Mooncake (Mon cake) 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.
Table of Contents
- 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 (Mon Cake) 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 (Mon Cake) 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.
First - THANK YOU for your wonderful and informative blog!
Two questions please, with the mooncake recipe above, if honey is used instead of golden syrup, is lye water necessary?
Second, where did you find those wonderful plastic cases for your cakes? They are beautiful!
Thank you in advance.
If you use honey instead of the syrup, I still recommend adding the lye water. It can help to coloring the mooncakes.
I purchase the mooncake tool from taobao, but I find it is available on Amazon too.
I ordered your recommended mooncake tool from amazon. I was actually asking about the individual airtight containers you are using in your picture, black bottom and clear top. Where did you get them?
Hi Sis Elaine, i have 1 question.
Does the egg yolk use in this recipe,is the raw one?
As i look into other recipes,they did cooked it first by steam it or bake it for +-10 min.
If yes in this recipe using raw egg yolk, i found the last result after cutting the baked moon cake shown brilliant color compared to those steam/bake egg yolk(i like it very much)
I use raw egg yolk directly. There is lots of recipes asking to bake the egg yolk firstly but I found it is unnecessary. I only spread some white spirit on surface to remove the odd taste. But do not use large raw yolks.
Floral cakes by Jessica MV does bean paste work on cakes.
1) mung bean paste- bows & macrames
2)kidney bean paste- beads, sequins& embroidery
3)lotus seed paste- David Austin rose
Do you have a recipe for it?
Love yuebing!! Thanks for sharing the recipe!! I just tried making a batch, but em yuebing expands in the oven, destroying he floral pattern...any tips on how to get how to get a crisp look like the ones you've made? Thanks!!
Are you using homemade filling or store-bought filling?
I planning to make this mooncake this year but im still cant get the alkaline water on hand. Can i substitute it with ordinary baking sods plus 1 egg yolk. If i can then how many baking soda that i need and do i need to dissolve it in water or just add in into the golden syrup.
Please reply to me as soon as possible.
If you plan to use baking soda, spread them on a lined baking pan and bake for 1 hour at 120 degree C. Then mix with water using the ratio of 1:4 (baking soda vs water). We still need 2g only.
By the way, never touch the powder with hands.
Thank you for sharing your recipe.
I just baked mooncake using your recipe. It was a success!?!!
I use store bought lotus paste 1kg and low protein cake flour.
I took shortcut, I put the dough in the freezer for 40 minutes because my little girl?? can’t wait for 3 hours....
It still works.
Your dough recipe x 2.5 times; i get 9 x 125g & 5 x 63g mooncakes. All without egg yolks.
Thanks for this great comment. Lotus paste is my favorite filling.
The 5 stars rating is here
Is it possible to substitute the plain flour for another gluten free flour?
Can I use agave instead of the golden syrup?
Thakk you so much!
Hello! I made your mooncake recipe about a week ago and it was great, but the filling (I made red bean) was really dry even after I left it for about 5 days. Could you give me some advice? I made sure to cook the filling till it was quite dry to make sure it didn't make the skin too oily afterwards but it's just really crumbly now...
I'm Asian so I eat mooncakes every year and the store bought mooncake have smooth, sticky fillings and in comparison mine is just dry and crumbly... Is it meant to be like that??
There are several reasons can causing mooncakes do not turns oily after days. Based on your description, your filling might be fried too dry (a lack of water or oil). If you prefer a smooth filling texture, increase the oil amount by 1/2 and shortening the frying time.
Hello thank you for replying! Should I increase the amount of oil instead of boiling the beans for longer then?
Because I actually tried it again about 2 days ago, except I really really boiled the beans till they were very soft. Of course I ended up having to fry it for longer afterwards but I did think it was dry enough in the end. But then after the 2 days the mooncake skin got really really sticky and wet (although the filling is nice and smooth)!! Should I not be boiling the beans for so long, or should I just fry longer afterwards??
Sorry for so many questions! I want my mooncakes to look like yours- they look so nice and the red bean filling looks so smooth and tasty! I can't get it right. 🙁
No. There is no need to further cook the beans as long as they are soft and can be easily broken.
The more water the filling contains, “回油” process can be quicker and stronger. If your skins gets sticky, it means the filling contains too much water. You need to continue frying it.
I suggest you increase the oil to 40 grams and have a try with a smaller batch of Wrappers.