Chinese Cakes

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes


Appears in

Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad and Tobago

Sweet Hands

By Ramin Ganeshram

Published 2018

  • About

Bean cakes made from kidney or black beans, and even sometimes black-eyed peas, are a local variation on Chinese moon cakes made from adzuki beans. Popular in Trinidad, and even more so in Guyana, I’ve never seen a home cook prepare these, as a number of good local bakeries usually have them on hand. Here is the recipe I’ve developed for these cakes which you will find varies slightly in taste and appearance from the authentic Chinese versions.



  • ½ cup dried black beans, soaked overnight in 3 cups of cold water, or 1 cup canned black beans
  • 1 small star anise pod
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon mixed essence


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of coarse salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
  • Ice water as needed
  • Beaten egg yolk

Red food coloring as needed

  1. Small clean paintbrush


Make Filling

If using dried beans, drain soaking water. Place in a pot with 3 cups of clean water and simmer for ½ hour. Add the anise pod and simmer for another ½ hour, until very tender. (If using canned beans, drain in a colander, rinse with cold water. Place in a pot with 3 cups of clean water and the anise pod and simmer for 15 minutes.)

Drain the beans, remove the anise pod and discard. Place beans in a food processor and puree until smooth. Push the pureed bean mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove any remnants of skin. Discard skins.

Combine the bean puree and sugar in a saucepan and place over low heat. Simmer, stirring often, until sugar is dissolved and mixture resembles a thick paste, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the mixed essence, and set aside.

Make The Pastry

Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl or the bowl of a food processor. Using a pastry cutter, your fingers, or the pulse setting on the food processor, cut in the butter until pea-sized balls form. Add ice water in a thin stream, mixing until a shaggy, dry dough just forms (add just enough water so no flour remains but the dough is far from sticky). Wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Assemble & Bake

Remove the dough from refrigerator and cut into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a small ball and roll out to a ¼-inch-thick disk.

Place 1 tablespoon of the bean mixture in the center of a disk and brush the edges with egg wash. Place another dough disk on top and using a fork or your finger, press the seams closed. Repeat with remaining dough disks. Place cakes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the baking sheet with the cakes from the refrigerator and brush the cakes with egg wash. Place in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until they turn golden brown. Remove and cool.

Once cool, dip the paintbrush in the red food coloring and paint a ½-inch-wide circle or design of your choice onto the center of each cake. Serve.