Making Mooncakes from Scratch

In Chinese culture, the mid-autumn festival is celebrated annually during the eighth month of the lunar calendar. In conventional times prosperity in harvest was linked to the moon’s presence, so the roundness of the moon cakes symbolizes the moon being at its fullest. There are several regional variations of moon cakes, each varying in their inner fillings and presentation. Some examples include Suzhou-style mooncakes with layers of flaky pastry, ham and flower mooncakes from Yunnan, Cantonese-style mooncakes with sweet fillings, and ice-skin mooncakes from Hong-Kong, which are not baked but cooled in a refrigerator, having a mochi like texture instead. A moon cake’s exterior is rather similar for most regions, however, and requires 1 tablespoon water, 1 1/4 cup plain flour, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1/3 cup honey, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Once your dough is ready, pop it in the fridge overnight to chill.

A woman is making moon cakes - stock photo

Getty Images / Moment / Longhua Liao

Traditional moon cake fillings include white lotus seed paste and red bean paste. You’ll need to soak 4 oz of lotus seeds or adzuki beans for up to 12 hours or overnight and then boil and blend them into a smooth consistency. Then, cook 3/4 cups granulated sugar and 4 tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium heat and slowly incorporate the lotus seed or adzuki bean paste into it. Your paste will be ready once it becomes one whole sticky piece that you can take out altogether. Finally, all that’s left is assembly. You’ll need to buy around 10 salt-cured egg yolks, halved, and a moon cake mold to get those beautiful and intricate designs on top. To get started, divide your filling equally between 19 balls. Then, create a divet to place one halved egg yolk inside before sealing the ball shut and rolling it into a round shape again. Lightly press your mold on top of each ball and sprinkle cornstarch before baking them at 350° for 8 minutes. Remove the moon cake from the oven and brush it with an egg wash before baking again for 16 minutes. Once cooled, your moon cakes are ready to enjoy with friends and family.