The Ultimate Guide to Traditional Mooncake (传统广式月饼)

The Ultimate Guide to Traditional Mooncake (传统广式月饼) | omnivorescookbook.comThis recipe shows you how to create traditional Cantonese mooncakes from scratch without purchasing golden syrup or kansui. In this recipe, you get a delicious black sesame filling, a dough that has a good mouthfeel and keeps its shape, and thorough step-by-step pictures of the whole process. Moreover, I listed every tip and note I have, to help you make homemade mooncakes successfully. With this information, you’ll easily be able to adapt this recipe to the available ingredients you have, or whatever filling you prefer.

{Long post alert} I tried to shorten it, but the post still ran very long (>4000 words), due to the sheer amount of information. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, be sure to browse the cooking notes before going to the recipe. You can also find more information about golden syrup and kansui in my other posts, and learn how to make them with typical household ingredients.

A bit about traditional mooncakes and why people don’t cook them at home

Mid-Autumn Festival is a big thing in China, and eating mooncakes with family members is a must. It’s the the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar year – the middle day of autumn and the day of the full moon. It’s the day that family members sit together and enjoy mooncakes and a peaceful night with the brightest moon.

You might wonder, do we cook mooncakes at home, just like we cook homemade dumplings to celebrate lunar new year? The answer is a big NO.

Aside from the complicated cooking process and the fact that an oven is not commonly found in a Chinese kitchen, it’s simply because mooncakes are a very high-volume item. It’s a deep-rooted cultural tradition, where people send mooncakes to family and friends as a gift, starting two weeks before the festival. We get a big box of mooncakes from our employer, from our community center, from relatives and friends who bought too many boxes and can’t finish them. You see, a family can get so many boxes of mooncakes without spending a cent, and you probably only want to eat a few anyway (they’re too sweet and too heavy).

The other fact is that traditional mooncakes are becoming less popular in China. There have been scandals, such as one where a mooncake company reused a stock of year-old mooncake filling and used gutter oil to cut costs. The other reason is that more modern styles of mooncake have become trendy, such as the snow skin mooncake (with a no-bake dough made from mochi) and French style mooncakes (made with French pastry dough and a jam-like filling). The third reason, and the most important one, is that the quality of traditional mooncakes has dropped significantly and they’re just not as tasty anymore. It has started to become superficial and cliche, as people only purchase them to give them away. It has become more standardized, less creative, and less fresh.

When I told my mom that I finally made some great looking mooncakes, she was surprised and said “why bother? you don’t even like mooncakes.”

The Ultimate Guide to Traditional Mooncake (传统广式月饼) | omnivorescookbook.com

Mooncake obsession

The truth is, I did eat mooncakes back in China, but I only like the traditional kind with egg yolk in the filling. Not all mooncakes are filled with egg yolk. Most of the time, you only find one or two in a box of 12 mooncakes. And that is typically the single mooncake I eat each year.

Unlike the miniature mooncakes you typically find in recipes online, the real mooncakes in China are huge. They use a minimal amount of dough so that the outside layer is paper thin, enclosing a giant, greasy, sweet block of filling that is usually made with tons of sugar and lard. It doesn’t sound very tasty, does it?

The truth is that they can be very delicious if cooked properly with fresh ingredients. The reason I like the filling with egg yolk is that the savory yolk cuts the greasiness and sweetness of the rest of the mooncake. And the whole combination tastes like heaven. It is like sprinkling sea salt on caramel or adding a pinch of hot pepper into chocolate. You wonder why at first, but definitely GET IT once you taste it.

I moved to Austin from China two months ago. While enjoying my new life in my new home, being spoiled with the variety of food options, I realized Mid-Autumn Festival was approaching and somehow I wanted to enjoy a traditional mooncake – one with egg yolk, of course.

The Ultimate Guide to Traditional Mooncake (传统广式月饼) | omnivorescookbook.com

I made the decision that I’d make mooncakes a month ago, not knowing what I was getting myself into.

The recipe development process was a difficult one. I believe I uttered “I want to kill myself” too many times during the past few days, which made Thomas very worried. We also ordered more pizza delivery than ever, because after spending so much time tweaking recipes and experimenting in the kitchen, we were too tired to cook dinner.

I think I made more than ten batches, a small quantity per batch of course, until I lost count. While I was making the final batch to finish up this post, I was still baking them one at a time, to determine the best oven temperature and the perfect egg wash recipe. That’s why you can see that every mooncake in the photos looks slightly different.

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The one with the blue tag => bake at 360 F for 17mins; The ones with the green tag => bake at 390 F for 16 mins; The ones with pink tag => bake at 350 F for 21 mins

We ended our mooncake project yesterday with a bottle of champagne and two thick cuts of prime steak.

Why go to so much trouble when there are literally hundreds of mooncake recipes online?

The reason: I really wanted to find a way to make all the ingredients from scratch, to allow anyone who wants to make fresh mooncakes and enjoy Mid-Autumn Festival, regardless of access to an Asian store.

The difficulties

If you’ve ever checked a traditional mooncake recipe, you might have thought, what the hell are these ingredients? The truth is, among the four ingredients in mooncake dough, there are two – golden syrup and kansui, that you might have never heard of, and they can be difficult to acquire.

A quick introduction, golden syrup is also called inverted sugar syrup. It is an amber-colored syrup made from sugar, but has a much richer texture and a deep aroma than a simple syrup. It also contains acid, which is a requirement for mooncake making.

Kansui, jian sui in Chinese (枧水) or lye water, is an alkaline solution made from sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate. It is often used in Asian pastries and ramen noodles. It adds a yellow color to dough (like making egg noodles without egg). It acts a bit like baking soda, as it keeps the dough fluffy and moist, but without introducing too much gas. It also neutralizes the acid in the golden syrup, so the dough won’t taste sour.

Most recipes suggest you purchase golden syrup online and purchase kansui in an Asian store. However, golden syrup is quite pricey and kansui is only available at large Asian markets. On the other hand, these two ingredients are very cheap and easy to acquire in China (although most Chinese people have never heard of them), so there is very limited literature on how to make them at home and how to use them in mooncake recipes.

Mooncakes require very accurate measurements, and a single small tweak will change the results significantly. Say you follow a very precise recipe, one with ingredients measured in increments of one gram. Since there are different formulas of golden syrup and kansui, you could get different results than intended, even if you follow the recipe a hundred percent.

During the mooncake-making process, it’s important to understand the function of each ingredient and the result it yields. You need to be accurate but also stay flexible when needed.

The Ultimate Guide to Traditional Mooncake (传统广式月饼) | omnivorescookbook.com

Why this recipe

I read many things online and did a lot of research around these two ingredients – golden syrup and kansui. I found that it’s possible to make these two rare ingredients at home with cheap and common ingredients. And it’s possible to cook mooncakes with them and get satisfying results.

I have tested numerous recipes with both store-bought and homemade ingredients. I also tested the combination of store-bought and homemade. They all work and and can create delicious mooncakes. And now you can learn do the same, using this recipe.

I picked a nutty black sesame filling and egg yolk as the mooncake filling for this recipe. It’s a classic, as well as my favorite. The sweet and nutty sesame paste is a delicacy and goes perfectly with the egg yolk. There are not so many recipes for it online (because most people buy the paste pre-made), so I developed it myself. It generates a paste with a silky texture and great flavor. It uses butter instead of lard, but the mooncake still holds its shape. It might sound like bragging, but I love the taste of these mooncakes; it’s even better than the mooncakes I’ve had in China.

This recipe is just one possibility that I discovered along the way while cooking. It’s still far from perfect. However, I wanted to share all the things I’ve learned so far, so you could apply them, even if you use a totally different recipe in the future.

1509_The-Ultimate-Guide-to-Traditional-Mooncake_011

Cooking notes

Here are some cooking notes that I gathered from other sources and verified in my kitchen. Please note, not all the points are related to this recipe. I wanted to share them anyway, because you can use them to develop your own mooncake recipe. They can also help you troubleshoot a recipe if something goes wrong. Here we go.

About mooncake filling

The most important thing is that it keeps its shape and doesn’t collapse, so that the mooncake will maintain its delicate pattern after baking. No matter what type of filling you’re making, the filling should able to stand firm at room temperature right after being shaped into a ball. And it should turn tough after chilling in the fridge.

(1) You need to introduce oil with a low melting point into the filling. Lard is a common ingredient in traditional mooncakes, but it might yield an unpleasant flavor. And it’s just greasy. I find that coconut oil and butter yield similar results. Only use coconut oil if the flavor combination works. The flavor of coconut oil doesn’t go well with everything.

(2) You need add a certain amount of solid content so that the dough can stand firm, even at room temperature. I’ve seen people use different things, such as flour, bean paste, cornstarch, etc., to achieve this. On the other hand, if you add too much solid content, the filling will start to taste like dough. I found that glutinous rice flour works great in this case. It helps the filling to stick to itself, and you don’t really notice it while eating.

Unrelated to this recipe, if you are making a red bean or lotus seed filling (or any filling that contains water), the other way to make a thicker filling is to cook the paste on the stove, to reduce water content.

(3) You still need to add oil to the filling, even if the filling is tough by itself. The first reason is that the filling will be crumbly and fall apart without oil. The second is that traditional Cantonese mooncakes must be served 1 to 3 days after baking, because the mooncake skin will be very tough and crumbly right after baking. As the mooncakes rest, the oil inside them seeps out and infuses into the outer layer of dough. This way, the texture becomes soft and moist. Without oil in the filling, this important process doesn’t happen.

About mooncake dough

(1) Both all-purpose flour and cake flour work well. Traditional Cantonese mooncakes use cake flour, which is what is used in this recipe. It yields a very tender dough (easy to work with, but slightly sticky) that yields a beautiful pattern after baking.

(2) The single thing that matters most is the ratio of golden syrup to kansui.

The golden syrup will create a tender and moist cake that keeps its shape despite being paper thin, and can be shaped into delicate patterns. Kansui is used to neutralize the acid introduced by the golden syrup, resulting in a sweet pastry with no sourness. The amount of kansui also determines the tenderness and color of the cake. The color will be light yellow if you don’t add enough kansui, or dark brown if you add too much.

The mooncake on the right used baking soda instead of kansui. It yielded a pale color due to the lack of alkaline. The one on the right used a bit more kansui than needed. It resulted a darker color and a funny shape.

The mooncake on the left used baking soda instead of kansui. It yielded a pale color due to the lack of alkaline. The one on the right used a bit more kansui than needed. It resulted a darker color and a funny shape.

The difficult thing is, unless you’re using exactly the same brand as given in a recipe, it’s unlikely that your cooking will yield the same results. If you’re looking for perfect mooncakes, you might need to try a few times to get everything perfect. On the other hand, even if the color or shape is slightly off, the mooncakes will taste just as delicious.

Homemade Golden Syrup (转化糖浆, Inverted Sugar Syrup) - This syrup can be used for making traditional Cantonese mooncakes and other Chinese desserts | omnivorescookbook.com

Homemade golden syrup

(3) You can use homemade or store-bought golden syrup. Please note, the acid content will not be the same. This will affect the amount of kansui you need to use. You can read a bit more on the topic in this post.

(4) You can use homemade or store-bought kansui. To make kansui at home, you only need baking soda and water . The two have slightly different contents, but yield very similar results. You can learn how to make kansui in this post.

(5) How to adjust the dough. Since the ratio of kansui to golden syrup is fixed, you should not change their quantities (it’s unlikely you can change them both, due to the small quantity of kansui added in a recipe). When you follow a recipe and it turns out that the dough is too soft to work with or too tough to knead, you should only add oil or flour to adjust the consistency of the dough.

(6) Thickness of the mooncake skin. The answer is, you should keep it thin, really thin. Otherwise, the decorative pattern won’t come out very clear, and the bottom of the cake will be fat.

(7) Size of the mooncake. You don’t need to fill the whole mold (unless you’re using a traditional hand-carved mold). If you’re making mini mooncakes and use a plastic mold kit (the most common), a 50-55 gram cake is easy to shape. That equals about 2.5 tablespoons of filling plus 2 teaspoons of dough.

(8) Egg wash. There are different theories on the perfect egg wash. I tested them, but only noticed subtle differences. My favorite way is to use egg yolk with a pinch of salt. The egg wash will be very thick and a bit difficult to apply, but it yields an even and beautiful golden color with a distinctive aroma. If you think this is too much trouble, beat a whole egg and use that instead.

(9) Baking temperature. There are different theories about baking temperatures (from 350 to 390 F/ 176 to 200 C), but I found that all of them work. For making mini mooncakes, my favorite temperature is 360 degrees F (180 C).

(10) The baking process includes two phases, no matter what temperature you use. The first phase usually takes 8 to 10 minutes. During this phase, the mooncake takes its shape and the dough hardens. You should see the edges of the mooncakes start to turn golden. Take out the mooncakes and apply egg wash only after the surface hardens. If you apply egg wash too early, it can easily ruin the pattern. For the second phase, return the mooncakes to the oven and continue baking until the surface turns dark golden. It usually takes another 8 to 11 minutes, depending on the oven temperature.

(11) Let the mooncakes rest long enough to reveal their color and turn soft. Just as wine needs time to mature, you need to let mooncakes rest to get the best texture and flavor. Traditional Cantonese mooncakes typically need to rest 24 to 72 hours. The mooncakes will be very flaky and crumbly right after baking. They turn very hard as they cool down, and their texture will become soft and moist again after two to three days as the oil seeps out from the filling (this process is known as hui you – 回油).

About the tools

(1) You need a scale. Not only did I use a scale, I even purchased a pocket scale with increments of 0.1 gram. Because most Chinese recipes measure by the gram, I found that even a scale with increments of 1 gram is not accurate enough. When you’re making mooncake dough, if you are measuring by the cup, you really need some luck to get the to recipe work. Measurements matter a lot when it comes to mooncake making.

(2) You need a brush, maybe two. I prefer to use a large silicone brush to apply the egg wash, because it allows a gentle touch and is easy to clean. After brushing the surface 3 to 4 times, I switch to a small pointed brush to clean out the gaps and remove excess egg wash.

This is what happens when you don't clean up the egg wash from the gaps.

This is what happens when you don’t clean up the egg wash from the gaps.

1509_The-Ultimate-Guide-to-Traditional-Mooncake_012(3) A cookie scoop will save you a lot of trouble. I love the small and medium sized OXO cookie scoop. The small size holds 2 teaspoons and the medium size holds 1.5 tablespoons. They’re perfect for measuring the dough and filling. They shape the dough easily and speed up the measuring process.

Final thoughts

If you haven’t closed the page by the time you’ve read this far, I assume you’re very serious about mooncakes! I want to emphasize that there are many approaches when it comes to mooncake making. Although the process calls for accuracy and although it’s quite easy to mess things up during cooking, the mooncakes will turn out very tasty even if the pH is slightly off, or if you accidentally smash the pattern. Do not pursue perfection on the first attempt. This is just like making croissants. You need patience and practice to get there.

I hope my post, along with the recipe below, provides you a more accessible path to mooncake making and makes the mooncake process less mysterious.

Homemade mooncakes with fresh ingredients have such a nice aroma and flavor, and store-bought mooncakes just not can’t compete with them. Plus, they contain far fewer calories and use healthier ingredients.

I hope you enjoy the dish and have a happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

The Ultimate Guide to Traditional Mooncake (传统广式月饼) | omnivorescookbook.com

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4.9 from 12 reviews
The Ultimate Guide to Traditional Mooncake (传统广式月饼)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
The mooncake dough in this recipe is adapted from here.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Chinese
Serves: 10 mini mooncakes
Ingredients
Mooncake filling
  • 1 cup (140 grams) raw black sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup (45 grams) confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup (40 grams) glutinous rice flour
  • 5 salty duck egg yolks, about 14 grams per yolk, halved (*footnote 1)
Mooncake dough
  • 56 grams homemade golden syrup (or store-bought)
  • 1/2 teaspoon homemade kansui (or store-bought)
  • 20 grams peanut oil (or vegetable oil that doesn’t have a strong flavor)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt, and a pinch for the egg wash
  • 100 grams cake flour, and extra to dust the mooncake dough
  • 1 large egg yolk (or a whole egg) (*see footnote 2)
Instructions
To make mooncake filling
  1. Spread black sesame seeds in a large skillet and turn to medium heat. When the skillet gets hot, turn to medium low heat. Stir every 3 to 4 minutes. Cook until you smell a very strong nutty aroma and hear the sesame seeds sizzling. Transfer to a plate to cool.
    Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  2. When the black sesame seeds cool off, transfer to a food processor. Blend until the sesame seeds start to seep oil and thicken, about 2 minutes. Use a spatula to thoroughly scrape the paste from the the walls and bottom of the food processor. Blend again until it forms a fine paste, about 1 minute. Scrape the paste from the walls and bottom.
    Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  3. Add confectioners sugar and butter. Blend again until everything is fully mixed. Transfer to a bowl.
    Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  4. Add glutinous rice flour. Fold with spatula until the flour is fully blended and the paste forms a dough. If the dough can’t be lifted by hand and is still a bit runny, blend in more rice flour.
    Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  5. Divide the sesame paste into 10 parts, about 1.5 tablespoons (20 to 30 grams) per portion. Shape each portion into a small ball.
  6. To shape the mooncake filling, flatten one black sesame ball with the hands. Place half a duck egg yolk in the middle. Wrap the sesame paste until it fully covers the egg yolk. Roll with hands to shape a ball. If you hold the filling ball up to a mooncake mold, the ball should be slightly smaller than the opening of the mold.
    Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.comTraditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  7. Place mooncake filling in the fridge to cool. Wait until the balls harden.
To make mooncake dough
  1. Combine golden syrup and kansui in a large bowl. Mix with a spatula until emulsified (*footnote 3).
    Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  2. Add peanut oil (or vegetable oil) and mix again until evenly blended. They will still appear separated, but try to mix as evenly as possible.
  3. Sift cake flour into the bowl. Gently fold the dough with a motion of scraping from bottom to top, like you are folding a cake dough. Do not stir the dough in a circular motion. It will toughen the dough.
    Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  4. When the flour is fully combined, shape the dough into a ball. The dough should be soft and a bit sticky but still hold its shape. Slowly add more flour if the dough is too difficult to handle. Gently knead the dough a few times with hands (*footnote 4), with a folding motion. Seal with plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.
    Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  5. Gently knead the dough a few more times and place it back in the plastic wrap. Let rest for another 20 to 30 minutes. Then the dough will be ready to use (*footnote 5).
To assemble mooncakes
  1. Work on the mooncakes one at a time. Scoop 2 teaspoons dough (I love to use a medium-sized cookie scoop for this) and place between two pieces of parchment. Press it into a flat disc. Roll into a small round sheet. If possible, make the middle of the sheet thinner than the edges.
    Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  2. Place the black sesame ball in the center of the dough sheet. Carefully wrap the dough around the filling. Spread the dough until it seals the filling in completely. Try to wrap the filling in a thin, even layer of dough. If you find the dough on some spots is too thick, pull off the dough and smooth the surface. It is doesn’t matter if the dough is so thin that it reveals the color of the filling.
    Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.comTraditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  3. Dust both hands and the dough with a bit of cake flour. Roll the dough betweens hands so the surface will be dusted evenly.
    Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  4. Slide the plastic pattern disc into the mooncake mold, pattern side down. Sometimes you need to twist the handle a bit to make the pattern disc slide to the end.
  5. Carefully place the mooncake into the mold. If you find it difficult to do without scraping off dough, you can gently roll the mooncake to fit into the mold.
    Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  6. Place the mold on the parchment and press the handle until you cannot move it any further. Pull the handle up and release the mooncake.
    Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  7. Carefully hold the mooncake without squeezing it, and remove the pattern disc.
    Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  8. If you find the process too difficult and cannot shape a clear pattern,wrap all the mooncakes first and shape them into balls. Place the mooncake balls onto a large baking tray and seal it with plastic wrap. Place in fridge for 10 to 20 minutes until the dough hardens a bit (do not chill the dough for too long).
To cook mooncakes
  1. Preheat oven to 360 degrees F (180 C).
  2. Place mooncakes on a big metal baking tray, 1 inch (2cm) apart. Spray a thin layer of water onto the mooncakes to prevent the dough from cracking.
  3. Beat the egg yolk with a pinch of salt in a small bowl.
  4. Bake on the middle rack for 8 to 9 minutes, until the dough toughens and the edges of the mooncakes start to turn golden.
  5. Remove the mooncakes from the oven. Brush a thin layer of egg wash on the surface of the mooncakes. Only brush the top surfaces, not the vertical surfaces. If you accidentally brush too much egg wash and it fills up the pattern, use a small brush to clean the gaps and remove excess egg wash.
    Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Traditional Mooncake Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  6. Place mooncakes back in the oven and continue baking until the egg wash turns golden brown, about 8 minutes.
  7. Let mooncakes cool in the tray before removing (*footnote 6). Use a spatula to gently push mooncakes to detach them from the baking tray. Transfer to a plate to cool completely.
  8. Store mooncakes in an airtight container. The mooncakes can be served after 24 hours, and they will look and taste better after 3 days.
Notes
1. To make black sesame mooncakes without egg yolk, double the black sesame filling and you will be able to make 10 mini mooncakes.

2. I found using egg yolk with salt yields prettier mooncakes with a nice aroma. However, egg yolk is quite thick and might be a bit difficult to brush. You can use a whole egg alternatively or slowly add egg white into the beaten egg yolk to dilute it.

3. If you’re using store-bought golden syrup, you might not able to get the emulsified mixture due to the lower acid ratio. You can read more about the details in this post.
4. Do not knead the dough on a wooden board or working surface. It will stick the surface.

5. If the black sesame filling hasn’t toughened, keep the dough in the plastic wrap until you’re ready to assemble the mooncakes. It’s OK to let the dough rest for another hour or two on the countertop. But if you leave the dough there for too long (half a day or overnight), it will become tough.

6. The mooncakes will be flaky and soft when hot. If you remove them right after baking, you will crush the cakes easily.

 

The Ultimate Guide to Traditional Mooncake (传统广式月饼) | omnivorescookbook.com

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Meet Maggie

Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my Austin, Texas kitchen.

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67 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Traditional Mooncake (传统广式月饼)

  1. Meggan | Culinary Hill

    Wow, Maggie! This is incredible! What a wealth of knowledge you learned, gathered, and shared with us all. I randomly have a can of golden syrup in my pantry that my in-laws brought home to me from England. Is this a sign that I should make these?!?! Who knows. But I sure enjoyed reading all 4000+ plus about the history and the process. I love that you made over 10 batches. I love that I can count on you for the very best. And, I’d say married life seems to be treating you rather well! Thanks again for sharing, and obviously I pinned this. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Bam's Kitchen

    Oh my goodness this recipe is pure GOLD!!! Sesame is my absolute favorite kind of mooncake! All of your helpful tips and gorgeous photos are fabulous. Stunning moody photos are my favorite!!! I read the whole big post BTW… Sharing everywhere!!!! and smoke signals sent too. 中秋节快乐!

    Reply
  3. Susan

    I doubt that I will ever make mooncakes, but I still find this an amazing post. I don’t know that many people would put as much effort into a post like this as you did. It was especially interesting learning about golden syrup and kansui.

    One note on something you might want to correct: the picture showing mooncakes made with baking soda vs. kansui, the caption should read ‘the mooncake on the left used baking soda…’

    Reply
  4. Patty

    HOLY COW, Maggie! I am floored at the lengths of technical experimentation to which you went for those stunning mooncakes. They are gorgeous, and they look really delicious. Thank you for putting so much into your quest to create the perfect mooncake. I think these may be my favorite food photos of yours to date.They may be my favorite food photos of ANYONE’S. Very impressive.

    Reply
  5. donna mikasa

    I arrived here via Season With Spice and I’m blown away that you made mooncakes–especially since I just bought a box of four of them for my daughter’s in laws. I know they won’t be as good as yours and I’ll show this to my daughter. Maybe she’ll surprise her husband’s family next Mid Autumn!

    Reply
  6. Monica

    This is truly amazing! What a very serious labor of love. You should be very proud of yourself…such a very painstaking project but something to cheer with such amazing results in the end!

    Reply
  7. [email protected] Sweet Life

    Wow, Maggie, this is just incredible! You have gone above and beyond with this article and it is so well done! I celebrated mid-Autumn festival with my friend and her family last night as we have done for a few years now and the moon-cakes are my favorite things! I, too, love the salty egg yolk cakes best of all. Your moon cakes are absolutely beautiful–like works of art! Thank you for all your hard work in preparing them and teaching the method!

    Reply
  8. Lokness @ The Missing Lokness

    You go, girl! Congrats on finally making them right! They are absolutely perfect! I have never tried one with sesame filling. Lotus paste is the one I eat the most. But these sound delicious!

    I know exactly how you feel about wanting to make mooncakes since you are away from home. Flavors from home are extra special even though some food may not be your favorites growing up. Having a bite of a mooncake and watching the moon is like connecting with families and friends that are far away. Hope you had a wonderful mid-autumn festival!

    Reply
  9. Oni

    Wow the effort and detail you have put in this is absolutely amazing. I’m so thankful I found your blog. Keep up the beautiful work. Bless you.

    Reply
  10. Linda

    Can you tell me how long the traditional mooncakes can keep? And what is the best way to keep them to maintain the excellent texture and flaver. I habe left thwm out in a sealed containeer up to3 weeks. Can thay keep a month? Can they be rrefrigerated or freezered. And still be as good?

    Reply
  11. Natalie

    Thank you for sharing this recipe and all the details, I will try them this weekend as Mid-Autumn festival is less than 2 weeks away! 😉

    Reply
  12. Jas

    Maggie, the paste do not need to cook?
    And may I know why some need to add egg yolk in the moon cake dough, and the purpose is? Thk u

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Jas, you don’t need to pre-cook the paste. The filling and skin will be cooked together while baking.
      To answer your question about adding egg into the dough, there are many types of mooncakes and they feature different texture. I talked about traditional Cantonese mooncake in the post, where people use a very thin mooncake skin with a large filling. Another type of mooncake (especially the ones in northern China) uses a thicker mooncake skin and it features a flaky dough that tastes more like biscuit. That type of dough might use egg yolk to create a different texture. There is no right or wrong. It’s all depends on your personal preference 🙂

      Reply
  13. Kare

    Excited to try this! Where can one find salty duck egg yolks? Chinese grocery story? And could you possibly provide the Chinese characters so that I can identify them? Thanks!

    Reply
  14. KK Hong

    Hi Maggie,

    Very impressed with the technical points of this wonderful dessert.

    Just a question. I love using pork lard for my cooking and I was wondering what would the substitution ratio be for the butter in the filling? I know it cannot be 1:1 because butter has a higher water content than lard, but Im not sure by how much? Do you know?

    I also read about how the filling fat/oil component is supposed to seep out into the skin of the dough to make it moist. Does that mean I will need to mix my lard with a vegetable oil to make it more runny? And what temperature must the mooncakes be “matured” at? Im guessing it has to be relatively warm-ish. Its currently winter/spring in Australia so the ambient room temperature kind of low (20-25 degC)

    As for the vege oil in the dough, can I also substitute that for lard? Im guessing that would not affect the dough too much and would even make it more chewy and creamy because of the higher fat content and higher melting point

    Warm regards,
    KK Hong

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi KK, I have trouble give you a specific answer because I never test the mooncake recipe with lard. But I imagine it shouldn’t be a big difference. If you use the same amount of fat to replace butter, you should get a filling that is slightly easier to work with. In fact, many Cantonese mooncake recipes do not even require using fat in the filling, if you’re using a more solid ingredients such as sweet bean paste. I needed to use a solid fat here, because the black sesame paste is quite runny and unable to shape.

      About the “oil seeping process”, it is actually related to the oil and inverted sugar (golden syrup) ratio in the skin, not the filling. That’s why the mooncake skin always call for vegetable oil. Most of the Cantonese mooncake recipes call vegetable oil for the skin. I’ve seen other type of mooncake recipes call lard, but it will create a different type of texture (a thicker crumbly pie like texture).

      If your ambient room temperature is a bit low, the mooncakes will take a bit longer time to mature. But it shouldn’t cause a problem.

      Hope your cooking goes well and Happy Mid-autumn festival 🙂

      Reply
      1. KK Hong

        Hi Maggie,

        Sweet thanks for your advice! I see… I didnt know that the fat was used as a structural component as well. Good to know. Oh speaking of other fillings? Do you happen to have a recipe for other filling as well?

        Okay looks like Ill stick to peanut oil for the skin. Dont want my mooncake skin to fall apart as I cut it open haha

        Okay cool. Ill just keep it for longer before serving then

        Thanks a million! Happy Mid Autumn Festival to you and your family too! 中秋節快樂!

        Warm regards,
        KK Hong

      2. Maggie Post author

        I don’t have another mooncake filling now but I’ll be sure to create more! Didn’t realize it’s such a popular thing when I wrote about the mooncake topic. I guess because it’s just too easy to buy them in China and nobody makes them at home.

        Happy cooking and Happy Mid Autumn Festival 🙂

      3. Sara

        Maggie, if it ever interests you, please post a recipe for lotus seed and red bean fillings!
        This was such a great post. I can’t wait to make some and send them to my family.
        Thank you, thank you!

      4. Maggie Post author

        Hi Sara, I will definitely add it onto my to-cook list! I like lotus seed and red bean fillings too 🙂 Glad you like this recipe. Hope your cooking turns out great!

  15. joy

    Thank you so much for this super informative guide! I can really see that you put so much of your heart into this post Happy Mid-autumn festival!

    Reply
  16. Donna

    Hi Maggie,
    Thank you for the really ultimate guide to making mooncakes.
    I just have 1 question regarding the golden syrup, can it be substitute by honey?
    best regards,
    Donna

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Donna, I wouldn’t recommend to substitute golden syrup by honey. Golden syrup is a key ingredients that causes the “oil seeping” process and helps to make the mooncake skin tender, which makes the mooncake Cantonese style. If you plan to use honey, I recommend you to find another recipe that makes a different mooncake dough (it makes a thicker and flakier skin, instead of a thin and tender one like this recipe). You won’t need kansui either if you don’t use golden syrup.

      Reply
      1. Pauline

        Yes you can use honey ive just followed amanda ,s mooncake and it turned out perfect like bought ones just spray a thin layer mist of water before baking at 160 c not 180 c

  17. Emily

    Hi Maggie,

    Thank you for the super helpful and detailed post! I’m following your recipe to make homemade mooncakes for the first time. My black sesame filling is coming out dry and crumbly. I can’t seem to shape it into a ball and flattening it without it falling into pieces. Do you have any tips on fixing that?

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Emily, I’m sorry to hear that your mooncake filling didn’t turn out well. Two factors might cause dry filling (1) you didn’t ground the sesame seeds long enough to release more oil (2) you need more fat content to bind everything together. I suggest you to return the filling back in the food process and mix it again. Let it run for 1 to 2 minutes, and see whether the filling turns tender and possible to shape. If not, add a bit more butter (1/2 tablespoon) at a time and keep mixing. Stop in betweens and pinch some filling with your fingers and see whether it forms a dough texture.
      Hope you could fix the mooncake filling and the mooncakes turn out well.

      Reply
  18. zj

    Hi Maggie,

    I really enjoyed your post. It was like reading a story. I had just made 30 mini mooncakes myself this morning before I landed in your blog. I wish I found your instructions earlier. I did make a few mistakes that you pointed out in your post. If I have time before August 15th this year I would certainly try your recipe out. I also love black sesame seeds. I combined them with lotus seed paste that I made from scratch. I will bookmark your site and check back often.

    Thank you for your good work on putting together such detailed instructions. So helpful yet enjoyable.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      So glad to hear you find the post helpful! I love the idea of adding black sesame seeds into lotus seed paste. Sounds yummy!
      Happy Mid-autumn Festival 🙂

      Reply
  19. Betty

    Thanks for sharing your recipe and experience with us. I have made some mooncakes using another recipe that my sister shared with me. Since this is my first time making mooncakes, I am not sure why they look really light in color. So, I tried to find answers from the internet and saw your recipe. I will try your recipe next time.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      I’m glad to hear you like my post Betty! I remember not adding enough kansui will cause the skin light in color. But it also depends on the recipe and the type of mooncake you cook. Some mooncakes have a flakier and thicker skin and it’s designed to have lighter color.
      Happy Mid-autumn Festival! 🙂

      Reply
  20. Kristen Majocha

    This week I made my first moon cakes for my Chinese students. It took me several days, many substitutions, and a few tears (I loved reading about your similar emotions!). I quick cured my salted yolks and made a bean paste out of need due to a lack of planning. I had no idea how complex this dish was; I have never had s moon cake! I will try a moon cake (my own) for the first time tomorrow. My students will eat them too! I know the filling is not smooth and I had no mold so no patten (large round cakes). But I can’t wait to cut into it and see the moon. And my students were very thankful for the care and time I demonstrated for them. I love your post and instructions. I know I will do better next year!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Kristen, making mooncakes are a lot of work aren’t they!? When I finished writing the recipe, I thought, who’s gonna cook this? Luckily I found out many people would like to challenge it in their own kitchen 🙂 It’s amazing that you cured your own salty egg yolks. I need to do that soon. It is very expensive to buy them in supermarket.
      I hope your second batch of mooncake came out well! Thanks for leaving a comment to share your experience. It’s really great to know people care about mooncakes. I will keep developing new mooncake recipes for sure!

      Reply
  21. colleen

    Hello Maggie. I found your blog looking for a beef broth recipe. I liked your style and decided to follow you. I looked around your blog and came across this post. My like turned to sheer admiration for you. To post a 4000+ post in a world of twitter is an act of courage. You did fabulous and the post reads well and easily – great writing skills. Then there is the actual recipe and the testing.

    Maggie I would like to bow to you. Beautiful work here. We’ll done. You have proven the value of being a master student.

    PS my husband is a trained chef and I am a consummate foodie. I read a LOT of blogs. You really are exceptional.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Colleen, thanks so much for your kind words! You just made my day 🙂
      I had doubt about my mooncake post once I published it. I thought, who has the time to read it? I was surprised to see there are many readers did find the post helpful and would like to challenge mooncake making at home.
      I do super long post once in a while, usually for authentic Chinese recipes that I’m obsessed with. I’m glad that people like you have the patient to read it. And it is always great to know that more people get to know real Chinese food through my blog 🙂
      Many many thanks again for the encouraging words! Have a great week ahead Colleen 🙂

      Reply
  22. Michelle

    Thank you for an awesome and thorough recipe! Being armed with so much good info made aking these mooncakes surprisingly approachable. Now that I have some tasty mooncakes on my hands, how long will they keep in an airtight container? Can I freeze them?

    Reply
  23. Atisha

    Beautiful work maggie!
    I tried making them and they are just wonderful!
    Tried making the black sesame paste too but is it usual to tase slightly bitter?

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Atisha, I’m glad your mooncakes turn out great! If your black sesame paste taste slightly bitter, you might have roasted the sesame seeds a bit too long. Hope it doesn’t affect the taste of the mooncakes too much.
      Have a great week ahead 🙂

      Reply
  24. Elisabeth

    Any idea why the crust/skin might turn out great the first day but quickly become slimy later? Too much oil? Timing of the egg wash?

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Elisabeth, the problem is definitely not caused by egg wash. In fact, the mooncake skin is supposed to be tender and not crispy. If you like a crispy texture, then you might find it taste better immediately after baking. If the texture is sticky (slimy), my suspect is too much oil.

      Reply
  25. HELEN

    Hi Maggie,

    I am going to attempt these however can you clarify the centre of the cakes? Do you just add salt to the yolk? I can see in the photos it looks almost like dough but I am confused as to how it’s made.

    I am off to the Chinese supermarket tomorrow so want to get all the ingredients and spend my afternoon making these cakes!

    They look amazing! Thank you for the recipe!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Helen, I bought these the salty egg yolk in the Asian market. You need to cure them if making from scratch, so I would recommend you to purchase them directly.
      The filling is made with a few solid ingredients (such as the sesame paste and flour) so it has a dough like texture when you mix everything together.
      Let me know if you have more questions! Happy cooking and hope your mooncakes turn out well 🙂

      Reply
  26. Mandie

    I had a suggestion, from banggood, to buy moon cake molds. I had never thought of making them before, but have recently taken to cake/cupcake baking and decorating, so I thought I’d look up moon cakes as my husband’s family are from China and it might be a nice treat to have home made moon cakes this year since none of them have been home in about 50 years. I read a few recipes before I found yours, and I don’t think I’ll be looking any further, unless I decide to try a different filling (I haven’t yet checked to see if you’ve added a different filling recipe). You can tell how much time and passions you put into this. Your write up was an amazing and informative read, I would have loved to have read the longer version! I will be bookmarking this and attempting it this year. Thank you for the time and effort you put into this.

    I do have one question though. Do I need to use duck egg? or can it be chicken egg?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Mandie, thanks so much for your kind words and I’m glad to hear you decide to try out making mooncake this year!
      To answer your question, you can use salted chicken egg yolk as well. You can find these packaged one in Asian market. Let me know if you can’t find them. I’d love to share a salted egg yolk recipe on my blog!
      I haven’t developed other filling yet. This year I might try to make a lotus seed filling, or red bean paste filling. I’ll make sure to add these links when I develop new filling recipes.
      Happy cooking Mandie, and let me know how your mooncakes turn out! 🙂

      Reply
  27. Vera

    I am sooo… going to use your recipe to try making mooncakes! Your post is so thorough and detailed. Thanks for your generosity to share your knowledge and experience.

    Reply
  28. Lilis

    the recipe for the syrup,

    50 milliliters fresh lemon juice, strained (from 1 big lemon)
    400 grams (200 milliliters) caster sugar
    200 milliliters filtered water, and more to brush on the pot

    when the syrup ready with this recipe, what is the weight? or do you use them all?

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Lilis, I’m afraid I don’t have the weight of the final product. I used a thermometer to measure the temperature to determine whether the syrup is ready.

      Reply
  29. Kathrine

    Thank you so much. I’m so glad I found this post. Mooncakes are an arm and a leg where I live and my last few attempts have been delicious but messy.

    Reply
  30. Amarie

    Maggie,
    It’s probably too late this year but you know, it’s a great business idea if you offer to ship prepacked ingredients to those who want to make it. Like a whole mooncake making kit 🙂 I’d love to make it but acquiring all these ingredients will be too much of a hassle! I imagine there are a lot out there who feel the same way. It’s hard to find Asian stores that actually stock these ingredients, I haven’t even found a mould the whole time I have been here. Nevertheless, I have yet to look online 😉

    Personally, I love the non bake mooncake, I find it refreshing and it reminds me of my childhood. Maybe that could be your next venture!

    Reply
  31. lean ong

    Hi Maggie,
    This is my first time doing mooncake for my family. would like to use your black sesame filling for my snowkin mooncake.
    How shld I cook my filling ? Do I still use glutinous rice flour.
    Please help, my family loves black sesame

    Reply
  32. Welly

    Hi.. i tried your mooncake recipe… But i was using mug bean instead. The problem was the skin dough… It’s crumbly….
    The skin tear and broken before i put it in the mould. And it can’t be fixed as the skin dough isn’t that elastic..
    May be you could help me to figure it out… Thank you

    Reply
  33. Pamela

    Enjoyed reading your cooking experience with the moon cakes, very informative, thorough and learned a lot. Also, patient.
    Thank you for the great recipes.

    Reply
  34. lean ong

    Hi Maggie ,
    Please help to advise if I can use your sesame filling recipe in snowskin mooncake please, do I need to cook the filling ? Or should I use other flour ?
    Making the moo cake tomorrow, my family is pure cantonese and love this filling lots. Outside ready-made filling is too sweet

    Reply
  35. Betsy

    Maggie, this recipe is astonishing, and so very kind to the cook who has never seen a moon-cake, let alone made one! I will give it a try and I think it will become a favorite addition to my baking repertoire. Thank you so much for leading me on this adventure, and Happy Mid- Autumn.

    Reply
  36. Barbara Todd

    Thank you for your beautiful post. I have 2 Chinese daughters from Beijing. YuXi has been with us 2.5 years and XiaoLi 1 year. They were adopted from the same China home (orphanage). As YuXi was born with no ear canals, her hearing and language, both Mandarin and English are delayed but improving with her hearing devices. XiaoLi speaks great Mandarin and wonderful English but working on Pinyon and spelling and reading. YuXi is 11 and XiaoLi is 12. They go to weekly Chinese school and they are celebrating the mid autumn festival there today. I have wooden Mooncake molds and would like to attempt to make some. I would like to subscribe to your site as I know your heart and love is included i. Your recipes. Will let you know how the turn out.

    Reply
  37. Jeff Leonarx

    Really great of you to supply real detailed information. You have saved me a lot of time! Thank you so much!

    Reply