A mooncake (yue bing) is a Chinese pastry traditionally filled with a sweet, dense filling (make that very sweet, very dense) and one or more whole salted egg yolk (symbolizing the full moon). The tops of these delicacies are decorated with imprints of Chinese characters for longevity and harmony and the name of the bakery as well as images of the moon, flowers, vines, Chang’e (Chinese goddess of the moon), or a rabbit (symbol of the moon), and there hasn’t been a Mid-Autumn Festival celebrated in China without mooncakes since the Tang Dynasty (618-690 and 705-907) when they were first used as offerings to the moon and eaten during worship. Today, mooncakes are customarily offered and shared between friends, gifted to business clients and relatives, and eaten at family gatherings while celebrating the festival, and there are many different crusts, fillings and regional styles.
Although deeply rooted in ancient tradition, the sky’s the limit when it comes to contemporary-style mooncakes. The many modern creations include low-fat and sugar-free versions, exotic flavors and ingredients, and unique, custard-style fillings. Häagen-Dazs was one of the first to create an ice cream mooncake. They were a big hit (everybody loves ice cream!).
You might want to try this Home Baked Mini Cheese Shanghai Mooncake recipe (by Kimiya Lim, makes 16 small cakes) as it’s simpler and less time consuming than baking traditional mooncakes.
140g (1 cup) Cake flour
1/2 tsp Baking powder
10g (1 tbsp) Custard powder
25g (1/4 cup) Milk powder
2 tsps Parmesan Cheese powder
40g (3 tbsps) Caster sugar
50g (1/3 cup) Softened butter
4 Salted egg yolks (optional)*
320g (11 1/2 ounces) Lotus paste**
Black sesame seeds
Bake in preheated 130°C – 150°C (250°F – 300°F) oven for first 10 minutes, take out & cool for awhile then egg wash and sprinkle tops with a few black sesame seeds. Return to oven and bake for another 18-22 minutes or till golden on top. Baking time & temperature may vary depending on the type and accuracy of oven. You may need to adjust your oven temperature accordingly.
* Salted duck eggs are a common ingredient in Chinese cooking. Traditionally, they are preserved whole and raw in brine, and after a few weeks, the salt water draws out the moisture within the egg, concentrating its flavor. The yolks hardened into bright orange balls. Find them at your local Chinatown market or brine duck (or chicken) eggs ahead of time at home.
** Lotus seed paste is a sweet and smooth filling made from dried lotus seeds. Purchase ready-made at your local Chinatown market or make at home.
Mooncakes in Modern China, by Meredith Butenhoff, Allyn Wiggins, Hattie Grant, & Brandon Bank (Debunking Myths of China, Furman University, October 25, 2016), article includes recipe & instructions on how-to-make mooncakes
The Right Way to Eat Mooncake, by Ellen Duong (Sampan, August 5, 2016)
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Feature photo is courtesy of Flickr user, Chee Kweng Teoh, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0