The time-honoured Mid-Autumn Festival boasts a history that's three thousand years old. It was first celebrated to give thanks for a bountiful harvest.
The ancient emperors used to worship the moon in autumn. Afterwards, people would pay tribute to the bright moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival, which takes place on the 15th day of the lunar calendar's eighth month – when the moon is thought to be at its brightest. The festival is celebrated with mooncakes: families and friends gather together to eat the pastries and appreciate the great beauty of the full and bright moon.
I love mooncakes – especially the dessert's beautiful taste. Its sweetness varies, depending on each bite. And its sugary intensity can be tempered by the salted egg yolk that's baked into the filling.
The festival is celebrated with mooncakes: families and friends gather together to eat the pastries and appreciate the great beauty of the full and bright moon.
Mooncakes can be expensive, so I'd like to share my recipe for making them – which I got from my grandma. Take the time to produce mooncakes as gifts, and your family and friends will appreciate the effort.
Lotus mooncakes with salted egg yolks
Makes 10-12 mini mooncakes
Mooncakes are indispensable during the Mid-Autumn festival. A full moon symbolises prosperity and family reunions.
- 60 g golden syrup (you can substitute with maple syrup)
- ¼ tsp lye water (also known as alkaline water, kansui, or potassium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate solution)
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- ¼ cup cake flour (if not available, substitute with 1 cup of plain flour)
- 10 salted egg yolks (you can vary the filling and use half the yolks and more lotus paste if you prefer)
- 220 g store-bought lotus paste or red bean paste
1. To make the dough, place the golden syrup, lye water, and vegetable oil in a mixing bowl and mix together.
2. Add flour to the bowl and mix until it forms a pebbly dough and the ingredients have combined.
3. Cover the dough with cling wrap and refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.
4. To make each mooncake filling, create a small ball around 35g or 2 tsp–2½ tsp in size, by enveloping each salted egg yolk with a layer of lotus paste. Roll into a ball. Set aside.
5. For each mooncake, scoop about 1 tsp of dough and roll it between two plastic sheets, so it’s around 8 to 9 cm in diameter.
6. Place a ball of filling in the centre and fold the dough around the ball. Gently push, press, and squeeze the dough, holding the ball securely in your palm, until the dough gradually covers the ball of filling. The firmer your filling, the easier this will be.
7. Place the mooncake ball into your mould and turn it upright on your surface. Press the plunger down onto the mooncake until you feel resistance – this imprints the decorative pattern onto the dough. Lift the mooncake mould off the table and use the plunger to push the mooncake out.
8. When you finish forming the mooncakes, bake them at 180˚C for 6-8 minutes until the surface starts to firm up.
9. Remove the mooncakes from the oven and brush the surface of each mooncake with egg wash.
10. Bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown.
11. Remove the cake from the oven to cool at room temperature.
12. Transfer the mooncakes to an airtight container and keep for 2-3 days, so the pastry softens and develops a glossy sheen before serving.
Note: Salted egg yolks and lotus paste can be found at Asian grocers and select supermarkets (lotus paste is available in different flavours – including green tea).
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Mooncakes are rich, heavy, and dense compared with most Western cakes and pastries. They are usually eaten in small wedges accompanied by Chinese tea and symbolise family unity and perfection. Mai’s recipe uses mung beans but red bean paste or lotus seed paste can also be used. You can also add a drop of food colouring to the wrappers for a more vibrant cake.