My Cooking Gadget Antiques Blogshow

posted in: Recipes | 32

Look at what I found the other day:

It isn’t a paddle to play any sport.


It isn’t an elaborate spoon or ladle.

It isn’t a percussion instrument, a ceremonial candy dish or a cumbersome shovel.

It’s a Chinese cookie or cake mold. And that is quite simply all I know about this object. The question is, what cookies — and who’s got a recipe?

I picked up this gadget last week when I was walking along Smith Street in Boerum Hill and wandered into a cute vintage and craft knick-knack store called Enamoo. In a small box, there were three of these wooden cookie molds, each one nearly completely different in shape and design except for its long, stemlike handle. Mine was the largest one of them. It has a crack down the middle and a carved fish design symbolizing good luck. The lady at the store knew that these were antique cookie molds, though how antique, I have no idea. She told me that her partner had collected them on an antiquing trip.

The cookie/cake type dessert with the mysterious triangular shaped hole that this tool would form could not be any deeper than about 3/4 inch. That leaves out moon cakes, the traditional Mid Autumn Festival dessert that are also molded in a decorative cast and have a sweet filling inside a cakey shell. Or does it? Is there some shallower version of the cake made in certain regions of China, perhaps not served solely on the holiday? How is the handle necessary? And what about the cluster of identical little ring-shaped indentations on the back of the mold? A sign it was used industrially in some commercial kitchen with lots of machines? A sign it was used by aliens?

Before I go hit the books looking up any and every Chinese cookie or cake recipe, I thought I’d put this one out to my wise and cultured readers. When this mold finally gets its second breath of life, I want to be sure it’s the right one. Any thoughts and suggestions are hugely appreciated — you don’t have to be a trained kitchen gadget archaeologist to speak up on this episode of antiques blogshow.

32 Responses

  1. angorian

    It kind of reminds me of butter molds or European shortbread molds. I’d guess the ring indentations are from it being hit with something to get whatever was stuck inside to fall out. The bit to make the hole might mean the cookie was meant to be hung.

  2. mark

    I don’t know, but it would be a funny spoon for soup, eh?

    If you make the cookies, send us some.

  3. Yvo

    Hey Cathy, funny, as soon as I saw the picture, I thought of something from my childhood. I’ll have to double check with my mom on the name, but when I was about 10, my mom bought me, from Chinatown, a plastic fish that looked like your fish there, that was meant to be hung. Inside the fish (which was plastic “net/mesh/I can’t explain it.. but the body was open air holes so you could see what was inside) was a hard cookie that I tried to nibble on and was honestly extremely unappetizing, so what I did next was even more disgusting. I kept it hung in my room for a bit longer, with the cookie in it (what a disgusting kid I was…). My mom told me something about the fish being traditional Chinese New Year’s something or other. I still have the little fish/basket thing hanging in my room, sans cookie of course… The best way to describe the cookie is hard, not oily but I feel like there was butter in it… I’m sure if you made it, though, you’d make it much tastier. Oh, and the cookie had a fish design on it, so it was a fish within a fish.

  4. Yvo

    Ok, I just called my mom, and apparently it was Autumn moon festival, and though she didn’t remember buying me the thing, I asked if they used to hang just the cookie, and she agreed… but she said they just poked it with a chopstick. I suppose if you were making a million though, you’d want a mold. Maybe the long handle hung out of the oven? I can only guess. She gave me the name of the cookie, but it didn’t help much – in Cantonese “jhu jhai bang” which translates, as literally as I can go, “pig baby cookie” or baby pig cookie. I hope that helps! I hope I’m even right, actually.

  5. martha

    I’m so intrigued and keep checking back to see if someone knows what this is…

  6. cathy

    Angorian: great insights — I bet you’re right on all of them.
    Yvo: excellent detective work. But so — the mold makes something plastic which the cookie goes inside of? Or it molds a hard and unappetizing cookie? I feel like we’re almost there… thanks!
    Mark: consider your order placed.

  7. Mercedes

    We use similar molds in the middle east, for both breads and cookies. The cookies are usually ma’amoul, which have a crrumbly semolina exterior with a filling made of dates (kind of like a fig newton but with dates). My Chinese friend said this would be used to make a simple Chinese almond cookie, or a special kind of mooncake (you know, the kind with sweetened bean filling).

  8. Yvo

    Sorry, I was excited and sometimes the thoughts fly onto the keyboard without much flow. Haha. No, I received the plastic-basket-thing which is the “modern” version, but she said back in the days (of ancient times or whatever) the cookie itself was hung, so that makes sense why there’s a hole in the mold. I’ll try to get home and see if I can take a picture of the basket, though it would only serve to help you if you wanted to buy one… in a month or so…

  9. jess

    hey as soon as i saw the picture, i thought it might be a mold for what i think of as ‘chinese sand cookies’. i’m not sure what the real name is, but, as another poster wrote, they’re pretty… unappetizing. the ones i’ve seen are circular, with a raised image or character decorating the top (as if from a mold). they’re hard, yellow in color and have a very dry, sandy texture. they’re probably made from some kind of ground nut flour? almonds? it’s not wheat flour… the flavour is hard to describe… very subtle… sandy. my dad likes them and i think they’re a new years thing, like most decorative chinese pastry what nots.

  10. cathy

    Thanks so much, Jess, Yvo and Mercedes! I think a hard almond paste cookie is in store. I’m thinking of painting the fish design in food coloring, too. I’ll try not to make it too unappetizing though… or would that be inauthentic?

  11. Yvo

    Jess described exactly what I’m thinking of! (Hah I go on and on and don’t describe how the cookie tasted…) Sandy and I guess a background of almond, which makes total sense related back to Chinese traditional baking/cooking. I believe I’ve seen plenty of Chinese pastries with painted food coloring designs, so panting the fish red against the yellow cookie sounds totally authentic. Mmmm…. and if you could improve the recipe so it actually looks AND tastes yummy…. MAD props to you 🙂

  12. Jack Ma

    The wooden mold you show here is the rice cake mold and the cake is usually served with tea in China.

    I bought 20 different old wooden molds last time I traveled in Beijing. Each one is different in shape. Some old ladies sell the rice cakes in my town ( Sai Kung in Hong Kong) and they are very delicious.

  13. Don

    My daughter in NY was so intrigued by your mould that she asked me about it in her email. My first thought was that they were used to make the very hard cookies made from mung beans for Chinese New Year. But those were normally smaller and only the Teochew people like them. Since it is slightly bigger, it could have been used to make the softer and larger almond (or yellow bean) cookies by other dialect groups.
    Now I have a job to try to collect some for my daughter while I am in Hong Kong.

  14. […] me back up a moment. When I purchased an antique Chinese cookie mold in a curiosity store a month or so back, I thought that the thing itself was so beautiful and […]

  15. wendy

    In 1280 AD, the Mongolians destroyed the Song Dynasty and controlled China during the Yuan Dynasty (1280AD -1368 AD). Under Mongolian rule, Chinese people were oppressed, persecuted and treated like slaves. Finally, the Chinese had enough and planned a revolution to be held during the August Moon Festival in 1368.

    Because Mongolians don’t eat mooncakes, the Chinese planned to overthrow the Mongolians by sending secret messages in mooncakes. Chinese bakers were told to send mooncakes to all Chinese households with the message to execute all Mongolians after the August Moon family gathering. Chinese families were instructed to not to eat the mooncakes until the 15th of the 8th lunar moon.
    Besides its significance in Chinese history, mooncakes play an important role in August Moon gatherings and gift giving. These palm-sized round cakes symbolize family unity and perfection. Some mooncakes have a golden yellow egg yoke in the center which looks like a bright moon. They usually come in a box of four and are packaged in tin boxes with traditional Chinese motifs.
    A traditional mooncake is made of a sweet bean-paste filling with golden brown flaky skin. The top of the mooncake is embossed with the insignia of the baker molded into the golden brown skin. It takes 2 to 4 weeks to prepare the bean-paste. Because making mooncakes is labor intensive, many families just buy them from bakeries.

    Over the years, mooncakes have slowly evolved from a Chinese delicacy to something as common as ice cream cake. To adapt to today’s health conscious and Westernized lifestyle, many bakeries offer miniature mooncakes and fat-free mooncakes. Some are made of yogurt, jelly and fat-free ice cream. To be competitive, bakers boast about how little sugar and oil they use in their mooncakes. Customers can pick and choose the size and filling that suits their taste and diet. However, the traditional bean-paste filling with egg yolk mooncake is still very popular
    How to make mooncakes

    This is not a recipe but simplified steps for the curious. There are five steps.

    Syrup ingredients (for the dough that forms the body of the cake)

    sugar, water, lime juice and maltose.

    Put sugar, water and lime into a pot and bring to a boil till sugar has dissolved. Lower heat and simmer till thick and syrupy. Switch off heat and add maltose; stir to dissolve, and leave to cool.

    Pastry (dough)

    Syrup you’ve just made, bicarbonate of soda, lye water (dissolved yeast), peanut oil, and flour.

    Put syrup, bicarbonate of soda and peanut oil in a mixing bowl, add in lye water and mix well with a spoon. Fold in flour gradually and stir to form a firm dough. Let dough rest for five hours.

    Paste Filling

    Lotus seeds or red/black beans, lye water, peanut oil, sugar, maltose, cooked glutinous-rice flour and boiling water.

    Add lye water into lotus seeds, mix well and leave aside for 20 minutes. Pour in boiling water and cover for 20 to 30 minutes. Strain and remove the skin of lotus seeds.

    Boil lotus seeds till soft, put into blender with some water and blend to a thick paste.

    Heat wok (pan) with a quarter portion of oil and a quarter portion of sugar until sugar turns light brown. Put in blended lotus paste, add remaining sugar, stir constantly until paste is smooth and thick in consistency. Pour in the rest of the oil gradually, stirring the paste until thick. Stir in maltose and blend well. Sieve in cooked glutinous-rice flour for a thicker and firmer consistency in the paste. Leave overnight before use.

    Egg Glaze

    Egg yolk, water and a pinch of salt.

    Put all in a bowl and beat until smooth.

    Making of Mooncake

    Divide dough into even pieces of approximately 40g each. Roll the dough into a ball and flatten out. Divide filling into even portions to match the number of dough pieces. In the case of lotus seed paste, if you like a cooked salted duck egg yolk, one yolk can be placed in the center of each cake.

    Place the filling in the middle of the flattened dough and carefully wrap around it. Seal the edges and roll dough lightly between your palms until all filling is hidden.

    Dust cake mould lightly with flour, press dough ball into the mould. When the cake shape forms, dislodge the cake. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 10 minutes. Remove and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Brush on egg glaze, return to oven and bake for another 10 minutes or till golden

  16. acacelac


  17. Roger

    Ha! Very cute posting. Having been living in China for many years now and dealing with these sort of antique items on a regular basis, I sometimes forget that not everyone knows what such objects are to be used for. By the way, they come in all shapes and sizes and some are for rice cakes others for mooncakes. If you want to learn more about the Chinese spring festival and mooncakes you can read this posting on our own blog at

  18. Mid-Autumn festival and finally holiday for the Chinese.

    The Mid-Autumn Festival (Simplified Chinese: 中秋节), also known as the Moon (cake) Festival, is a popular East Asian celebration of abundance and togetherness, dating back over 3,000 years to China’s Zhou Dynasty.
    Consequence is one week of h…

  19. Patty

    Check out this website. It has recipes to use with wooden cookie molds. I’ve just been introduced to these antique molds and am now obsessed with collecting them. In my on-line search this morning, I came across this website. Hope it helps! Good luck with the recipes.

  20. Zabrina

    My dad just brought back 3 moulds similar to yours, i brought it to school (culinary Arts), and my chef gave me a recipe…i havent tried it yet but contemplating on it. He says the cookies arent’ that tasty…but here it is if anyone would like to try:

    4C all purpose flour
    1 3/4C Sifted icing sugar

    3/4C lard

    1. Roast the flour in a wok until beige (darker if you wanted the flavor to be more dominent)-cool slightly. Add icing sugar

    2. Knead in lard

    3. Mould, unmould…

    Apprently that is it, no baking needed since the flour is cooked already.

  21. Chu

    just came across. Nice blog

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    Hey, nice tips. Perhaps I’ll buy a bottle of beer to the man from that forum who told me to visit your blog 🙂

  23. Carrie

    This looks like the mung bean cake mould, called Kuih Koah in Malaysia amoung the Nyonya (Strait Born Chinese) although the ones we used are smaller. Due to the fact that it sits in deep and and has sharp angle when the bottom and the sides meet, not round, so it would be the mould used in making Kuih Koah, or similar mung bean type cookies, the depth of the mould would be around 3/4″. The mould used in moon cake and other cookie (e.g Kuih Bangkit) would be rounded in appearance to suit the other types of dough used. We lost all our mould one year in a very wet, long raining season, all the mould got mouldy and we have to throw them out. We have not been able to find replacement.

    Check out, rose has published recipe for Kuih Koah on her website. There is no need to cook after the cookie is pressed into the mould and knock out. To press into mould, grab the “sandy” dough in your hand to make them stick together, then pressed into the mould firmly, scrap off the excess by running a flat spatula on the mould. Then place face down with the other end touching a surface, firmly, and gently give the mould a ‘whack’ to loosen the pressed cookie. The mung bean is already cooked so no cooking is necessary, however my grandma steam this cookie briefly then dried under the sun, this seemed to make the cookie fluffy, hold their shape together better and the drying process make them last many days. She made the best cookie, her cookie is not hard at all but melt in your mouth, the sweetness is just right, not too sweet, unlike the store bough ones which is very hard and too sweet. Needless to say she cookie never last long and they are a favourite amoung our relatives! Note: you must make sute the steam is not too wet, e.g make sure they have enough distance from the water surface, and using a bamboo steamer lined with muslin cloth, do not use stainless steel, the later collects water and would ruin your cookie. Steaming is optional. Many people make their cookie without steaming, may be this is grandma’s secret?

    Another cookie you cold try with some of the cookie mould from is ‘kuih bangkit’. Google kuih bangkit and you will find this recipe. For kuih bangkt use small wooden cookie mould with a rounded shape. Otherwise just use a flower shape cookie cutter. Kuih bangkit is using tapioca flour and coconut milk, they puff up just a little and when made correctly, they literally melt in your mouth. My personal preferance is must use tapioca flour, do not use sago flour, as sago flour will taste flourly. I am yet to try the other recipe in the German variation.

    Happy experimenting.

    My favourite cookie of Chinese New Year in Malaysia is “kuih kapit” – this is a very thin cookie made from a thin batter clamped in between 2 hot iron moulds and then baked over a open coal fire – they are heavenly! I searched and I have not been able to find this mould. Then I try to look for machine than can make this and I am not successful yet. One of these days I planned to try using a cut out metal sheet/plastic sheet (if they can wistand the heat) to spread a thin batter onto a cookie sheet – like the way you make cigarette cookie…But I want to have a little design on the surface, I have been walking around shops to get ideas.. if some one has tried this please kindly let me know. It would be nice if they make silicon sheet that has embossed surface…perhaps I will made a suggestion.

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  25. Adela Flemings

    I greatly loved reading your post! I get excited by mostthings antiques, but in preferentially engagement rings.

  26. Tifany Skare

    I am a collector hoarderof antique jewelry and I would not replace in the thrill of the hunt for that piece in my collection for anything.

  27. Bobi Vondruska

    This mold is for Chinese Macau style almond cookies. I’ve just discovered them and am desperately trying to find a good recipe and mold for them. The dough is made from mung bean flour, ground almonds, sugar and shortening and the texture is a little like clumpy sand. The biscuits, when baked, are powdery and melt in the mouth. DELICIOUS! I’m from New Zealand and it’s kind of hard to find someone that stocks the correct ingredients and I can’t find a mold anywhere! Yours is gorgeous.

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