Wooden Pastry Molds and Wooden Sugar Molds in Taiwan

Culinary molds have been used in cooking and baking for centuries. Made of metal, clay, or wood, each mold is crafted with skill and reflects the artistic and historical aspects of its culture.  In Chinese cooking, wooden pastry molds are commonly used to make moon cakes, rice cakes, and new year cakes in the celebration of festivals and other occasions. Nowadays, most of the molds are made by machines, and only a small group of skillful masters are dedicated in handcrafting these beautiful works of art. We have found one master in Taiwan who is devoted more than 30 years in making wooden pastry molds, and through his hands and collection we have witnessed how an exquisite, delicate, and beautiful mold is made.

食品模具在烹飪及烘培已經使用了好幾個世紀. 不論是金屬, 陶土, 或是木製, 每一個模具都是經由技術雕刻製成並且反映出當地文化的藝術跟歷史.  在中式料理當中, 木刻餅模經常用來製作月餅, 米粿, 糕餅等在節日及其他場合來慶祝. 現在大部分的模具是由機器製成, 只有一小部分有技術的師傅致力於手工雕刻這美麗的工藝品.  我們在台灣找到一位具有超過30年木刻餅模資歷的木刻師傅, 透過他的巧手和收藏, 我們見識到一個雕工精細美麗餅模的製成.

There are four wooden culinary molds in Taiwan – Gui mold (粿模), Gao mold (糕模), Bing mold (餅模), and Tang Ta (糖塔). The general description is as followed,

  • Gui is made of sticky glutinous rice skin wrapped with sweet or savory fillings; and then it is molded, steamed, and served.  
  • Gao is made of powdered rice flour mixed with powder sugar and ground peanuts or mun beans. Then it is pressed into a mold, and served once it is released from the mold. Sometimes steam is required depending on the recipes.
  • Bing is a baked pastry made of flour, lard or vegetable oil, and sweet or savory filling.  Moon cake is commonly known as a type of Bing.
  • Tang Ta is literally called Sugar Tower. Hot-boiled sugar syrup is poured into the wooden mold and released once it is cool.  
Gui, Gao, and Bing are prepared for different occasions, from festivals to rituals, from weddings, new borns to offerings; and also come with different shapes and sizes from region to region.  Tang Ta is mainly used for ritual as an offering to deities.

在台灣有四種基本木製食品模具, 粿模, 糕模, 餅模, 還有糖塔. 簡單敘述如下
粿 – 用黏糯米作成的皮包上甜或鹹的餡料. 然後成型, 蒸熟後食用.
糕 – 用米粉與糖, 花生粉或綠豆粉製成, 壓入模具, 脫模後即可食用. 有些糕則需要蒸過.
餅 – 主要用麵粉, 油, 甜鹹餡料烘培製成, 月餅則是最為人所知的餅類.
糖塔 – 滾熱糖漿倒入木製模具, 冷卻後脫模完成

粿,糕和餅常在不同場合中見到, 從節慶到儀式, 從結婚到出生到祭祀, 而且每個地區的形狀大小也不同. 糖塔則是主要用在祭祀神明.

Gui molds made decades ago, at least 60 or 70 years.  
Wooden handcrafted pastry mould
Bing mold made decades ago, at least 60 or 70 years.  
Wooden handcrafted Pastry Mould
Gao mold made decades ago, at least 60 or 70 years.   
Tang Ta mold, also known as sugar tower.mold 
Each wooden mold starts from choosing the right type of wood.  In Taiwan nowadays camphor wood is mainly used for its abundance and dense properties. Also the spiral or wavy grain in camphor wood makes it easier to carve than the straight grain ones.  When camphor wood is delivered, each piece of wood is cut into appropriate sizes and shapes and allowed to dry. The wood pieces are stacked up with gaps to allow airflow in the drying process. Drying wood properly will prevent cracking and splitting when carving.  After the drying process, each piece is cut to a selected template, sanded, and readied to carve. 

每一個木模源自於挑選適當的木頭. 樟樹在臺灣廣為運用在木刻上有幾個原因 – 除了台灣盛產樟樹, 還有它緊實的木質, 另外螺旋彎曲的木紋使得樟木容易雕刻.   樟木一開始要切成適合的大小, 堆疊放置, 木頭之間要留有空隙讓空氣流通, 才可以讓樟木完全乾燥. 乾燥完全的樟木可以預防木頭在雕刻過程中斷掉或分裂. 每塊木頭乾燥完之後, 就用預先選好的模板切割成型, 磨沙, 就可以準備好雕刻.
The basic carving technique for these molds is the same except for a slight difference. The engraving for Gui mold is more shallow than that for a Bing or a Gao mold.  As cooking Gui requires steaming, shallow engraving will prevent Gui from over shrinking. and keep them in shape. 
刻糕餅模跟粿模基本技術是一樣的,. 跟糕餅模比較, 粿模得刻的淺一些, 如此在蒸過之後成品才不會縮小變形.
Some of common patterns for engravings are tortoise and the Chinese character “Shou” 壽; and both represent longevity.  These kinds of molds are often used to make pastries in celebrating deities’ birthdays. 
常見的雕刻紋路有烏龜還有壽, 兩者都代表長壽. 這些紋路的糕點通常用來慶祝神明誕辰. 
囍 or Double Happiness is engraved when making Xi Bing (Wedding Cake) for weddings or engagements. A dragon and a phoenix, which symbolize the newly wed, are next to the double happiness.  It represents the newly wed will live happily ever after.

囍或雙喜的紋路的糕餅則用在結婚或訂婚喜, 象徵新人的龍鳳在囍的兩邊, 代表新人永遠幸福, 永浴愛河.  

By capturing these skillful and delicate works of arts with a camera, we have realized that we are surrounded by the beauty of everyday objects from generations to generations, and that is the essence of culture.

藉由相機拍攝這些技術純熟細緻的藝術品, 我們了解到這些日常生活物品的美一直代代相傳的在我們身邊, 這就是文化的精髓.

Many thanks to Yuan Feng Food Mold Company for providing these beautiful molds for us to photograph.


Photo by David Thompson at MOOphoto,
Other Links:
David Thompson, David Thompson Stills, David’s Instagram

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