So, remember my chocolate-cherry mooncakes? I loved those so much, and am always looking for an excuse to use the mooncake molds. When the holidays rolled around I figured that tiny molded desserts would be a great thing to contribute to the various gatherings we had planned, so I started brainstorming flavor combinations.
For my family Christmas celebration this year I think I’d like to make chocolate-peppermint and chocolate-orange-ginger, with the latter involving a gingerbread outer crust rather than a standard chocolate one. Of course, since I don’t want to use an untried recipe I’ve decided to do a gingerbread variation beforehand, just to test things out.
Luckily I had a box of gingerbread mix in my pantry, and with the addition of a can of pumpkin for added moisture and flavor it baked up nicely. I used some cream cheese to bind the crumbs together for the filling, then stuck it in the fridge until I could make my crust dough.
Remember, the original recipe for mooncake skin called for golden syrup, which has a nice toasty flavor but lacks the punch necessary for gingerbread. I figured I could replace some of it with molasses for that gingerbread flavor, but wasn’t sure how much to put in, so I decided to replace about 1/3 of the syrup with blackstrap molasses, just to see how it would turn out. I also added in some gingerbread spices to the dry ingredients, as you can see below.
Gingerbread Mooncake Skin (makes enough for 1 box worth of gingerbread cake filling, or 29 mooncakes of 50g total weight)
290 g all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
63 g blackstrap molasses*
112 g golden syrup (I used Lyle’s Golden Syrup)
1 1/4 tsp. alkaline water (available at Asian grocery stores)
63 ml vegetable oil
- Sift together dry ingredients.
- In a separate bowl, combine molasses, golden syrup, and alkaline water and stir to combine. Add oil and mix well.
- Pour liquid ingredients into flour mixture and knead to form a smooth dough.
- You can use right away, or wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge overnight. It’ll be easier to work with if you use it at room temp.
* I recently made this recipe again, and realized that I most likely used regular molasses when making these mooncakes the first time– not blackstrap. This is because my second try (using blackstrap) turned out much darker in color, and also a bit drier in texture, making it difficult to work with. Since blackstrap molasses is both darker and thicker than regular molasses, I have to conclude that I didn’t use it originally and made a mistake in writing down the recipe. That being said, the flavor of blackstrap worked much better than the original, so I would recommend using it if you can, but adding about 2 extra tablespoons of molasses OR 1 extra tablespoon of oil to make up for the dryness.
Pumpkin Gingerbread Filling
1 box gingerbread cake mix
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1. Bake gingerbread cake as directed, substituting pumpkin for all liquids and other ingredients. Your batter should be thick and mousse-y. If it’s too thick, add up to 1/4 cup water. The pumpkin will make the baked gingerbread very moist and dense.
2. Once cake has cooled completely, crumble it into fine crumbs (food processor makes it easier).
3. Mix in ginger and tablespoons of cream cheese until it forms a soft dough that holds its shape when pressed into a ball. You might not use all of your cream cheese.
To Assemble Mooncakes
- Basically you’re going to follow the instructions from this post, only without the cherry center.
- For those of you who need a recap, figure out how big your molds are. Assume you’ll be dividing up the weight of the filling and the skin roughly 2:1, so if you have a 50g mold like I do, figure on about 32g of filling and 18 g of skin. Weigh out lumps of the appropriate size ahead of time. For me, one box of gingerbread mix made 30 balls of 32g each.
- Roll the fillings into balls, and roll the skins out into circles. (you can do all the fillings ahead of time, but only do the skins a few at a time to prevent drying out) Wrap the skin around the filling and pinch/smooth the bottom shut. Shape into a rough cube with your fingers for a square mold.
- After dusting your mold with flour and tapping it out, put the wrapped ball/cube into the mold, seam side facing out, and press it in firmly. (VERY FIRMLY)
- Invert the mold onto your baking sheet and press the plunger down to make a firm impression on your dough, then allow the mold to release the dough, leaving the mooncake on the baking sheet.
- Bake at 340 degrees F (170 C) for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let the mooncakes cool for about 15 minutes. Then bake them again for another 10 minutes (less for a smaller cake). Let cool on the baking sheet.
Once the mooncakes were completely cooled (picture above left), I got out my gold highlighter dust (expensive but worth it) and dry-brushed a few of the mooncakes to subtly bring out the detail (above, right). I’d intended to mix some more of it with vodka to make a flashier gold paint to bring out some details, but then I read up a little on highlighter dust, how (unlike luster dust) it’s considered “non edible” rather than merely “non toxic,” and decided that while a faint brushing of dust wouldn’t be a problem to eat I didn’t want to use a larger amount to make actual paint. In any case, I wouldn’t eat highlighter dust every day, but I think that a mere shimmer of it won’t hurt you.
You can store these at room temperature (preferably in a closed container to avoid drying out) or freeze them (before you add the gold details).
- You don’t have to use pumpkin in your gingerbread– making the cake as directed is perfectly fine. I just wanted to use it for flavor.
- The photos above show these placed a little too close together on the baking sheet. Give them about 2″ of space so the sides have time to cook during the short baking time– otherwise the tops will cook but the sides will stay soft. Alternatively, a convection oven might help with this.
- The resting period between the first and second bakes is generally important, as it allows the skin to set and retain the details in the design. If you just bake the cakes straight through they’re at risk of puffing up and/or cracking, which will ruin the look. However, I will note that this dough maintains its shape better than other doughs I’ve used, so it might not be strictly necessary here.
- You can experiment with the length of the second bake– longer will make for a crisper crust, and shorter will make the whole thing softer. Since the inside is fully cooked and there are no raw eggs in the recipe you don’t have to worry about underbaking as long as the crust isn’t gummy.
- Do not brush the tops of these with egg wash or cream, or anything intended to make them shiny! The moisture gets into the dough and makes it puff up, ruining the detail. If you really want a shine, you could MAYBE brush on some egg wash in the last two minutes of the second bake, after the design is fully set.