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Place of originChina
Main ingredientsCrust: lard or vegetable oil
Filling: red bean or lotus seed paste
Cookbook:Mooncake  Mooncake
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Not to be confused with Moon pie.
Place of originChina
Main ingredientsCrust: lard or vegetable oil
Filling: red bean or lotus seed paste
Cookbook:Mooncake  Mooncake
Traditional Chinese月餅
Simplified Chinese月饼
Hanyu Pinyinyuèbĭng
Literal meaningMoon cake/biscuit

Mooncake (simplified Chinese: 月饼; traditional Chinese: 月餅; pinyin: yuè bĭng) is a Chinese bakery product traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhongqiujie). The festival is for lunar worship and moon watching, when mooncakes are regarded as an indispensable delicacy. Mooncakes are offered between friends or on family gatherings while celebrating the festival. The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the four most important Chinese festivals.

Typical mooncakes are round pastries, measuring about 10 cm in diameter and 3–4 cm thick. This is the Cantonese mooncake, eaten in Southern China in Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau. A rich thick filling usually made from red bean or lotus seed paste is surrounded by a thin (2–3 mm) crust and may contain yolks from salted duck eggs. Mooncakes are usually eaten in small wedges accompanied by Chinese tea. Today, it is customary for businessmen and families to present them to their clients or relatives as presents,[1] helping to fuel a demand for high-end mooncake styles. The energy content of a mooncake is approximately 1,000 calories or 4,200 kilojoules (for a cake measuring 10 cm (3.9 in)), but energy content varies with filling and size.[2]

General description[edit]

Mooncake with lotus seed paste

Most mooncakes consist of a thin, tender pastry skin enveloping a sweet, dense filling, and may contain one or more whole salted egg yolks in their center as the symbol of the full moon. Very rarely, mooncakes are also served steamed or fried.

Traditional mooncakes have an imprint on top consisting of the Chinese characters for "longevity" or "harmony", as well as the name of the bakery and the filling inside. Imprints of the moon, the Lady Chang'e on the moon, flowers, vines, or a rabbit (symbol of the moon) may surround the characters for additional decoration.


Mid-Autumn Festival[edit]

The festival is intricately linked to the legends of Chang E, the mythical Moon Goddess of Immortality. According to "Li-Ji", an ancient Chinese book recording customs and ceremonies, the Chinese Emperor should offer sacrifices to the sun in spring and the moon in autumn. The 15th day of the 8th lunar month is the day called "Mid-Autumn". The night on the 15th of the 8th lunar month is also called "Night of the Moon". Under the Song Dynasty (420), the day was officially declared the Mid-Autumn Festival.[citation needed]

Because of its central role in the Mid-Autumn festival, mooncakes remained popular even in recent years. For many, they form a central part of the Mid-Autumn festival experience such that it is now commonly known as 'Mooncake Festival'.

Ming revolution[edit]

There is a folk tale about the overthrow of Mongol rule facilitated by messages smuggled in moon cakes.

Mooncakes were used by the Ming revolutionaries in their effort to overthrow the Mongolian rulers of China at the end of the Yuan dynasty. The idea is said to have been conceived by Zhu Yuanzhang (朱元璋) and his advisor Liu Bowen (劉伯溫), who circulated a rumor that a deadly plague of "Hóuzi chuánwěi jíbìng de" was spreading and that the only way to prevent it was to eat special mooncakes, which would instantly revive and give special powers to the user. This prompted the quick distribution of mooncakes. The mooncakes contained a secret message coordinating the Han Chinese revolt on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month.[3]

Another method of hiding a message was to print it on the surfaces of mooncakes (which came in packages of four), as a simple puzzle or mosaic. To read the message, each of the four mooncakes was cut into four parts. The resulting 16 pieces were pieced together to reveal the message. The pieces of mooncake were then eaten to destroy the message.[4]

Traditional styles[edit]


Cut mooncake showing lotus seed paste filling around the (crumbled) egg yolk "moon"

Many types of fillings can be found in traditional mooncakes according to the region's culture:[original research?]


Mooncakes with Chinese characters 金門旦黃 (jinmen danhuang), meaning the moon cake contains egg yolk filling and is made from a bakery named "Golden Gate Bakery". Mooncakes usually have the bakery name pressed on them.

Traditional mooncakes vary widely depending on the region where they are produced. Most regions produce them with many types of fillings, but with only one type of crust. Although vegetarian mooncakes may use vegetable oil, many mooncakes use lard in their recipes for a better taste. Three types of mooncake crust are used in Chinese cuisine:[citation needed]

Regional variations in China and Taiwan[edit]

There are many regional variants of the mooncake. Types of traditional mooncake include:[original research?]

Contemporary styles[edit]

Jelly mooncake with yam-paste filling

Over time, both the crusts and the composition of the fillings of mooncakes have diversified, in particular due to a commercial need to drive up sales in the face of intense competition between producers and from other food types. Part of these trends are also to cater to changing taste preferences, and because people are more health-conscious. Most of these contemporary styles were therefore especially prominent amongst the cosmopolitan and younger Chinese and amongst the overseas Chinese community, although traditional mooncakes are often sold alongside contemporary ones to cater to individual preferences.

Some of the earliest forms of diversification were by changing the fillings with ingredients considered unusual then. Taro paste (芋泥, yù ní), pineapple and durian were amongst the first to be introduced, especially amongst the overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia.[citation needed] The crust itself also evolved, particularly with the introduction of "snow skin mooncake". Miniature mooncakes also appeared, in part to allow for easier individual consumption without the need to cut the large cakes.

To adapt to today's health-conscious lifestyle, fat-free mooncakes also appeared. Some are made of yogurt, jelly, and fat-free ice-cream. Even high-fiber low-sugar mooncakes have made their appearance.[citation needed] Customers pick and choose the size and filling of mooncakes that suits their taste and diet. For added hygiene, each cake is often wrapped in airtight plastic, accompanied by a tiny food preserver packet.

Contemporary-style mooncakes, while increasingly popular, have their detractors. Pricey ingredients have pushed up prices, causing worry of a "mooncake bubble" forming in China.[7] Food critics sometimes point out that "chocolate mooncakes" are in reality just chocolate shaped into mooncakes, and not mooncakes made of chocolate, while others complain that food chains appear intent on coming up with exotic flavours to take advantage of the market, without much thought for how well the tastes fuse together.[8]


Moon Cake Filling.jpg

Fillings in contemporary style mooncakes has diversified to include just about anything which can be made into a paste. Mooncakes containing taro paste and pineapple, which were considered novelty items at their time of invention have in recent years become commonplace items. In addition, filling with ingredients such as coffee, chocolate, nuts (walnuts, mixed nuts, etc.), fruits (prunes, pineapples, melons, lychees, etc.), vegetables (sweet potatoes, etc.), and even ham have been added to give a modern twist to the traditional recipes. It is also increasingly popular to change the base of the paste to a custard-style.[original research?]

Some other examples include

Some bakeries and restaurants have attempted to go up-market, often with excellent results.[citation needed] Gold-plated mooncakes were popular when they first appeared, and it is now possible to even find entire mooncakes made of pure gold.[citation needed] Traditional Chinese delicacies such as ginseng and bird's nest were soon followed by abalone and shark fin. Foreign food companies have also tried to cash in. Häagen-Dazs were one of the first to create an ice-cream mooncake, with a choice of either the "traditional," snow-skin, or Belgian white, milk, and dark chocolate crusts. Other ice-cream and restaurant chains soon followed up with their own versions. Other western ingredients, including champagne ganache, malt whisky, volcanic-salt caramel and even Black truffles, caviar and foie gras have made it into mooncakes.


Pink jelly mooncake with red-bean paste filling

Snowy mooncakes first appeared on the market in the early 1980s. These non-baked, chilled mooncakes usually come with two types of crusts:


In 2008, Hong Kong lifestyle retail store G.O.D. collaborated with Kee Wah Bakery to design mooncakes for the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. They came up with presenting the traditional treats in the shape of bottoms in eight different designs, but still filled with traditional white lotus seed paste and salted yolks.[10]

Use in other countries[edit]


In Indonesia, there are hundreds of types of moon cakes,[quantify] from the traditional to the modern mooncakes. The very traditional mooncake has been there ever since the Chinese and Japanese entered Indonesia, they are circular like a moon, white and rather thin. Fillings may include pork, chocolate, cheese, milk, durian, jackfruit and many other exotic fruits, however before 1998 it was only sold in small markets or villages. Now the traditional moon cake is easy to find in supermarkets and mini marts, rather than the modern mooncakes.[citation needed] The "modern" mooncakes finally entered Indonesia after 1998.


Mooncakes in Japan are known as geppei (月餅?), a direct translation of the Chinese name. They are associated with Chinese culture and are sold all year round, mainly in Japan's Chinatowns. Azuki (red bean) paste is the most popular filling for these mooncakes, but other sorts of beans as well as chestnut are also used. Unlike some types of Chinese mooncakes, mooncakes in Japan almost never contain an egg yolk in the center.[citation needed]


In Vietnam, mooncakes are known as bánh trung thu (literally "Mid-Autumn cake"). Vietnamese mooncakes are usually sold in either individually or in a set of four . There are two kinds of mooncake: "bánh nướng"(baked sticky rice cake)and "bánh dẻo"(sticky rice cake).

It can be said that "banh nuong" and " banh deo " are two special kinds of cake in Vietnam. They are widely popular and are sold year-round. Vietnamese Mooncakes are often in the shape of a circle (10 cm in diameter) or a square (a length of about 7–8 cm), and 4–5 cm thick. Larger sizes are not uncommon. Their designs largely resemble that of their Chinese counterpart, though some other images, such as the sow with cub, fish, shrimp, etc. can also be found.

Vietnamese mooncakes have two basic parts: crust and filling. The ingredients usually consist of: jam, roasted sausage, green bean, eggs, salt, sugar, cooking oil, animal fat, lotus seed, watermelon seed, etc. Compared to other variants, Vietnamese mooncakes'flavor is more on the sweet side. Thus, to balance it, salted egg is often added. They can be grilled or eaten immediately.

"Bánh nướng" (baked sticky rice cake) is made from wheat flour, cooking oil, and sugar water boiled with malt. After being filled with various combinations of salted egg, roasted sausage, green bean, eggs, salt, sugar, cooking oil, animal fat, lotus seed, watermelon seed, it will be brushed in albumen, then grilled in the oven. The albumen of the egg will protect the crust of the cake from burning and create the aroma of the cake. The cakes have to be rotated constantly in the oven to prevent burning.

"Bánh dẻo" (Sticky rice cake) is easier to make than grilled sticky rice cake. The crust and filling are pre-cooked. The crust is made from roasted wheat flour, grapefruit juice or vanilla and sugar water. After malaxating wheat flour, fillings similar to that of grilled sticky rice cake is stuffed inside the flour and then the cake is put into the mold a thin layer of flour to prevent sticking to fingers. The cake can be used immediately without any further steps."Bánh dẻo" is not as popular as "Bánh nướng", however.


In the Philippines, while traditional moon cakes are available from local sources, Chinese Filipinos have also created a variant called hopia (literally: "good cake"), and has a number of available fillings including hopiang munggo ("mung-bean hopia"), hopiang baboy ("pork hopia"), hopiang Hapon ("Japanese hopia", not related to moon cakes in Japan despite the name), and hopiang ube ("purple-yam paste hopia").[original research?]


In Thailand, mooncakes (in Thai, ขนมไหว้พระจันทร์) are sold in Thai-Chinese bakeries during festival season. In Bangkok, traditional and modern moon cakes are not limited to Chinatown on Yaowarat Road, but they are also found in stalls of large supermarkets. Durian-filled mooncakes are ones of the most popular sold,[citation needed] especially with one or two salted egg yolks.


In Singapore, mooncakes comes in all kinds of flavours ranging from the traditional baked ones to the Teow chew flaky ones to the soft snowskin. The base fillings are usually lotus paste, white lotus paste or red bean paste. There are also a variety of other ingredients like double or single salted duck egg yolks, macadamia nuts, osmantus, orange and melon seeds. It has become a habit to give away mooncakes in beautiful boxes as corporate gifts or to parents.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Asianweek
  2. ^ Hulsbosch, Marianne; Elizabeth Bedford; Martha Chaiklin (15 February 2010). Asian Material Culture. Amsterdam University Press. p. 30. ISBN 9789089640901. 
  3. ^ Taipeitimes news
  4. ^ Family culture
  5. ^ 鳳凰衛視中文台, 12 September 2008
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Tiffany Lam, Virginia Lau (29 September 2009). "The Mooncake Challenge". CNN Go. Retrieved 11 August 2012. 
  10. ^ "Hong Kong Lifestyle Brand G.O.D. Puts The "Moon" In Mooncakes". Jing Daily. 29 August 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 

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