different from Mooncakes. If you want to make black sesame filling, toast 100g black sesame seeds and then blend with around 30g sugar and 35g oil until very fine and smooth. And then mix in 25g to 30g sticky rice flour (or you can use all-purpose flour).
is this lye water?
Not the traditional Lye water, but a great substitute.