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.
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 they’re made
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.
You have many options on filling with various colored vegetable/bean-based sweet fillings such as red bean paste, taro or mung bean, many of which you’ll find 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 found on Amazon which was nice and easy to use.
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.
Chinese mooncakes (snow skin mooncakes)
For the outer dough
- 1/2 cup cooked glutinous rice flour 55g, see note below
- 1/4 cup confectioners sugar 35g, icing sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 tbsp water or a little more
For the filling
- 1/2 cup black sesame seeds 75g
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter 20g
- 3 tbsp confectioners sugar 26g, icing sugar
- 2 tbsp 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 all the Dark Recipes for the Solar Eclipse
- Blackberry Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies by Sew You Think You Can Cook
- Chinese Mooncakes (Snow Skin Mooncakes) by Caroline’s Cooking
- 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
Try these other Chinese food ideas:
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