As you may have noticed, I make mooncakes every year– just not in the usual flavors. While I really do like my chocolate-cherry mooncakes and my gingerbread mooncakes, I thought I’d try a new recipe this year and go with something almond-flavored.
For the centers I baked up an extremely moist almond cake. I actually tried two different recipes to see which one I liked better– the first is from Chez Panisse and is mixed in the food processor, and the second is from Amanda Hesser has a bit more flour in it and is made in the mixer. The first one turned out more cake-like, probably due to the fact that it incorporated whole eggs rather than just yolks, but the second turned out moister and squidgier, despite the fact that it had twice as much flour in it. I ended up using equal amounts of each cake, crumbled up together, to make my filling– it was the perfect mix!
I cut the sweetness of the almond cake with a tart raspberry jam center– Smuckers is my favorite raspberry jam, but not the seedless kind!– which I piped into the filling balls before molding the mooncakes.
This is the first almond cake I made. It turned out fluffier and would be amazing served with fruit.
This is the second almond cake I made, which ended up softer and squidgier– excellent on its own in very small slices.
Squidgy Almond Cake (from Amanda Hesser, via Amateur Gourmet)
1 1/2 cups sugar
7-oz tube almond paste, cut into small pieces
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
4 egg yolks
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (measured after sifting)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
(NOTES: I’m going to give you what I consider the proper method, because the original method as written didn’t let the almond paste incorporate properly– I had to fish out little chunks and break them down by hand. Also, I made this in the food processor instead of the mixer because I didn’t want to dirty yet another appliance. It’s possible that a mixer would’ve resulted in a different texture, but honestly I like this one for this purpose.)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9″ cake pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.
2. Process almond paste with sugar until almond paste is completely broken up. Add butter and process until smooth.
3. Add egg yolks, one at a time, processing between each yolk.
4. Add sour cream and almond extract and process until smooth.
5. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to processor and combine. Batter will be thick.
6. Spread batter into prepared pan (there may be some extra) and bake about 50 minutes, until toothpick comes out with lots of moist crumbs. Don’t worry if the cake falls in the center.
Once both cakes were cool I crumbled up about 3/4 of each cake and processed it into crumbs, combining both kinds of crumbs and dampening them with Amaretto until they formed a moist, compactable dough.
Next up, make the mooncake crust.
Almond mooncake crust
1/2 tsp. salt
340g golden syrup
100g vegetable oil
1 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. alkaline water (available in Asian grocery stores)
1. Figure out how big your mooncake 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 crust. I also figured that my jam centers would weigh a gram or two, so I measured out balls of filling that were about 30g using my digital scale– this cake recipe made 42– and balls of crust weighing about 18g. I had almost exactly the right amount of crust– enough to make about 45 balls, and I used the extra 3 balls’ worth for patching any holes as I wrapped the fillings later.
2. Once you have your filling portions, roll them into rough balls, poke a big hole in the center with the end of a wooden spoon or chopstick, and pipe some raspberry jam into the hole before pinching it shut.
3. Smooth out your fillings and crusts into balls. One at a time, roll each crust ball into a flat circle large enough to completely cover your filling.
4. Wrap the skin around the filling and pinch/smooth the bottom shut. Shape into a rough cube with your fingers for a square mold.
5. 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)
6. 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. Place them about 2″ apart to bake.
6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let the mooncakes cool for about 15 minutes. Then brush with egg wash and bake them again for another 10 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet.