Molding Mooncakes in the MakerSpace

This blog post was written by MakerSpace User Jennifer Qian

Jennifer Qian is an Art and Data Science student at NYU Gallatin. She used the Form3B printer using dental resin to create mooncake molds. Please keep food safety in mind when creating kitchen tools – here is a great article for reference. Learn more about Jennifer’s process here:

What is your Project?

My project is “Mooncake Making – connecting the past and present”. This is my personal project turned experimental and will feed into my artistic output for my current class at ITP called “A Radical Thing”. 

What is the Inspiration/Purpose of your project?

My overall approach for this project has been spontaneous. I wanted to experiment with time, space and memory with everyday objects serving as representation. My inspiration was the approaching Mid-Autumn Festival and my childhood memory of celebrating this holiday. Mid-autumn festival, in many Asian cultures, celebrates the full moon, harvest of food and togetherness. On this day, family and friends get together after dinner outside under the moon and enjoy an assortment of fruit, mooncakes and tea. There are a wide variety of mooncakes: traditional Cantonese mooncakes I grew up eating are made with a wooden mold. After filling in the indulgent, heavenly paste, mooncake makers would bang the mold loudly. When I was 7 years old I was part of a dance where we used wooden mooncake mold as a prop and as part of the choreography we bang the mooncake mold to resemble the making of this celebratory pastry item. I haven’t seen this type of kitchenware recently in the US. I wanted to “find” this object that will allow me to transport back in time and enjoy the process of mooncake making as part of celebration of living, togetherness with my family and reconnecting to part of my memory that is shared with many Asian Americans. Since this artifact can’t be found anywhere easily, I thought it would be playful to “create” it with 3D printing which then connects my past to the future with technology as an agent.

Describe the Process, Materials Used, and the Final Outcome

This project is multimedia, experimental. The setting resembles my reunion with my parents since the pandemic and this year I got to celebrate the first mid-autumn festival with my parents in ten years. I was always away from school. The mooncake mold is the key object for this project as a key kitchen tool. I found a printable stl. model online that was similar to the ones I remembered. Then I had the same 3D model printed using PLA via the ultimaker in yellow and also the dental resin for food safe and clear sculpture like textile surface. The dental resin mold was printed using Form 3B; it turned out beautifully thanks to the staff. I heard it was one of the first prints produced by Form 3B printer since it was new for MakerSpace. How exciting! Now onto the making of the mooncake. I wanted to document the process of mooncake making while testing out various molds and materials. I also purchased a set of molds online that are manufactured 3D printed in white. I made the crust and the filling from scratch with my mom at my apartment. The filling is “Su” style which combines the sweet flaky crust with savory-sweet duck yolk custard pork floss mix. The mooncakes were then baked to golden with egg wash. During the process of mooncake making I realized the interaction with my parents elevated to discussion of past, time and culture. The interaction then impacted my setting of the final presentation of the mooncakes and ambience as well. On the day of Mid-autumn festival we picnic in the cloudy Hoboken green watching ombré reflections of the same moon off WTC. The mooncakes were set on a marble cake stand like a pedestal. They are works of art after all aren’t they?

What did you Learn?

I learned that the dental resin mold works better with food mixture compared to PLA. And dental resin mold would require dusting or greasing of the surface to ensure the mixture doesn’t stick to the mold. The outcome was also inspirational – this year, a 3D printed mooncake mold let me play with printable kitchenware, the traditional way with a splash of childhood. There is endless possibility for custom made kitchenware and prototypes for everyday objects.

Are there any Next Steps with this Project?

Yes I plan to curate them into a multimedia project to feature daily objects to time and memory. This project also serves as a pilot for my broader artistic vision of printable daily object collection. 

To begin designing and prototyping your own project, please visit the MakerSpace Training and Reservations page to learn more about how you can utilize the MakerSpace. If you need advice or guidance for your project, visit the Mentoring page to reserve time with an expert! Please keep food safety in mind when creating kitchen tools – here is a great article for reference.