What On Earth Is A Mooncake?
Image Credit: Mooncake is a traditional Chinese dessert | Unsplash

We are yet to come across a culture that doesn’t include an indulgent sweet treat as part of its major festivals. It is no different in Chinese culture.

The mid-autumn festival, a harvest celebration, is observed on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese calendar (sometime between mid-September and early October). On this day the moon is believed to be at its brightest best and the Chinese celebrate by worshipping and making offerings to the moon and to Chang’e – the Chinese goddess of the moon. As you might have guessed, making and sharing mooncakes is common during this time.

What better way to honour the moon and its goddess than creating a delicacy that is literally dedicated to the deity. Unsurprisingly, mooncakes are in the shape of round pucks (often 3-4 inches in diameter and 1-2 inches thick) – a shape that mirrors the full moon but also symbolizes completeness in Chinese culture. The outside of the cake is a flour-based crust, the top of which is often embellished with intricate imprints of Chinese characters, the name of the bakery, and sometimes other additional decoration such as flowers, or the moon itself. While visually unique, it’s the interesting fillings inside the cake that makes this a unique delicacy.

Mooncakes are often filled with a thick sweet paste made from lotus seeds (the same ingredient used to make the omnipresent health snack makhana) and sugar. Since this ingredient often commands a price premium several alternatives are commonly used – red bean paste, jujube paste, and mixed nuts.

Like any popular delicacy, there are several variations of the mooncake within and outside China. From the size, type of crust, method of cooking, and choice of filling – there are probably hundreds of variations. The Beijing-style mooncake, for example, has a light and foamy crust whereas the Shanghai-style mooncake often has a more buttery, flaky crust. The Japanese version of the mooncake uses the red bean paste more often while Indonesian versions may be made of typical Asian fruits such as durian and jackfruit.

In contemporary times, mooncakes are filled with flavors of conventional baking such as cream cheese, chocolate, green tea, coffee, etc. As popularity has soared, mooncakes are consumed throughout the year and are often shared between families and business associates to mark important events or celebrations.

Mooncakes are not as popular in India (yet). Some restaurants specializing in Chinese and other regional cuisines sell mooncakes (for those in Mumbai, Yauatcha Patisserie has a few flavours on offer). Making mooncakes at home may also be a tricky endeavour unless you have easy access to Asian grocery and specialty food stores.

Mooncakes are filled with a thick sweet paste made from lotus seeds | Unsplash

 Here is a recipe that you can try (makes ~4 mooncakes)

Mooncake crust

  • 115g Plain flour 
  • 65g Golden syrup 
  • 25g Vegetable oil 
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp Water


  • 0.5kg Filling of your choice (lotus, red bean, sesame paste, etc.)
  • 16 salted egg yolks


  • Making the crust
  • Combine flour, golden syrup, vegetable oil, baking soda, and water together in a large bowl
  • Stir the mixture until a dough forms, then knead with your hands for 10 minutes
  • Form the dough into a rough ball and cover with plastic wrap, let the dough to sit for 1 hour.

Making the filling

  • For every mooncake, take 2 egg yolks and add your desired filling
  • Combine well until it forms a smooth ball.
  • Assembling the mooncake
  • Preheat the oven to 180C
  • Take a quarter of the dough for each mooncake and roll it into a ball, flatten it with a rolling pin or between plastic sheets 
  • Add a quarter of the prepared filling into the dough and enclose the filling with the dough. Press it into the desired mooncake shape. Use a mooncake mold if you have one
  • Repeat for other three mooncakes 
  • Place on baking tray, dab egg wash, and bake the mooncakes for 6 minutes
  • Remove from oven and reapply the egg wash, bake for another 6 minutes at 200C
  • Remove from the oven and cool completely before placing in an airtight container
  • Let the mooncakes sit at room temperature for 2-3 days for the skin to soften and soak up oils from the filling. The colour will deepen and the skin will become glossy
  • Store at room temperature for up to a week
  •  Enjoy mooncake with family and friends on special occasions!