Traditional baked mooncakes, a Chinese bakery product, are usually eaten during the Mid-Autumn festival. This festival is also known as the Moon Cake Festival (Zhong Qiu Jie 中秋节 ), because a special kind of sweet cake (yue bing 月饼) prepared in the shape of the moon and filled with sesame seeds, ground lotus seeds and duck eggs is served as a traditional Chung Chiu delicacy. Mid-Autumn festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month in the lunar calendar every year, when the moon is at its brightest for the entire year (falls on 27 September 2015 this year) and it is the third most important Chinese festivals.
Today, Chinese people celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival with dances, feasting and moon gazing. Children are then told the story of the moon fairy living in a crystal palace and will come out to dance on the moon’s shadowed surface on this day. Mooncakes are regarded as an indispensable delicacy on the occasion and are offered between friends and relatives when celebrating the festival. To accentuate the brightness of the moon, people traditionally light up lanterns of all kinds during the festival.
There are indeed many varieties of mooncakes available today. However, my favourite mooncake would still be the simple traditional baked mooncakes filled with lotus seed paste and 1 egg yolk or better still, 2 egg yolks with the skin baked and glazed to a shiny golden brown. The salted egg yolk in the middle of the mooncake symbolizes the full moon. These mooncakes are quite filling and they are usually cut diagonally into small wedges and shared.
Typical mooncakes are round or rectangular in shapes. They are rich, heavy and dense unlike most western cakes and pastries which are normally light and fluffy. Mooncakes are enjoyed in small wedges accompanied by freshly brewed Chinese tea. Traditional mooncakes have an imprint on top comprising the Chinese characters for “longevity”, “harmony” or “prosperity” as well as the name of the bakery and filling in the moon cake. Imprints of a moon (月亮), a woman on the moon(嫦娥), flowers(花), vines(藤), or a rabbit(玉兔) may surround the characters for additional decoration.