Moon cakes are a traditional Chinese pastry that is eaten every year around the time of the Mid Autumn Festival, one of the most important holidays in the Chinese calendar. Moon cakes consist of a thin layer of pastry wrapped around a dense filling. The filling can be almost anything, although the most traditional cakes will use a lotus bean paste and me include a boiled duck egg yolk as a representation of the full moon. The cakes have a very distinctive look, as they usually have beautiful decorations on their tops from the molds that the cakes are formed in.
The pastry used for moon cakes will vary from bakery to bakery, but in general it is slightly flaky and soft, made with vegetable oil or lard. The crust layer is thin, just enough it it to contain all that filling. The fillings can be almost anything and, in the past couple of years, there has been a strong trend to see moon cakes in more “gourmet” flavors. More traditional flavors include, in addition to lotus paste, sweet bean paste, red bean paste, jujube paste and 5 seed/5 kernel. The last flavor (pictured below) is one that has a center made of nuts and seeds held together with a slightly sweet, slightly savory syrup. You can find moon cakes at some gourmet stores and lots of Chinese bakeries during late summer and early fall.