The Mid-Autumn Festival, or 中秋节, was celebrated today all over China. The traditional gift that is given for the festival is the mooncake, or the 月饼。According to Wikipedia, the mooncakes were first tied to the festival in the 14th century, when a secret message was hidden inside them and distributed among the Han Chinese to spread the word about a revolt against Mongol rule. This early form of espionage was probably the first and last time anyone ever got excited about receiving a mooncake. They are about the size and weight of a hockey puck, and are equally as edible:
The traditional filling is lotus paste, usually paired with a salted duck egg:
There have been several news articles lately about how young people are opting for more unconventional fillings, such as jelly or ice cream, due to the high fat content of traditional fillings, but I personally kind of suspect it's because jelly is just so much better than a salted duck egg. Even just in conversations with coworkers, it seems as though the mooncake is a traditional gift that's more tolerated than enjoyed, like a fruitcake.
Starbucks is trying to get in on this trend by creating its own version of the mooncake. I tried the hazelnut flavor (below left) and the green tea and black sesame paste flavor (below right).
The flavors were tolerable, but the whole cake is just too thick and heavy. I mean, why eat a black sesame bean paste cake when you can eat a cupcake? :)