Update: 14:30 | 08/09/2022
Every year when the Mid-Autumn festival is just around the corner, the family of Tran Van Ban in Thuong Cung Village, Thuong Tin, Hanoi, is busy making moon cake moulds.
Ban, who has nearly 40-year experience in the trade, is the last moon cake mould makers in the village. His family provides moulds for making moon cakes in various sizes and patterns.
Tran Van Ban has nearly 40-year experience in making moon cake moulds.
In addition to traditional patterns such as apricot, bamboo, chrysanthemum, lotus, carp, dragon, and phoenix, the 56-year-old carpenter also creates moulds in the shapes of pig and piglet, the 12 zodiac signs, and Hanoi’s iconic One-Pillar Pagoda, as well as made-to-order moulds requested by companies.
With more than half of his life dedicated to making mooncake moulds, Ban has contributed to bringing joy to many people, especially children, on the special occasion of the year.
Ban shared that nearly 20 years ago, many families in Thuong Cung made cake moulds. But due to its seasonal nature, most of them quit for other jobs, leaving him as the only one still pursuing this craft.
The most time-consuming and meticulous work is carving the design into the mould.
The making of a wooden moon cake mould requires many stages, from selecting and processing the wood to creating a frame and carving designs for the mould.
The most time-consuming and meticulous work is carving the design into the mould as this step must be done completely by hand. The patterns must be sharp and look lively in order to bring a beautiful appearance to the cake. A good mould will not let the dough stick to it.
Regarding made-to-order moulds, it requires not only skill and experience but also careful calculation of every detail. Ban has a collection of hundreds of chisels of various sizes and types to perfect the design of patterns for his cake moulds.
There are many types of wood used for making moon cake moulds, but Ban prefers ‘xa cu’, or faux acajen, a kind of softwood which is durable and pliable. In the past, creating the frame for the mould was a time-consuming stage as it was done manually. Now, it has become quicker and easier thanks to the support of machines.
The time needed to make a mooncake mould depends on the size and the sophistication of the patterns. There are moulds that make cakes weighing 200g, and others are designed for cakes weighing up to a kilo. With a regular cake mould, it often takes Ban about two or three hours to complete, but it may take up to one month to finish a big and classy one.
The busiest time for skilled mooncake mould makers is from the fifth to the eight lunar months. Customers from across the country, even foreign tourists, flock to the village to place orders. Every Mid-Autumn Festival, Ban’s family sells hundreds of mooncake moulds at the market.
The bigger and the more sophisticated the mould is, the more expensive it is. The prices vary from 100,000 VND to over 1 million VND each.
Diverse designs of mooncake molds.
Ban shared that in recent years, traditional mooncake moulds have faced fierce competition from Chinese plastic products. However, wooden cake moulds are still favoured by traditional mooncake lovers as wooden moulds are not only more durable and ensure higher food safety, but also convey the quintessence of the traditional craft as well as the dedication of skilled workers.
With more than half of his life dedicated to making mooncake moulds, Ban has contributed to bringing joy to many people, especially children, on the special occasion of the year. He has been active in sharing experience and teaching the craft to his descendants with the hope to preserve and further promote the ancestral trade.