The Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated on the eve of the 15th day of the 8th moon in the lunar calendar, is all about mooncakes. Mooncakes are rich pastry cakes with endless flavors and fillings that have grown to be as diverse as consumer’s taste preferences. Round in shape, mooncakes are inspired by the full moon and are shared and divided among family and friends, wishing for luck in the next lunar year.
A Little Mooncake History
The origins of mooncakes are unclear, as they vary depending on who’s telling the story. However, the Chinese have paid homage to the moon for centuries, and the Mid-Autumn Festival became an official celebration in China during the Tang Dynasty. (618-907 A.D) The festival takes place in September or Early October, as that is when the moon is at its largest and brightest, and the fall crops are ready for harvest. Also called Moon Festival, there’s no disputing that people all over the world look forward to it each year.
The Construction of Mooncakes
Mooncakes start with a thick pastry traditionally filled with lotus bean paste that surrounds salt preserved egg yolks—usually the more egg yolks, the more expensive the mooncake. Packaged in beautiful boxes, these moon-shaped treats are typically cut into pieces and shared among family members. It’s customary that the piece with the most egg in it goes to the eldest guest present. Some family traditions include creating a pyramid from 13 mooncakes to symbolize the 13 moons of a complete year. Typically they are served with black tea to complement the sweet, oily cakes.
A beautiful mooncake that almost glows is the Snowskin, called that because of its white gelatinous rice exterior. Snowskins aren’t baked like pastry mooncakes, are less oily, served cold and are considered healthier because of their lower sugar and fat content.
Reach for the Moon(cakes)
Check out the mooncakes enjoyed by consumers this year and make a note to order some next August. Savory, sugar-free, ice cream filled, even vegetarian mooncakes can be found, as new flavors are developed by chefs all over the world.
- Each year The Peninsula Hotel chain has its limited-edition mini custard filled mooncakes available for order. These mooncakes are rich from the addition of duck eggs to the pastry and are highly sought after each year. Originally created in 1985 at Spring Moon, the chain’s Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant, these mooncakes are only available online and are presented in a beautiful cognac-colored box.
- Another classic source for mooncakes, Raffles Singapore creates beautiful signature mooncakes each year. This year’s flavor was an Açaí Berry and Chia Seeds Snow-Skin Mooncake resulting in an indulgent superfood treat. The rose color of this mooncake makes it as beautiful to look at as it is to eat.
- The Chicken Bak-Kwa mooncake baked found at the Marriott Tang Hotel in Singapore is a savory take on the classic sweet treat. Filled with chicken bak-kwa, sweet rice, and a host of nuts and seeds, this has become one of their best sellers. The hotel also features a Mango Yogurt Snowskin Mooncake with Lime Margarita Truffle that was new this year and we’re hoping we get to try it next year.
Good Things Come in Pretty Packages
One of the best things about mooncakes is the unbelievably beautiful packaging that showcases them. The boxes are almost prized more than the contents and are works of art all on their own. The Crystal Jade restaurant may have won the prize for its Disney carousel mooncakes tin. The collector’s box is a spinning carousel of Disney characters that plays the Mickey Mouse March. Included is the Pandan Lotus with Gula Melak snowskin that is color coordinated to match the carousel’s rose gold exterior. Another packaging marvel comes from the Ritz Carlton Millenia in Singapore featuring a jewelry box with a beveled mirror on the top shelf and storage below for delicious mooncakes.
In Case You Missed It
Inspired to try some mooncakes? Kee Wah Bakery (Los Angeles) offers their White Lotus Seed Mooncake on Amazon. Don’t wait – they only are here once in a blue moon.