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A Cantonese mooncake filled with lotus seed paste
Place of originChina
Region or stateEast Asia and Southeast Asia
Main ingredientsCrust: lard or vegetable oil
Filling: red bean or lotus seed paste, salted egg yolk, may or may not have additional ingredients
Food energy
(per 100 g serving)
Approximately 416 calories (1,740 kJ) kcal
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese月餅
Simplified Chinese月饼
Hanyu Pinyinyuèbing, yuèbǐng
Literal meaningMoon cake/biscuit
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabetbánh Trung thu
Chữ Nôm餅中秋
Khmer name

A mooncake (simplified Chinese: 月饼; traditional Chinese: 月餅) is a Chinese bakery product traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節).[1] The festival is primarily about the harvest while a legend connects it to moon watching, and mooncakes are regarded as a delicacy. Mooncakes are offered between friends or on family gatherings while celebrating the festival. The Mid-Autumn Festival is widely regarded as one of the four most important Chinese festivals.

There are numerous varieties of mooncakes consumed within China and outside of China in overseas Chinese communities. The Cantonese mooncake is the most famous variety. A traditional Cantonese mooncake[2] is a round pastry, measuring about 10 cm (4 in) in diameter and 3–4 cm (1+141+12 in) thick, with a rich thick filling usually made from lotus seed paste (other typical fillings include red bean paste or mixed nuts) surrounded by a thin, 2–3 mm (approximately 1/8 of an inch) crust and may contain yolks from salted duck eggs.[3]

Mooncakes are usually eaten in small wedges, accompanied by tea. Today, it is customary for business people and families to present them to their clients or relatives as presents,[4] encouraging the market for high-end mooncakes.

Just as the Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated in various Asian localities due to the presence of Chinese communities throughout the region,[5] mooncakes are enjoyed in other parts of Asia too. Mooncakes have also appeared in western countries as a form of delicacy.[6][7][8]

General description

Most mooncakes consist of a thick, tender pastry skin enveloping a sweet, dense filling, which may contain one or several whole salted egg yolks in the center to symbolize the full moon. Depending on the custom, mooncakes may also be 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 Chinese goddess of the Moon (Chang'e), flowers, vines, or a rabbit (symbol of the Moon) may surround the characters for additional decoration.


Mid-Autumn Festival

The festival is intricately linked to legends of Chang’e, the mythical Moon Goddess of Immortality. According to the Liji, 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".

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

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

Mooncakes were used by revolutionaries in their effort to overthrow the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty, eventually resulting in the establishment of the Ming dynasty.[9][10] The idea is said to have been conceived by Zhu Yuanzhang and his advisor Liu Bowen, who circulated a rumor that a deadly plague 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: on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, kill the rulers.[11]

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 mooncakes were then eaten to destroy the message.

Traditional styles


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

Many types of fillings can be found in traditional mooncakes:


Mooncakes with Chinese characters 金門旦黃 (jinmen danhuang), meaning the moon cake contains a single egg yolk and is made from a bakery named "Golden Gate". 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. Three types of mooncake crust are used in Chinese cuisine:[citation needed]

Regional variations in China

Mooncakes from Malaysia
Cantonese-style mooncake with double yolk and lotus seed paste (including salted duck egg yolk and lotus seed paste as fillings, and this wheat flour pastry on the surface)
Cantonese-style mooncake with five nuts/kernels (including smashed cashews, smashed sesame seed, smashed almonds, smashed walnuts, smashed egusi seeds)
Suzhou-style mooncakes with minced pork filling

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

Contemporary styles

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. Therefore, most of these contemporary styles are especially prominent amongst the cosmopolitan and younger Chinese and amongst the overseas Chinese community. However, traditional mooncakes are often sold alongside contemporary ones to cater to individual preferences.[14]

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". It is different from the traditional mooncake - the snow skin mooncake needs to be stored inside a refrigerator and is white on the outside. Traditionally the colour white means something bad in China, for example, people will wear a white collar to a funeral. However, this kind of white coloured mooncake is popular with teenagers.[15] 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. 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.[16] 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 flavors to take advantage of the market, without much thought for how well the tastes fuse together.[17]


Mooncake filling

Fillings in contemporary style mooncakes have 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 become commonplace in recent years. In addition, filling composed of 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.

Some other examples include

Snow skin fruity mooncakes
Snow skin fruity mooncakes.

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/Swiss 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:

Use in other countries and regions


There are three major cities that have diverse types of moon cakes. George Town, Kuala Lumpur and Sabah. Mooncakes are quite similar to the traditional Chinese. However, many prefer to add 100% pure Hunan lotus seed to maintain the quality of mooncakes. The most popular types, especially in Kuala Lumpur, are White Lotus Seed Paste Cake, Snow Skins and Black Sesame With Yolk.[20]


In Indonesia, there are several main types of mooncakes,[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 thinner than regular mooncake. Fillings may include pork, chocolate, cheese, milk, durian, jackfruit and many other exotic fruits made into a paste. This type of mooncake is widely available all year long while the regular modern mooncakes are usually only sold around the mid-autumn festival season.


Mooncakes in Japan are known as geppei (月餅), a transliteration of the Chinese name. Their designs are based on the Cantonese mooncake, 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.


A box with bánh nướng (baked mooncake) and bánh dẻo (sticky rice mooncake)
Vietnamese sticky rice mooncake with mung bean paste and salted egg yolk

In Vietnam, mooncakes are known as bánh trung thu[21] (literally "mid-autumn cake"). Vietnamese mooncakes are usually sold either individually or in a set of four. There are two kinds of mooncake: bánh nướng (baked mooncake) and bánh dẻo (sticky rice mooncake).

It can be said that bánh nướng and bánh dẻo are two special kinds of cake in Vietnam. They are widely popular and are sold only during the Tết Trung Thu season. 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 the Cantonese mooncake, 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, dried sausage, mung bean paste, salt, sugar, cooking oil, sugared lard, lotus seed, watermelon seed, etc. Compared to other variants, Vietnamese mooncakes' flavor is more on the sweet side. Thus, to balance it, salted egg yolk is often added. They can be baked or eaten immediately.

Bánh nướng (baked mooncake) is made from wheat flour, cooking oil, and simple syrup boiled with malt. After being filled with various combinations of salted egg yolk, dried sausage, mung bean paste, salt, sugar, cooking oil, sugared pig fat, lotus seed, watermelon seed, it will be brushed with egg wash, then baked in the oven. The egg wash will protect the crust of the cake from drying out and create the aroma of the cake. The cakes have to be rotated constantly in the oven to prevent burning.

Bánh dẻo (sticky rice mooncake) is easier to make than bánh nướng. The crust and filling are pre-cooked. The crust is made from roasted glutinous rice flour, pomelo blossom water or vanilla and simple syrup. After malaxating rice flour, fillings similar to that of baked mooncake is stuffed inside the crust and then the cake is put into the mold dusted with a thin layer of flour to prevent sticking to fingers. The cake can be used immediately without any further steps. However, bánh dẻo is not as popular as bánh nướng.


The most traditional mooncake found within Taiwan resembles those from southern Fujian. Taiwanese mooncakes are filled with sweetened red bean paste, sometimes with mochi in the center. The most common traditional mooncakes coming from Taiwan are filled mung bean (lu dou) or taro paste, generally with a salted duck egg yolk in the mung bean mooncakes, and either salted duck egg or a savory treat in the taro mooncakes. They typically have a flaky crust and are spherical in shape. Instead of the imprinted pattern on top common in Cantonese versions, Taiwanese mooncakes have a red stamp typically in celebratory Chinese character.[22] Modern, more trendy Taiwanese moon cakes are wide in variety that includes low fat, lard free and ice cream versions. Popular modern flavors include green tea, chocolate, strawberry and tiramisu.


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.


Mooncake gift set by a top hotel in Singapore.
Mooncake gift set by a top hotel in Singapore.

In Singapore, mooncakes are luxury gifts. They come in a wide variety of flavors ranging from the traditional baked ones, to the Teochew flaky ones filled with yam paste, to snowskin varieties filled with chilled fruit pastes. Traditional mooncakes feature base fillings of red lotus paste, white lotus paste or red bean paste, with 0-4 salted duck egg yolks embedded within. Variations include adding other ingredients such as macadamia nuts, osmanthus, orange peel and melon seeds.

Snowskin mooncakes in Singapore feature flavors ranging from Lychee Martini, Baileys, Matcha Red Bean, durian, and various fruit pastes.

Mooncakes are luxurious gifts in Singapore and are very popular as gifts to clients, friends and family. An average box of 4 mooncakes cost US$60. Many hotels and fine Chinese cuisine restaurants offer mooncakes packaged in elaborate boxes with multiple compartments and jeweled clasps. Mooncake boxes are commonly repurposed as jewelry boxes after the festival ends.


See also


  1. ^ "MOONCAKE - Cambridge Dictionary".
  2. ^ "Traditional Mooncakes in China - 12 Types of Regional Variations". 15 August 2019. Retrieved 8 September 2022.
  3. ^ "10 Most Popular Mooncake Flavors - Which one do you like?". 14 April 2021. Retrieved 8 September 2022.
  4. ^ Asianweek Archived 26 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Mid-Autumn Festival". Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  6. ^ "Mid-Autumn Festival in Other Asian Countries". Archived from the original on 10 September 2018. Retrieved 27 May 2017.
  7. ^ Parulis-Cook, Sienna. "Mooncakes: China's Evolving Tradition". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on 18 September 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2017.
  8. ^ "Customs around the Mid-Autumn Festival". China Today. 7 September 2016. Archived from the original on 5 December 2018. Retrieved 27 May 2017.
  9. ^ "The Revolutionary History Of Mooncakes". Morning Edition. 14 September 2019. NPR.
  10. ^ Frost, Natasha (11 August 2017). "Did Mooncakes Help the Chinese Overthrow the Mongols?: On the enduring power of myth and metaphor". Atlas Obscura.
  11. ^ Phipps, Gavin (6 September 2003). "A new mooncake rising - Taipei Times". Taipei Times. p. 16. Archived from the original on 2 October 2018. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  12. ^ "Types Of Mooncake – Moon Festival". June 2021.
  13. ^ 鳳凰衛視中文台, 12 September 2008
  14. ^ Yang, Lemei (15 October 2017). "China's Mid-Autumn Day". Exproxy. Archived from the original on 21 September 2020. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  15. ^ Sheila, McNamara (1996). "Mooncakes over Hong Kong". Far Eastern Economic Review. 159: 51. Archived from the original on 21 September 2020. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  16. ^ "Is a High-End "Mooncake Bubble" Forming in China? « Jing Daily : The Business of Luxury and Culture in China". Archived from the original on 6 September 2010. Retrieved 19 September 2010.
  17. ^ "Asia Tatler". Archived from the original on 21 September 2020. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  18. ^ "8 new Hong Kong mooncake flavors for 2016: the best and the rest – our verdict". SCMP Food & Drink. 25 August 2016. Archived from the original on 31 August 2018. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  19. ^ Tiffany Lam; Virginia Lau (29 September 2009). "The Mooncake Challenge". CNN Go. Archived from the original on 4 October 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  20. ^ "Top 10 mooncakes for 2014". 13 August 2014. Archived from the original on 1 October 2015.
  21. ^ "Origin and meaning of Vietnam mooncake". November 2019.
  22. ^ "Taiwanese Mooncake".