A batch of fresh moon cakes made by My's Kitchen
When the Mid-Autumn Festival comes, moon cakes will become the most sought-after product all across Vietnam as people enjoy the pleasure of gathering around a table to drink tea and eat the typical round pastries made especially to celebrate the festival on the 15th of the eighth lunar month.
The last several years have seen a boom in the moon cake market as bakeries offer a wide range of budget choices.
But recently a trend of making moon cakes is growing and attracting more and more young people.
Many are learning how to make the cakes, and are selling their products themselves.
Vo Thi Thu Hien, 32, a stay-at-home mother in Ho Chi Minh City, started making the cakes at home two years ago after she found some popular brands “too sweet.”
At first she made them for her family and friends. Their reviews were positive, and they also encouraged her to make them for sale.
Hien now runs her own bakery named My’s Kitchen. It is actually an online store for cakes and other bakery products, including moon cakes.
Traditionally, the palm-sized pastries used to be round or square. But many moon cake makers now make them in all kinds of shapes, including those of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. The most popular are the pig and the bear.
The tastes and flavors of the cakes have also become diverse. They used to be filled with lotus seed, mung bean, red bean, green tea, taro, and salted duck egg yolk, but now include cheese, chocolate and various kinds of seeds.
While older people prefer traditional moon cakes, young people tend to lean toward stylish, exotic varieties.
To many people, “handmade” moon cakes mean fresh ones as they believe they do not contain preservatives and are fresh and do not keep for long. People have heard too much about police raids of moon cake production establishments with expired food additives and batches of cakes seized.
It is a common thought that moon cakes are rarely eaten by the buyer – they are generally meant as gifts for friends, employees and business contacts – but this is not true of handmade ones.
They have become the ideal treat for those who want to eat delicious moon cakes but have no time to make them.
Because of their very nature, people can order cakes with their favorite flavors and various levels of sweetness and thickness of crust.
Yet they are generally cheaper than the cakes on the market: A 150-gram cake costs VND55,000-60,000 (US$2.45-2.67) while a 120-gram cake made by Phuc Long, a famous Vietnamese coffee and tea company, costs VND75,000-95,000 ($3.34-4.23).
There are also a wide range of small cakes with prices ranging from VND30,000 to VND60,000.
But the handmade variety is not only eaten by the buyers as more and more people buy them as gifts.
“I think the price of commercial moon cakes is too high, possibly because of the beautiful packaging,” Hien said.
People making the cakes are now paying more attention to the packaging so that their products can compete with the brands.
Many people make moon cakes for fun, but after sensing the huge demand for them they are investing more in online marketing, mostly on Facebook, to promote and sell their products.
As “online” sellers do not have to open shops, all they have to do is to advertise their products on social media. Their first customers are their friends and relatives. Gradually their products become known by more and more people.
“People are getting more and more choices in moon cakes,” Hien said.
“That is why I try to find new ingredients for the fillings to make my cakes more competitive.”