Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

mooncake (yuebing) is the traditional Asian pastry eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the most prominent annual holidays celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, which usually falls in September or early October. Typical mooncakes are round or rectangular; most consist of a thin, tender pastry skin surrounding a sweet, dense filling, often with a center of salted duck egg yolk. This pastry is especially beloved by the Chinese for its rich flavor and the role it may have played in Chinese history. According to one folktale, about 700 years ago, during the Yuan dynasty, China was ruled by the Mongols who had invaded from the north. To secretly plot the Mongols’ overthrow, the Chinese shared their planned strategy in paper messages that were hidden in the fillings of mooncakes. The Chinese won the battle, and to this day mooncakes are credited with the victory. Mooncakes are given to friends, relatives, and business associates, and as a sign of respect to one’s boss. They are usually served with tea.