Traditional Baked Mooncakes

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Traditional Baked Mooncakes

Running around the woods with those little piggies was too much fun! It was nostalgic and certainly recaptured part of the childhood excitement of past Mooncake Festivals where my brothers and I ran around the neighborhood with our candle-lit lanterns. Remember those bright red glass paper lanterns stretched over wire? They were magnificent and came in various shapes and sizes. Among the favorite in those days were the dragon, rabbit, cockerel, and piggy. In later years the kids favored cartoon characters, jets, and tanks. Even our candle-lit tradition was de-romanticized and replaced with battery powered LED that twinkle in the dark. Although these were safer and the lanterns will never burn, they do not have the charm of the candle-lit ones.

As a child, choosing the perfect lantern was the focus of the season. When we were littler Dad brought home the lanterns. As we grew older, we had the privilege of going to the store to choose our own lanterns. Those were fun trips! We were wide-eyed and excited. The lanterns were usually hung from the ceiling and had to be brought down with a hooked pole once a selection was made. Making a selection was not the easiest thing to do. The lanterns were closely hung together and the ceiling seemed so high up and the lanterns so far away. Nevertheless, after much deliberation and angst, a selection was made and the lantern carefully brought down for inspection. It was important that the lantern be well balanced. Usually some minor adjustments to the length of the strings tying the lantern was all that was needed. A tilted lantern may cause it to go up in flames and this is a sad thing especially early in the season. Having to be contented with just candles or an accordion style lantern wasn’t as much fun.

Traditional Baked Mooncakes

Traditional Baked Mooncakes

Those were the good ol’ days! I have long joined the ranks of the tradition bearers and turn my attention from brightly lit paper lanterns to the staid formality of Traditional Baked Mooncakes. What were once peripheral items for me as a kid is now my central focus for the season as an adult. Even though I have never made Traditional Baked Mooncakes up until now, I would plan and carefully select one or two boxes from the store each year. Like all seasonal food, mooncakes are only eaten once a year and if you miss it, you will have to wait until the next year to savor these delectable cakes. Chinese pastry shops all over China and Southeast Asia have been busy churning out boxes of mooncakes to meet the demand. Prices are high, even exorbitant but people continue to buy them. Today, it has taken on the role of a “status” gift exchange. To commesurate with the latter, the packaging has become an exquisite art form, a far cry from the humble red box that was once the norm.

Traditional Baked Mooncakes

In the “old” days, mooncakes had only one type of crust with three basic filling – lotus seed paste with or without egg yolk, red bean paste, and mixed fruits and nuts. Today, there are tens of flavor combinations and several styles of pastry crust. It is always exciting to try something new and some are really good but many are just fads. Traditional style mooncakes never go out of style and they are a must for the season. They have a soft thin golden brown crust with a stamped out pattern on the top. The shape is usually round, perfect for hiding messages in them. Legend has it that the Chinese rebels hid instructions on how to clobber their unfriendly neighborhood Mongol in the 14th century. Since then eating mooncakes has been designated a proper patriotic duty of every Chinese and their friends. This particular chore is not at all unpleasant and needs little to no persuasion. ;)

Traditional Baked Mooncakes

Having seen mooncakes popping up in the blogosphere during the festival, I was determined to make my own this year. When I visited my parents in June, I managed to purchase a mooncake mold, a package of snowskin premix and red bean paste, but little else related to mooncakes. Never fear for Ro-Ri San is here! He had a business trip to Asia planned for early September, the perfect time for picking up ingredients for mooncakes. With detailed directions from my dear friend, Ann of Anncoo Journal, Ro-Ri San was able to buy the essential ingredients from a bakery supply store in Singapore…YAY! As soon as he got home, I immediately set to work. Not a moment to lose as Mooncake Festival which is the 15th day of the 8th moon of the Lunar calendar falls on September 30th this year.

I started with these cute little Snowskin Mooncake Piggies adapted from Anncoo Journal. I had so much fun making these and was delighted with the outcome. The snowskin was soft and smooth and the cakes were delicious. Yes, all 10 are gone now!

Ro-Ri San bought a package of black sesame paste which I have never tried before. I could not wait to put it to good use. Guess what? I found just the right recipe at Anncoo Journal. Ann has several mooncake recipes and a wealth of other baking recipes on her blog. Do check them out.

Traditional Baked Mooncakes

I did change the recipe to suit local measuring conditions and availability of ingredients. Instead of Hongkong flour which is a low gluten flour used for making bao, I used cake flour. I also used maple syrup in place of golden syrup and canola oil in place of peanut oil. I am not sure if the different ingredients may have caused the mooncakes to be paler in color even though I left them baking for a longer period of time. I have adjusted the baking temperature in the recipe below to 375°F (190°C) from 350°F (180°C). Hopefully my future batches will have the desired coloration with an increase in baking temperature. I also read here that alkaline water is necessary for the browning of the mooncakes. Perhaps I should add just a little bit more the next time.

Traditional Baked Mooncakes

Finally, a little bit about the mooncake mold. They do come in different sizes. Mine is a large one for mooncakes weighing between 150g to 185g. A good mooncake should have a very thin crust with a ratio of 1:3 parts dough to filling. This is no simple task for beginners and most people tend to start with a 1:2 ratio. I decided to go with a 1:2.5 ratio with 45g of dough and 115g of filling. It was quite challenging to get that little bit of dough to wrap around the huge ball of filling but it can be done. It takes patience and practice.

Traditional Baked Mooncakes

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 23 minutes

Yield: 10 mooncakes

Traditional Baked Mooncakes


  • 2 cups (270g) cake flour
  • ½ cup (120g) maple or golden syrup
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) canola oil
  • 1 tsp (5ml) alkaline water
  • 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water for eggwash
  • 2 tbsp mooncake glaze
  • Filling
  • ¼ cup (30g) kuachi (melon seeds)
  • 15 oz (420g) lotus seed paste
  • 25 oz (700g) black sesame paste


You will also need a 150g to 185g mooncake mold.

Dry fry kuachi (melon seeds) over medium heat for about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and allow it to cool.

Mix into lotus seed paste. Form into 10 balls measuring slightly approximately 1.5 oz (45g) each.

Divide black sesame paste into 10 portions of 2.5 oz (70g) each. Wrap each portion of black sesame seed paste over each portion of lotus seed paste forming 10 balls of filling.

Sift cake flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Combine maple syrup, canola oil, and alkaline water in a small bowl or measuring cup. Pour syrup mixture into well and mix with a spatula to form a soft dough. Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Lightly dust working surface with cake flour. Knead dough until smooth adding a little flour if necessary. Divide into 10 portions of 45g each.

Take a portion of the dough and spread it into a circle of about 4 inches (10cm). Wrap a ball of filling with the dough.

Roll the of dough and filling between your two palms to smoothen. Place into a flour dusted mooncake mold.

Flatten dough to conform to the shape of the mold. Place on your working surface and carefully press spring plunger down to get a nice pattern on the top.

Lift mold and gently press the spring plunger to release mooncake onto your palm.

Place on a parchment lined baking tray. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Bake in a preheated 375°F (190°C) oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow mooncakes to cool for 5 minutes. Brush on egg wash and return to oven for another 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and brush on some mooncake glaze just on the top of mooncakes.

Place on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for one to two days before serving.


Traditional Baked Mooncakes


Traditional Baked Mooncakes

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43 Responses

  1. Biren, Good try on your first attempt making this traditional mooncakes. They look pretty! I remember the first time when I made the mooncakes, someone told me to add some dark brown coloring or even dark soya sauce to darken the mooncakes but I’ve never tried them before :) Actually you can make your own sugar syrup. The color and taste are so good and better to use even for keeping it for a year. I can email the recipe to you if you want. Just let me know.
    Happy Mid-Autumn Festival to you and your family!

    • Biren says:

      Thanks you Ann for all your fabulous recipes and instructions. I am actually quite happy with the results since this is my first time making traditional mooncakes. Yes, I may just make my own syrup next time. I would love to have the recipe if you don’t mind sharing it with me. :)

      Happy Mid-Autumn Festival to you too!

  2. PolaM says:

    Those mooncakes look incredible! Something to try!

  3. MaryMoh says:

    Beautiful moon cakes! I haven’t made any yet this year. But I do want some. I think I have to burn midnight oil to make some :D

  4. I love this post Biren as it reminds me of when I lived in Singapre from late summer until early winter one year. I attended the Mid Autumn festival with local friends and it was magical. Between the lanterns and the beautiful mooncakes. Now I know how to make them to thanks to you! Thank you.

    • Biren says:

      Thanks Toni! I am so glad to hear you got to experience the Mid-Autumn Festival. It is one of the many celebrations I miss in the old country.

  5. I saw some mooncakes at the Asian market this week but yours are far prettier and I bet much, much better tasting. The mould is great! So pretty!

    • Biren says:

      Thanks Jean for your kind words! I am so glad I managed to buy this mold when I visited in June although it was a tad early.

  6. I have always thought mooncakes were terribly difficult to make. You’ve almost convinced me to have a go. :)

    • Biren says:

      The store bought filling is a great help. Otherwise it will be much more difficult as making lotus seed, black sesame, and red bean paste is very time consuming.

  7. rebecca says:

    lovely to learn about your culture and these are simply perfect I want one :0)

  8. Baby Sumo says:

    Beautiful mooncakes, Biren! I am gonna bring my kids to shop for lantern this weekend, nowadays they have so many “fancy” ones .. I still prefer the good ol’ paper ones which you put candles in. Not the battery operated ones.

    • Biren says:

      Thanks Baby Sumo! How fun to go lantern shopping. I am sure there are all kinds of fancy designs these days. Yes, the candle ones are still the best! :)

  9. Ruby says:

    They’re so beautiful! The finished product reminds me of the Arab ma’amul – a semolina cookie filled with either nuts or dates. They are also made in a special mold, although the ma’amul molds don’t have that handy pushing-out feature! Also, what a lovely shot of the lanterns. Really pretty.

    • Biren says:

      Thanks Ruby! Those ma’amuls sound interesting. I am sure they are as tasty as they are beautiful. Actually, the old mooncake molds are made of wood and do not have the pushing out feature. Thanks to modern innovation, some things have become more efficient. :) I love that shot too! They appear to be floating!

  10. Jeannie says:

    i too enjoyed making mooncakes, it’s like play dough:D Your mooncakes look really pretty!

    • Biren says:

      Thanks Jeannie! The pattern was a little more pronounced before baking but I can’t complain since this is my first try.

  11. mjskit says:

    I see that you already have this boxed up so can I place an order for 6 boxes? :) I do love black sesame paste, but I haven’t tried the lotus paste. These mooncakes are just perfect and the most beautiful mooncakes I’ve ever seen! With this post and the last one you are inspiring me to give these a go. Beautiful, just beautiful and I know they taste delicious!

  12. wok with ray says:

    They are very pretty mooncakes and I like the filling. Have a nice weekend, Biren! :)

  13. kristy says:

    Biren, your baked mooncakes are gorgeous….as good as those piggy mooncakes. Kudos! I love the mould as well. Very pretty.
    Wishing you & your family a very Happy Mid Autumn Festival, dear. Enjoy & have a fabulous time.

  14. kitchenriffs says:

    This is such a cool post! You’ve really outdone yourself this time – these are terrific! Finding ingredients might be a bit of a challenge, but these look wonderful. Very useful and informative – thanks so much.

    • Biren says:

      Thanks for your kind words! I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to make these mooncakes. Hopefully I get to make them again next year. :)

  15. Raymund says:

    Wow thats a commercial quality mooncake, theres lots of those here now in NZ

  16. Wow! Very impressive! I must not miss the moooncake festival next year. Wish I had one of those plunger moulds. Makes it look so easy…

    • Biren says:

      I was so glad I managed to buy one of those molds back in June. Only one design left but I wasn’t complaining. They are not as charming as the wooden ones but they do make the job much easier.

  17. Dongxing says:

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, that’s all I can say. And with two different fillings combined together. I bet they were delicious. I love both lotus paste and black sesame, although I have never tasted black sesame mooncake. Well done, you! Now I know what these plastic plungers are for.

  18. Rachel says:

    Hi Biren! I just love your site. I have a question…is the alkaline water necessary for this recipe or can I omit it? I don’t know where to find it and there are no Asian food markets where I live. Thanks for your help.

    • Rachel says:

      I know you said it’s necessary for browning the mooncakes, but I’m not planning on giving these as gifts or anything.

      • Biren says:

        Hi Rachel! So glad to hear you are enjoying my site. :)

        You should be able to purchase alkaline water at most Asian grocery stores here in the US. However, if you are not able to get to a store, you do not have a choice but to omit it. I have to say here that the necessity of the alkaline water for browning is something that I read at another blog. (Please click on the link above to get to the post). However, I made these mooncakes a second time using Log Cabin All Natural Table Syrup and the mooncakes had a nice golden color. You can see my second batch here. I did continue to use the alkaline water though. Both the maple syrup and the table syrup gave the mooncakes a very nice fragrance.

  19. Rita Khoo says:

    Hi Biren!
    I am indeed v impressed with your mooncakes. Keep it light in color, it actually looks great, in my opinion! I am certain it does taste great too. Living in Asia makes us so lazy, we just go and buy them. I remember when I was living in Perth, WA, a girl friend made the ones with ham, nuts, seeds and candied melon. And I tell you, it was really soo O good! It beats the store bought ones, hands down!
    Well done girl, looking forward to see another new batch this mid-autumn!

    • Biren says:

      Thanks Rita for the kind words! Homemade mooncakes are definitely fresher than the store bought ones. Hence, they do taste very good. Hopefully, I can make another batch soon. :)

  1. December 14, 2012

    […] as I do like all three types of filling. Since I had some red bean paste left over from making mooncakes, I went ahead and used that for the filling. I am glad I […]

  2. August 7, 2013

    […] year and look forward to more next year. For the recipe, please click the links or pictures for the Traditional Baked Mooncakes and Snowskin Mooncake […]

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