mooncakes with salted egg yolk and lotus paste

Celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival by making your own salted egg yolk lotus paste mooncakes this year! I share my best tips, tricks, and visuals to help guide you through the whole process.

What are mooncakes?

In many Asian cultures, mooncakes are eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. Mooncakes are round or square tender pastries that are filled with a sweet and dense paste. In many cases, the most inner filling will contain one or two salted egg yolks, meant to represent the moon!

Like many other holidays in Asian and Chinese culture, the Mid-Autumn Festival is meant to bring families together and celebrate reunion. When I was young, our family tradition included eating a big dinner together consisting of foods that symbolize togetherness, prosperity, and wealth. After dinner, we’d lay a blanket out on the balcony and eat mooncakes together while gazing at the full moon. Because my parents never celebrated American holidays, this annual tradition was always really special and memorable to me.

What ingredients do you need to make mooncakes with salted egg yolk and lotus paste?

My mom likes making her mooncakes completely from scratch (recipe for that here) — this includes soaking and boiling lotus seeds until they’re soft, blending them up into a paste, and cooking it until most of the water is evaporated.

She also makes her own salted egg yolks, which takes 4-6 weeks of advanced prep! I’ll be detailing these steps in a separate post at some point.

As delicious as the made from scratch ones are, if you're like me, you may be looking for the most simplified mooncake recipe that you can complete in just a few hours. For this method, I recommend buying your lotus paste and salted egg yolks at your local Asian supermarket. The recipe I’m sharing below will make 18 small (50g) mooncakes.

Here are all the ingredients and tools you need to make your own mooncakes:

(important ingredient not pictured above: peanut or any neutral-tasting oil)

Tools

Ingredients

Cake flour or AP flour

Cake flour contains lower percentages of gluten compared to all purpose flour (7-8% vs 8-13%), which should yield a slightly softer outer crust. I've made mooncakes with both, and the difference is so subtle that I don't believe you need to go out of your way to purchase cake flour if you already have all purpose flour on hand.

Lotus paste

  • red lotus paste is the most traditional — it’s deep red, and has a caramelized sweetness to it. It’s made from boiling lotus seeds until they’re soft, adding oil and sugar, then cooking it until it becomes a paste. According to my mom, red lotus seed paste is made with yellow or brown sugar, which differs from white lotus paste.
  • white lotus paste is made the same way, but with white sugar. My mom prefers white lotus paste as she calls its sweetness more ”light” and “clean” compared to red lotus paste.

You can also make your own lotus paste instead of getting storebought (recipe here)! It takes a few more hours of preparation.

If you don't like lotus paste, feel free to sub with any other sweet, thick, and dense paste, like red bean paste or mung bean paste. I've also seen black sesame paste available recently at 99 Ranch!

Salted egg yolks

  • salted chicken egg yolks (recommended): I recommend getting salted chicken egg yolks (if available), since they are slightly smaller and fit better in these small 50g mooncakes. We're looking for yolks that are ideally between 9-13g in weight.
  • salted duck egg yolks: nothing wrong with these, they're delicious! however, since duck egg yolks are larger, they're likely better for large 100g mooncakes.

If you have extra time and are planning a few weeks in advance, I highly recommend trying to make your own salted egg yolks. My mom makes her own salted egg yolks with a salt water brine, and they taste so much better than store-bought! I plan to make a post about how she does this and will link it here when it’s ready.

Honey or invert sugar syrup

  • good quality honey: traditionally, mooncakes are made with invert sugar syrup, but my mom prefers using honey. If you can, get good quality, thick honey — this will make the dough easier to work with.
  • invert sugar syrup: this is a syrup with a similar viscosity to honey, and it’s made from table sugar and water. It’s known to help baked goods retain moisture. You can sometimes find this in supermarkets, but if not, you can make this at home! There are lots of Youtube videos on how to do so.

Oil: Peanut or any neutral-tasting oil

My mom usually makes her mooncakes with peanut oil, but we’ve made great-tasting batches with vegetable oil. Any neutral-tasting oil should work!

Lye water

Also known as kansui, it’s an alkaline solution that’s used in very small amounts to help with color or neutralize acid. In mooncakes, it’s used to help the crust achieve its beautiful deep golden color. You can usually find this in Asian supermarkets, but here’s one on Amazon in case it’s not easily accessible for you.

You can also make it at home with baked baking soda and water, but I haven’t tried doing so as lye water has been easy accessible in supermarkets near where I live.

My top 3 tips for making mooncakes:

Making mooncakes is definitely a skill that takes practice to master! I’m not a pro at them yet, but I’ve learned a few important tips that should help: 

The amount of flour you need for the dough may vary slightly

...depending on what honey or sugar syrup you’re using. The higher the water content, the more flour you’ll need! Just gradually add flour until you reach the “tacky but not sticky” texture. You have to do it by feel and not by exact recipe, as the honey that I use won’t be the exact same as yours.

When wrapping the lotus paste around the egg yolk, it’s important to try to do so as evenly as possible

...so that the egg yolk bakes in the center. Similarly when wrapping the mooncakes with the outer layer, doing so evenly will ensure even baking of the crust! 

After baking, rest your mooncakes for 2-3 days in the fridge

Over a few days, the color of the crust will deepen, and the oils will redistribute from the filling to the crust, creating a tender, soft pastry. They look and taste so much better — just look at the difference below!

Common problems you may run into while making mooncakes

Mooncakes can be quite technical and finicky, so it’s totally common to run into these problems! Don’t worry, most of them are easily fixable if you know what to watch out for.

If the dough is too sticky to work with...

Solution: add more flour! The amount of flour listed in the recipe is a good starting point, but you may need to add more if the honey or invert sugar syrup you’re using has a higher water content. The dough should be tacky, but not sticking to your fingers if you press on it.

If the mooncake is sticking to the mold...

Make sure to sprinkle a little flour in both the mooncake mold, as well as on the dough (and roll it around to spread it). When I did this consistently between each mooncake, I had no issues with sticking.

If the outer layer droops or sinks as it’s baking...

Know that some drooping is normal, since the dough does have some viscosity from the honey and oil. However, if it’s drooping a lot (like the picture on the left), then it means the dough has too much water content (most likely from the honey), so you need to add flour to the dough. The picture on the right is after I added more flour (about 10g more).

I also recommend baking the mooncakes soon after you press them out from the mold. The longer it sits at room temperature, the more opportunity it has to start drooping. If you don’t plan to bake them for a while, you could keep them in the fridge to slow the drooping and keep its shape better.

If the outer layer looks dry or cracked during or after baking...

This can happen if there's a little too much flour in the dough, or if the dough was exposed for too long to the air before assembling. Misting the mooncakes lightly with water before they go into the oven can help with this! Another thing my mom likes to do is to leave a tray of water below the mooncakes in the oven to create a more humid environment.

If you run into any additional issues, please let me know! Let’s see if we can troubleshoot it together 🙂 Best of luck!!

Mooncakes with Salted Egg Yolk and Lotus Paste

The most traditional and popular type of mooncakes we eat during the Mid-Autumn Festival: tender, golden-baked pastry wrapped around sweet lotus paste and a salted egg yolk.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 18 Small (50g) mooncakes

Equipment

  • 50g mooncake mold (required)
  • kitchen scale (required)
  • baking sheet tray (required)
  • Rolling Pin (optional but recommended)
  • parchment paper or silicone mat (optional but recommended)
  • spatula (optional but recommended)

Ingredients
  

Outer layer dough:

  • 120 grams cake flour or all purpose flour
  • 90 grams honey or invert sugar syrup
  • 35 grams peanut oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon lye water
  • 1 egg for egg wash

Filling:

  • 500 grams lotus seed paste or sub red bean paste
  • 18 salted egg yolks chicken egg yolks preferred

Instructions
 

Make the outer layer dough:

  • In a large bowl, use a spatula to mix together honey, peanut or vegetable oil, and lye water until everything’s incorporated well. 
    90 grams honey, 35 grams peanut oil, 1 teaspoon lye water
  • Add in the flour (start with 120g) and fold until it becomes a smooth and shiny dough. Test the dough by pressing 2 fingers flat on the dough and releasing: the dough should be tacky, but not sticking to your hands. Depending on how much water content the honey you’re using has, you may have to add more flour to reach this tacky texture — I sometimes use a total of 140g of flour but you may not need that much. Be careful to not add more flour than you need, otherwise you may end up with dry or cracked mooncakes.
    120 grams cake flour
  • Cover the dough and let it rest for 1 hour. While the dough rests, start preparing the filling.

Prepare the filling:

  • Make sure your salted egg yolks are clean and dry. Place 1 salted egg yolk on the kitchen scale, and then add enough lotus seed paste to bring the total weight to 35g. (For example, if your egg yolk is 10g, you’ll add a total of 25g of lotus seed paste.) Repeat for all 18 salted egg yolks, and make sure to keep them paired. 
    18 salted egg yolks, 500 grams lotus seed paste
  • Take the lotus seed paste of your first pair and roll it into a ball. With your thumb, press down into the ball to create a pocket. Lightly press in the salted egg yolk, and enclose it gently and evenly without any gaps between the paste and the yolk. Do your best to make sure the lotus paste is encased around the yolk in an even layer — this will ensure that the yolk will be in the center of the mooncake.  
  • Repeat for the rest until you have 18 lotus paste-wrapped yolks.

Wrap the outer layer around the filling:

  • After the outer layer dough has rested for 1 hour, remove from the bowl. Test the tackiness of the dough with your fingers again — if it’s too sticky, add a bit more flour. 
  • Using a kitchen scale, measure out 18 dough balls weighing 15g each. 
  • Spread flour on a clean working surface, your rolling pin, and your hands to prevent sticking. Gently roll out a dough ball evenly until it’s about 2.5in wide. Let the weight of the rolling pin do the work, there’s no need to push down! 
  • Put the rolled out piece of dough onto your palm, and add the ball of lotus paste filling in the middle. Turn it over so that the outer layer is sitting on top, then gently wrap and encase this dough evenly around the lotus paste, making sure to close any gaps. The more evenly it’s spread, the more even the crust will bake. Repeat for the rest of the dough balls. Place a clean towel or plastic wrap over the wrapped lotus pastes to prevent them from drying out. 

Press and bake the mooncakes:

  • Preheat your oven to 350F. If using a toaster oven, start with 325F. To keep the oven air humid and prevent your mooncakes from cracking, keep a tray of water underneath the mooncakes. Prepare a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. 
  • Dust a little flour into your mooncake mold and shake out any excess. Sprinkle a little flour on the wrapped lotus paste, spread it around the surface of the dough, then place it inside the mooncake mold. Flip the mold over onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and gently press down until you feel resistance, then “stamp” it a few more times. Press out the mooncake carefully. If it sticks, it means you need to add more flour to the dough before placing it into the mold. Repeat with the rest, making sure to space them at least 1-2 inches apart. 
  • Lightly mist the mooncakes with water, then place into the oven and bake for 5 minutes. In the meantime, mix 1 egg yolk + 2 teaspoon of water in a bowl. 
    1 egg
  • After 5 minutes, take the mooncakes out and brush the tops and sides very lightly with the egg wash — you don’t want any egg wash liquid to pool into the molded pattern on top. If it does, gently wipe it off with a paper towel. 
  • Put them back into the oven and let them bake for another 12-14 minutes, or until evenly golden brown on the tops and sides. If you notice them browning too quickly, place a piece of foil on top of the mooncakes. 
  • Remove from the oven and let cool. Once cooled, place them into an airtight container and into the fridge. These are best enjoyed 2-3 days later, as the oils redistribute from the filling into the crust, resulting in a deeper golden color and soft and delicious outer layer! 
Keyword lotus mooncake, mooncake, salted egg yolk mooncake
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Hello Susanna, I’ve used your recipe for a reference in my post on linkedin for introducing what mooncakes are:) I’ve provided link and website credits, let me know if the content is not suitable here, thanks!

  2. Hi Susanna, I‘ve tried your recipe and somehow the sides cracked. May I know what I did wrong? I followed all the steps carefully. Thank you

    • smellylunchbox

      Hi Felicia, mooncakes can be quite finicky, and I appreciate you for following the recipe!

      If the sides cracked, it might mean theres a little too much flour in the dough. When we make these, we have to do it a little more by how the dough feels -- and usually start at 120g and add more only if it feels too sticky. If it's already at the tacky texture, we don't add anymore flour. This is especially the case because different brands of honey may have varying levels of viscosity.

      Something you can do to help is spray the mooncakes very lightly with water before baking. You can also have a tray of water underneath the mooncakes to keep the oven's air more humid. I will add these tips to the recipe!

      Regardless, the oil from the lotus paste inside should redistribute into the outer layer over the next few days in the fridge, and it should become less dry. I hope this helps!

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