As a person of Chinese descent, I spent a few days in September with my cousins at my grandparents' house to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. We played with sparklers, hung up tanglungs (paper lanterns) and indulged in sumptuous family celebrations and moon cakes.
But for Kimmy Woon and her family, September was the busiest month of the year for them as they prepared and sold their moon cakes for extra income. Unlike brands that sell traditional moon cakes filled with lotus paste, Kimmy's family focuses on a delicacy that has grown in popularity over the years: jelly mooncakes.
Kimmy has been in the business with her mother and aunt since she was 17. Even while studying, she spent the September nights at the table helping her family make them by hand.
Now that she is 34 years old and has nearly two decades of experience making jelly mooncakes, she believes the time is right to revitalize the family business and rename it under a new name, Salt & Mold.
A rebranding after almost 2 decades
When we asked Kimmy about the inspiration behind the name, she said it was actually inspired by the ingredients used in making her jelly moon cake.
"Salt & Mold is a pretty catchy term and can grab attention and also represent a modern brand image that we plan to expand to sell more variety of homemade foods instead of jelly moon cakes," said Kimmy, her sister, Huey Sze , and girlfriend Mavis, who both recently joined the team.
The journey from homemade jelly mooncake to Salt & Mold / Image source: Salt & Mold
Prior to being renamed that year, the business had been known simply as Homemade Jelly Mooncake since it was founded in 2004. Granted, the name didn't stand out too much, especially in the market with other homemade mooncake bakers and the like.
When the business started, Kimmy's mother and aunt taught them to better understand the younger target market and find ways to grow the business. Of course, social media proved fruitful and helped them attract more customers outside of Kepong.
Now 17 years later, she felt the business needed a paint job and, in keeping with her vision for the business, Salt & Mold was born.
Far from traditional
Unlike regular and traditional moon cakes, jelly moon cakes are made with jelly and are usually filled with fruit and other common fillings. For Salt & Mold they specialize in 8 common flavors: yam, Kopi Gras jelly, mango, red bean, passion fruit, melon, cendol gula melaka and dragon fruit.
The mooncakes are currently available for RM 78 for the “experience package”, which includes all 8 flavors. Alternatively, you can opt for the “bestseller package” for 6 flavors (without Kopigras jelly and dragon fruit) for RM68.
Mango and copi grass jelly moon cake / Image source: Salt & Mold
While they've experimented with other flavors like corn and durian, these flavors can negatively affect the freshness of a moon cake, especially if made without preservatives and fresh fruit. To keep their freshness, the mooncakes are individually vacuum packed and sealed.
But this year the team went a step further and introduced new packaging, replacing traditional mooncake boxes with cool bags instead.
"It could help preserve the freshness of the jelly moon cake and also serve as an eco-friendly idea – where it's reusable and people don't have to feel guilty about throwing away mooncake boxes every year," the team said. With these new changes, she believes her moon cakes can now stay fresh in the refrigerator for more than 3 days.
As for their moon cakes, they replied, "The whole moon cake is just jelly and real fruit, but we won't share the secret recipe or the manufacturing process." To be fair to Kimmy, the recipe has been in the family for nearly two decades, and she plans to keep it that way.
Making their jelly moon cake in molds and the new cooler bag on the right / Photo credit: Salt & Mold
Come and go with the season
Salt & Mold is a store that is largely dormant for most of the year and doesn't come back to life until about a month before the Mid-Autumn Festival so the team can start preparing the orders. Hence, the team announced that it will be treated as a side income business. It's a profitable business during the season, but not by much.
Jelly moon cakes were probably considered uncommon in the past, but now they're easy to find. Dozens of home businesses selling jelly moon cake pop up each year with always unique interpretations.
Most of the jelly moon cakes on the market tend to use konjac jelly powder or agar powder, which have a firmer texture. But for Salt & Mold, they stuck to what they do best, which is creating their own jelly moon cakes that are inspired by layered cakes, as can be seen in the pictures above.
Kimmy said that her mother and aunt conducted many experiments to develop a jelly moon cake of varying texture that had both a balanced taste and a punchy taste on the first bite.
Having been in business for so long, competition may not be the biggest concern on their mind. You have likely found a loyal following that returns to them every year, and the demand is more than enough to keep them afloat.
They currently produce an average of 300 handmade moon cakes a day and can make around 8,000 pieces in a month.
As mentioned earlier, Kimmy and her team plan to eventually grow Salt & Mold into more than just a jelly moon cake business and gear more towards the younger market. However, these are all still in the planning phase and will initially continue to sell jelly moon cakes.
- Here you can find Salt & Mold.
- Read our list of Unique Malaysia Made Mooncakes in 2021 here.
Highlighted Image Source: Salt & Mold