Kitchn Love Letters

This Baking Mold Is My Secret to Stress-Free Lunar New Year Desserts

published Jan 6, 2023
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Lunar New Year, also called the Spring Festival, is the biggest festival on the Chinese calendar. Marking the start of the new Lunar calendar, it’s a time to gather with family and friends and remember our ancestors with good food and drinks — but not just any food or drink.

Many of the foods eaten in the lead-up to Lunar New Year and during the large family feast on the eve of the holiday carry a special and auspicious meaning. Eating cabbage means you’ll have a lofty year ahead, eating dumplings ensures money and good fortune will come your way, and eating sticky Chinese desserts symbolizes that the year ahead is filled with family gatherings. I don’t need an excuse to eat, but if it means good luck will come my way, I’ll happily take one more bite. Anything in the name of good fortune, of course! 

However, I won’t be celebrating with my extended family this year, so I’ll be making many of my Lunar New Year dishes for a smaller crowd. Following family traditions, I’ll have all the necessary dishes (steamed fish, braised pork hock, and longevity noodles) to bring me all the luck, fortune, and wealth, but breaking tradition ever so slightly, I’ll be decreasing the serving size of each dish to make my work easier. 

Most Lunar New Year cakes are usually presented as large round cakes (which means you’ll have a wholesome year ahead) and are best enjoyed with a large audience — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, you name it. But for smaller-scale desserts, I use the Silpat Mini-Brioche Mold to help make sticky Chinese cakes that don’t skimp on festivities.

I’ve always been a fan of nonstick silicone mats for things like baking cookies. They’re also more sustainable than parchment paper and help limit the amount of waste I generate in my kitchen. While there are other shapes from the French-made Silpat line of baking molds, I couldn’t get past the round shape of the brioche mold, which looks like a flower — a sign of good luck in Chinese culture. 

The Silpat brioche mold is a little savior in my kitchen in the lead-up to Lunar New Year. When I was tweaking and testing recipes, the moldable silicone allowed me to remove all the sticky cakes with very little drama, leaving just a beautiful cake for me to worship my ancestors on the morning of Lunar New Year’s eve and then ultimately munch on throughout the 15-day festivities.

Fa gao (發粄), which is normally steamed, popped out of the mold very easily and didn’t leave scorch marks on my hand (although you have to remove the cakes immediately otherwise moisture will build up at the bottom of the risen cakes). Even nian gao (年糕), also known as “sticky cake,” popped out like pills once they cooled down and were solid enough to handle. There was surprisingly no need to jab at a metal muffin tin with a chopstick to remove my cakes and I didn’t have to grease the mold at all.

Which brings me to my next point: The Silpat mold is incredibly easy to clean. Because you don’t have to grease the mold, the only oil comes from your bakes or what’s left from them, and since the mold is so nonstick, you rarely have any cake left behind so there’s no scrubbing either — ingenious!

My only warning for first-timers is to keep the oven temperature below 500 degrees Fahrenheit, as per instructions, or you can damage the silicone. At about $40 for the mold, you don’t want to run the risk of having to buy another one.

Despite a smaller Lunar New year celebration this year, I still plan on eating and drinking all the delicious and auspicious sweets that my heart desires — and this little mold helps me do just that. 

Buy: Silpat Mini-Brioche Baking Molds, $40.48