Snow skin mooncakes are an uncooked version of Chinese mooncakes - learn how to make them from scratch including a sweet-nutty sesame filling. Pretty & delicious, they're a great sweet treat for gifting.
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For many people in the US, today is an exciting day as there is going to be a solar eclipse. That's when the moon passes between the sun and the earth and the moon blocks the sun.
If you're even a tiny bit of a space nerd, this is a big thing as it doesn't happen all that often anywhere. But to be near where you are and with many places in the US right on the track where you will see a total eclipse (ie the moon completely blocks the sun), I can understand why it's such a big thing.
While I think it would be great to see, we're not so in to it that we are traveling to be on that route. And unfortunately, the route goes roughly NW to SE of the US so we in the NE are not particularly close. At most, we might get a slight darkening but it will be nothing like as dramatic as if you were near.
However when Sue from Palatable Pastime suggested celebrating with some dark or moon-themed recipes, I couldn't resist. I chose to make these Chinese mooncakes for a couple reasons. First, being 'moon' cakes they are pretty appropriate, of course. Then I've gone for a black sesame filling so they have that same look as the eclipse of dark inside, light around the edge.
Finally, these Chinese mooncakes are traditionally eaten for the Mid-Autumn festival, so if you give them a try now, you have time to perfect them before making them again for that!
What are mooncakes?
As I said, mooncakes are one of the traditional foods you may have to celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival, one of the biggest festivals in the Chinese calendar. They come in many forms, some sweet some savory, depending on the region, although most are round and with a decorative top from pressing with a mould.
These are technically snow skin mooncakes which are typical of Hong Kong. Most other kinds of mooncake are baked and so have a crisp outside, while these are uncooked and softer. They are often seen as a newer kind of mooncake and have been gaining popularity, partly as they are a little healthier (although they are still not exactly healthy and quite definitely a treat in our house at least).
How to make snow skin mooncakes
One of the other reasons these have become more popular is they are easier to make. Basically, you make a dough for the outside and another for the filling. The outside dough uses cooked glutinous rice flour which can be tricky to find. In fact, I couldn't so I tried making some myself. I read mixed reviews on whether it would work, and tend towards thinking it's not ideal as the dough isn't stretchy, but I still kind of got it to work.
You can see the cooked flour is a little darker than the uncooked (in the spoon) and confectioners sugar (at the bottom) in the top middle photo below. It's subtle, but it is different.
Traditionally you mix the cooked flour with sugar and lard, but I used coconut oil - you can also use butter - as I prefer the flavor. Some recipes steam the dough to make it more transparent, more like mochi, but I didn't really feel the need. You can also color it eg with macha powder.
What's in the filling?
You have many options on how to fill these. Some use colored vegetable/bean-based sweet fillings such as red bean paste, taro or mung bean. You can make your own or find the pastes ready-made in Asian stores.
Then you also have some with sesame seed paste as I have here, which I adapted from this useful post about making the baked mooncakes.
The trick is to make the outer layer really thin around the ball of filling, then put it in the mould and pop it out. Traditional moulds are wooden with the shape cut into them, but more common these days are the plastic press-type moulds I used here as it's easier to get the mooncakes out. I used this KINGSO Round Mooncake 50g DIY Moon Cake Mold Cookie Cutter 4 Flower Plant Stamps Decoration which was nice and easy to use (affiliate link).
I won't lie, these Chinese mooncakes are a little fiddly to make, but it's not difficult, really. And I know mine are far from perfect-looking, but they're still cute. Plus more importantly, the result is a delicious treat that I'm sure anyone would love to receive as a gift and enjoy whatever the occasion. Sweet and gently nutty, these are definitely worth the effort.
Try these other traditional Chinese dishes:
- Sang choy bao (Chinese lettuce wraps)
- Chinese oven steamed fish
- Steamed bao buns with pork
- Chinese sweet dumplings (tangyuan)
- Plus get more Chinese recipes in the archives.
Chinese mooncakes (snow skin mooncakes)
For the outer dough
- ½ cup cooked glutinous rice flour 55g, see note below
- ¼ cup confectioners sugar 35g, icing sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 tablespoon water or a little more
For the filling
- ½ cup black sesame seeds 75g
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter 20g
- 3 tablespoon confectioners sugar 26g, icing sugar
- 2 tablespoon glutinous rice flour
For the outer dough
- Sift the cooked glutinous rice flour and confectioner's sugar together into a bowl. Add the coconut oil and water and mix to combine. If you'd like to add color, add a little at this point either to all or part (I added a little freeze dried strawberry to give pink tinge; matcha powder is another good option). Press the mixture together, adding a little more water if it breaks up too much. Weigh out 4 pieces of 17g each (you will have spare).
For the filling
- Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet for around 4 min until they start to smell nutty and sizzle slightly. Transfer to a food processor and leave to cool before pulsing until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
- Add the butter and sugar to the sesame seeds and pulse until mixed through. Add the glutinous rice flour and pulse to mix. Form the dough into 30g balls - you should get 4.
To form mooncakes
- Flatten the pieces of outer dough into a thin round then place one of the sesame filling balls on top of a round. Wrap the outer dough around the filling, kneading it around as needed, so it covers completely. Repeat with the rest.
- Lightly flour the mooncake mould then carefully put one of the mooncakes inside. Place on a surface and press down the top of the mould so that it imprints the top then press out the mooncake. Repeat with the rest then serve. You can keep them chilled for a couple days or slightly longer frozen.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
See all the Dark Recipes for the Solar Eclipse
- Blackberry Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies by Sew You Think You Can Cook
- Dark Sweet Cherry Crepes by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Deep Dark Chocolate Brownies by Palatable Pastime
- Eclipse Pizza by Amy's Cooking Adventures
- Homemade Moon Pies by Family Around the Table
- Ramen and a Martini from the Abyss by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Triple Chocolate Cookies by The Freshman Cook
Hi! Thank you for sharing your recipe. Your mooncakes look beautiful! Just curious, but can I make the black sesame paste and freeze it? When I take it out of the freezer, will it be dry? Thanks!
Thank you (though it's the moulds that make them pretty, really!). I've never tried freezing the paste so can't say for sure, but I'd have thought hopefully, if it's well wrapped it should be OK - try wrapping in cling wrap/film then also foil as you might with cake to keep it well sealed.
Is the glutinous rice flour in the filling the cooked kind? Or is it ok to eat raw one?
No, the rice flour in the filling is not cooked. It's fine to eat, but if you have concerns you can use cooked instead.
Milena | Craft Beering
My son is learning Mandarin and every year the local Confucius Institute puts together a Mid Autumn Festival which we attend. We love the mooncakes, happy to have come across your recipe, it will be fun to make our own this year, if they turn out like yours we might shared some of them with his classmates:)
That sounds like a fantastic experience, hope you give these a go and they work out!
I am seriously in awe! Thanks for adding the cultural history of these treats, too.
Thanks Lauren, they are not as hard as you might think, the only tricky bit is getting the outer layer really thin but that it still holds together. But worth it!
Amy's Cooking Adventures
Wow! these are just stunning!
Thanks Amy, I have the mould to thank for that!
Teri @ The Freshman Cook
These are gorgeous, and perfect to celebrate the solar eclipse! The filling looks awesome!
Thanks, the filling has a lovely flavor to it too!
Camilla @ Culinary Adventures
I have the wooden molds and only used them once. But you have inspired me to try again!
I decided I wasn't quite brave enough to try the traditional wooden moulds, the plastic ones are very easy, but one day 🙂 Thanks, hope you do try again!
Very creative Caroline. I have tried making mooncakes before and am very impressed by how gorgeous yours turned out.
Thanks Wendy, I admit I was quite pleased with how they turned out and I did take my time a bit (much to the annoyance of my son watching who wanted tot ry them!). But he agreed they were worth the wait.
Such a fun recipe for the total solar eclipse! They look delicious and would absolutely be perfect for gifting.
Thanks Ellen, they're really tasty as well!