Mid-Autumn Festival mooncakes are in. The annual tradition — dating back some 3,000 years — is one of the biggest celebrations in Chinese culture, where the holiday brings families together to eat the egg yolk and sweet dough with lotus seed paste. Made to represent the full moon, the traditional dessert has seen some big changes and innovations in just the last 10 years. While purists would argue that it is moving further away from its original form due to the over-commercialization of the Chinese holiday, there is no doubt that brands are adapting for the season to focus on a younger and more modern consumer base.
In recent years of collecting the best mooncake designs, we’ve seen the transition from the traditional aluminum tin to more designer and branded cardboard packaging — the mooncakes got smaller, but the boxes got significantly bigger. Then came the change from fillings. Gone were the lotus paste and egg yolk, and in their place were experimental flavors like ice cream, matcha, lava cream and fudge. It was essentially a fusion of eastern and western desserts. As I pointed out in the past, one concern was that after the holidays, the decorative boxes would often be found scattered all over the streets of the city. And while the boxes are often picked up off the streets and recycled as scrap cardboard, you can’t help but feel wasteful throwing away some of the more elaborate mooncake displays where a large marketing budget has gone into their creation (some boxes contain LED strips, milled steel, wood , even circuit boards).
If you compare this year to five years ago, the change is obvious. Almost zero brands use traditional mooncakes now and have opted for the handmade, bite-sized versions. These freshly baked versions are highly customizable and can be filled with almost any ingredient (McLaren Hong Kong commissioned a Michelin-starred chef to create a truffle-filled mooncake from South Africa), but they have a significantly shorter shelf life. Believe it or not, some of the factory mooncakes of the past could last up to two years before breaking down.
This year, fashion houses and luxury brands seemed to have gotten the same memo about recycling and repurposing, as many mooncake sets included aspects that allowed consumers to enjoy the brand beyond just eating the cakes. Porcelain plates and tableware were imported by names such as Maison Margiela, Fendi, Christian Louboutin,
Taking things to another level were the offerings from Blackbird Concessionaires Ferrari,
In other food news, check out Louis Vuitton’s Maison Seoul vegetarian pop-up restaurant.