Mooncake Easy & Foolproof

Mooncake Easy & Foolproof

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Mooncakes are made with only four simple ingredients namely golden syrup, flour, lye water, and oil. With Chinese origins, they are synonymous when celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival. Here‘s the ultimate guide to making tasty baked mooncakes.

Preparation 95 mins
Cooking 70 mins

Snack, Dessert

Cantonese Mooncake, Baked Mooncake, 广式月饼

Chinese


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Mooncakes are special traditional treats which are found only when the Mid-Autumn festival is around the corner. Just like most auspicious symbols, the mooncake signifies full moon which also refers to prosperity. The roundness of the mooncake represents family togetherness and completeness.

These baked Chinese pastries are generally quite pricey. Even though the ingredients needed for a basic mooncake are inexpensive, the high price is usually due to the skills and workmanship besides the fact that it is also a seasonal treat. Therefore, it would definitely cost less when you make them yourself. Just be equipped with these important tips to make mooncakes anytime, anywhere.

How do mooncakes taste like?

Sweet or/and savoury, depending on the filling. Mooncakes are normally sweet with plain fillings like lotus paste and red bean paste. There is a variant where a salted egg yolk is added to the lotus paste to balance the sweetness.

Another traditional baked mooncake flavour is that with five types of kernel (walnut, peanuts, sesame seeds, almonds and water melon seeds) and roast pork. However, today there is a huge variety of fruit flavours or even trendy fillings like custard lava, durian or chocolate mooncakes in the market.

Different flavours of baked mooncakes
Different flavours of baked mooncakes

It is also possible to make mooncakes biscuits using only the dough meant for the skin. It may have a thin layer of sweet paste in the biscuits. These would be a great option if you love mooncakes but find that there is too much filling for your liking.

Mooncake biscuits
Mooncake biscuits

What are mooncakes made of?

Only four simple ingredients to make the mooncake skin and a sweet paste of your choice. Oil and cake flour are easily available. The other two special ingredients are lye water and golden syrup. Golden syrup or invert sugar can be bought at most supermarkets or easily made at home. As for lye water, it can be bought either online or at Asian grocers. It can be made at home as well.

Mixing lye water with golden syrup, oil and salt
Mixing lye water with golden syrup, oil and salt

Role of ingredients and substitutes

Each of these ingredients play an important role to making these traditional Cantonese mooncakes.

Ingredient Usage Substitute
Golden syrup To provide a nice shade of golden brown Honey
Peanut oil For its fragrance Any other colourless and flavourless oil
Lye water For an even shade of colour, to balance pH from golden syrup and soften skin texture Refer to ‘lye water below‘
Cake flour Provide structure Refer to ‘Cake flour or all-purpose flour‘ below

Lye water

Lye water or alkaline water may be the most confusing ingredient when it comes to making baked mooncakes. As an ingredient, the pH level helps to provide colour to baked goods such as bagels and give a better mouthfeel in noodles. Lye water contributes colour to the skin of mooncakes and also balances the acidity in the golden syrup.

To make lye water, you need to make soda ash. Spread some baking soda on a parchment paper and bake for 30 minutes at 95 degrees Celsius. Wait until it cooled to room temperature. Mix 10g of soda ash and 30g of water. I tried making the lye water but the result is not as good as those which I bought from the store. The colour of the mooncake skin is more even too when using the latter.

Do not add too much lye water as it will cause the mooncake to shrink at the sides during baking and also shorten the shelf life.

Vegan and gluten-free mooncakes

This recipe for the mooncake skin is perfect for vegans. Avoid salted egg yolk or other filling with animal product if you are on a vegan diet.

If you are on a gluten-free diet, why not try snowskin mooncakes. They are traditionally made using gluten-free ingredients. For a reasonable substitute of cake flour in this recipe, try gluten-free cake mixes for a 1:1 replacement.

Snowskin mooncakes using cooked glutinous rice flour
Snowskin mooncakes using cooked glutinous rice flour

Cake flour or all-purpose flour?

Traditionally, cake flour is used to achieve the soft skin texture of the mooncake. This is because of the low protein content (ca. 8%). I tried using all purpose flour which has about 10% protein but the skin turned out pretty hard.

To make your own cake flour, mix in 200g of all-purpose flour and 40g of cornstarch. Sieve the mixture for at least 3 times to ensure that it is evenly mixed.

How to choose lotus paste filling and why is it oily?

Traditional mooncakes love using lotus paste as its filling. The paste is made using lotus seeds which are boil, pureed and mixed with sugar. The sweetened paste is then cooked in oil. High quality lotus paste should have a nutty fragrance and have a semi transparent shine to it.

When shaping the filling or adding melon seeds, avoid over working or kneading the filling because there is a risk where the oil will split from the paste.

Adding melon seeds to lotus paste
Adding melon seeds to lotus paste

All about salted egg yolks

Mooncakes with salted egg yolks are loved by many because it helps to balance the sweetness from the sweet filling. Salted egg are sold in cartons too, just like the fresh ones. You may even find frozen salted egg yolks. They are made available in local markets or Asian grocers. Check the information on the packaging as you wouldn‘t want to buy cooked salted eggs.

To remove separate egg yolks. During the salting process, egg yolks turn solid. This makes it easy to remove all egg whites around the yolk. You may even rinse the yolks under water to remove all whites.

Salted egg yolk
Salted egg yolk

Wrapping the raw yolks directly with the sweet paste may result in the eggy odour which is off putting for some. Steaming the eggs with the fragrant peanut oil will help to get rid of the unpleasant smell and taste.

Important tips when wrapping

It is crucial to wrap the egg yolk or filling tightly. Leaving some space during wrapping will create air pockets which will expand when baking. Flatten the sweet paste or dough to wrap the rounded ingredient. Gently push the wrapper up to cover the surface of the egg yolk or paste.

Wrapping the lotus paste
Wrapping the lotus paste

Mooncake moulds

Buy mooncake moulds online or at baking speciality stores. The mould used in this recipe measures 6 cm in diameter. 4 cm in height and it is meant for mooncakes up to 120 g. The total weight for the dough and filling is 115 g.

Can I double or triple the recipe?

Sure, simple increase the amount of all the ingredients accordingly.

The baked mooncakes look really dry

Just after baking, the mooncakes may look dry, hard and pale in colour. You must let it sit for 3 days to allow them to develop the beautiful colour and shine. This happens when some of the oil from the sweet paste is absorbed by the skin. They will then achieve the ideal soft aromatic texture just like those from the stores.

Mooncakes crack during baking or doesn‘t turn soft

In this case, the oven‘s temperature may be set too high or the mooncakes may have been baked for too long. Either reduce the temperature or the time by 5-10 minutes during the next round of baking. Another tip is to spray some water on the mooncakes before the first round of baking. That may avoid cracking.

Overbaking mooncakes

Extending the baking time may result in the perfect colour immediately after baking but very dark coloured mooncakes 3 days later. Just bake until it‘s golden brown in color. Let the the colour of the mooncakes darken 3 days after baking.

Overbaked mooncake after 3 days compared to freshly baked mooncakes
Overbaked mooncake after 3 days compared to freshly baked mooncakes


Ingredients

Servings:  
300 g
sugar
315 g
water
1
lemon(s)
140 g
golden syrup
60 g
peanut oil
16 g
lye water
1 g
salt
240 g
cake flour
520 g
lotus paste
1
egg yolk(s)
1⁄8 tsp
salt

Steps to Prepare

Mooncake Easy & Foolproof Step 1

Step 1 of 7

    • 300 g sugar
    • 300 g water
    • 1 lemon(s)

To make golden syrup, combine sugar, water, lemon juice and its skin in a deep pot. Do not stir the contents. Cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Then, reduce heat to low-medium heat for 25 minutes or until it turns to golden amber colour. Stir the pot every few minutes to avoid burning. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Mooncake Easy & Foolproof Step 2

Step 2 of 7

    • 140 g golden syrup
    • 60 g peanut oil
    • 16 g lye water
    • 1 g salt
    • 240 g cake flour

Prepare mooncake dough by mixing golden syrup, lye water, salt and peanut oil. Once evenly mixed, add flour into the wet mixture and mix until it forms a dough. Avoid over kneading the dough. Then, allow it to rest for an hour.

Mooncake Easy & Foolproof Step 3

Step 3 of 7

    • 520 g lotus paste

Meanwhile, divide lotus paste into portions of 65g or 50g (if salted egg yolk is added) each. Optionally, add some toasted melon seeds into the paste. Do not overwork the paste when adding melon seeds or oil will begin to separate.

Mooncake Easy & Foolproof Step 4

Step 4 of 7

Optional, if salted egg yolk is added: Fill up 1/3 of a pot with water. While waiting for the water to boil, separate the egg yolks from the whites. Add 1 tablespoon of peanut oil to the egg yolks. Once the water boils, steam the egg yolks for at least 4 minutes. Remove egg yolks from steamer and dap dry to get rid of excess liquid. Then, wrap lotus paste with the egg yolk.

Mooncake Easy & Foolproof Step 5

Step 5 of 7

Divide the mooncake dough into 50g each. Flatten the mooncake dough to wrap the prepared filling. Make the filled dough round. Repeat until all lotus paste is wrapped.

Mooncake Easy & Foolproof Step 6

Step 6 of 7

Lightly press filled dough into the mould. Place the mould over a baking tray lined with parchment paper or an oiled tray. Hold the mould firmly. Carefully push the shaped mooncake from the mould. Repeat until all mooncakes are shaped.

Mooncake Easy & Foolproof Step 7

Step 7 of 7

    • 1 egg yolk(s)
    • 15 g water
    • 0.13 tsp salt

Bake the mooncakes at 170 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes. While waiting, mix egg yolk, water and salt to prepare the egg wash. Brush the mooncakes with some egg wash. Bake the mooncakes for another 10 minutes at 170 degrees Celsius. Allow to cool and store in a closed food container for at least 3 days before consuming.

Published: September 27, 2020


1 Discussions

15 days ago

Helena Cheah

Hi Karin, few weeks back I did make doll mooncake. But mine are a bit moist. Doesn’t need to wait 3 days to be soften. Any idea, what happened? Tq in advanced.

14 days ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

Hi Helena, I'm going to quickly jump in before Karin ;) All mooncakes need to wait for 3 days before consuming to soften. Could the dough be moist due to the temperature of the oven or the baking duration? Maybe you can try to increase the temperature or time in your next try. If you need more information on mooncake biscuits, it's here: https://www.nyonyacooking.com/recipes/mooncake-biscuits~rad299T9W4

12 days ago

Karin Yap

Hello Helena! What about your mooncake dough before baking? or it could be that some ovens have different actual temperatures despite the temperature set. Maybe an increase in baking time?

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