Although we’re well into spring in Aotearoa, for those who celebrate, this week marks the Mid-Autumn Festival – also known as the Moon Festival. Taking place annually on the 15th day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar (the time it takes the moon to pass through all of its phases), the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on September 29 this year and is widely honoured in China and across East Asia – and here in New Zealand, as a result.
Having originated over 2000 years ago as a harvest celebration, it’s a time for friends and families to gather, to light lanterns, go moon-gazing – and enjoy a feast, including the emblematic mooncake. These rich, dense pastries are usually formed into round or square shapes and are often topped with beautiful patterns. They’re traditionally made with a lotus seed paste and a salted egg yolk centre, but now there are many different flavours and shapes that range from region to region and country to country.
In Auckland, there are several bakeries doing the marvellous mooncake justice – here are some picks to try.
Known for her exquisite mochi-filled burnt Basque cheesecakes, Fankery creator Cathy Fan has gone above and beyond with this year’s collection of mooncakes – one of her bakery’s founding products. They’re handcrafted by Fan and her mother in adorable shapes such as a persimmon, a peanut, and a prosperous twin fish. All fillings are made in-house from scratch – including the lotus paste, which is a lengthy process. The pair of persimmon and peanut mooncakes symbolise a play-on-words phrase in Mandarin, as the word for persimmon and peanut said together sounds like a phrase that directly translates to “Good things will happen”. All are delicate and intricate works of art. While normally she takes orders online, it’s the perfect time for Fan to be holding an in-person pop-up at Britomart showroom Spacefor. Head there from Thursday, September 28 to purchase Fankery’s mooncakes and many other treats. Fankery x Spacefor, Thursday, September 28 to Sunday, October 1. 10am–3pm or sold out. 10 Te Ara Tahuhu, Britomart.
La Couronne Cake Boutique
At this Dominion Road bakery, you can find around 15 flavours and styles of mooncakes, on sale for the next two weeks. There’s the Guangzhou-style mooncake, which has a thick, soft shell and varied fillings; the Hong Kong or Cantonese style, which often has double egg yolks and the lotus seed paste filling – and many more. You might try a taro mooncake (they have a lot of taro products at La Couronne) or one with walnut, red bean, or green tea. One of the most popular mooncakes is the signature lava custard mooncake, which contains mango, durian fruit and an egg yolk custard for a runny centre. Pick a selection into one of the bakery’s multi-boxes and you’ve got a lovely gift for your family reunion. 283 Dominion Road, Mt. Eden.
For this year’s festival, baker Wendy Lau has created a quintessentially beautiful selection of mooncakes in both traditional and snowskin-style – the latter with no added gluten. The snow skin mooncakes have a mochi-like texture to their skin, and can be made vegan or egg-free. They come with various fillings like taro, coffee chocolate, ondeh ondeh, and durian, and are crafted in lovely multicoloured packs – or you can buy them individually. Her traditional mooncakes are also works of art, and can also be made egg-free or filled with one of several fillings such as matcha, classic lotus, red bean, and sesame. Order online and pick up at Lau’s Mount Eden bakery. 297 Dominion Road, Mount Eden.
Dine at Skycity’s high-end Chinese restaurant Huami between September 29 and October 1, and you can order meticulously crafted mooncakes in individual servings as a special addition to your dessert. Huami’s mooncakes come in soft pastel colours, in flavours of green tea, black tea and oolong tea ganache – covered in white chocolate. There’s also the baijiu-flavoured mooncake to try only when you dine in at Huami, baijiu being a clear Chinese spirit that has a complex and savoury taste. You can purchase beautiful Autumn Festival gift boxes at Huami, too, which include a combination of the tea-flavoured mooncakes. 87 Federal Street, Auckland CBD.
This bakery has 12 locations around Auckland, so wherever you’re based it’s easy to swing by and pick up some mooncakes. They sell several combinations and sets, with mixed flavours in each box. You might go for the puffy round egg yolk pastry mooncakes with fillings including chocolate lava, classic double yolk with lotus or red bean, and rose lava. Or, the pretty Japanese-style mooncake filled with kūmara, green tea and pine nut, and chocolate. There are even iced mooncakes, which come in mango and durian flavours. Various locations, see your closest here.