Sales of mooncakes are well underway in the lead up to the Mid- Autumn Festival, which falls on Sept 8 this year.
Diners are spoilt for choice not only in terms of the variety of mooncake flavours on offer, but also because of the increased number of new players that have entered the lucrative market this year.
One unlikely newcomer is Singapore Airlines, which is introducing its mooncakes to the public for the first time this year.
These are produced in-house and are available at Takashimaya's Mooncake Fair in basement two of Ngee Ann City.
The mooncakes that were previously served on board selected flights had been sourced from an external vendor. This year, the airline decided to work with ground-handler and catering firm Sats to produce its own mooncakes.
On why the airline decided to do so, a spokesman says: "SIA serves mooncakes to customers on board our flights during the Mid-Autumn Festival, and we wanted to let our customers take home a taste of this in-flight experience to share with their friends and family."
Other new entrants include organic health and beauty brand Neal's Yard Remedies from Britain, Italian restaurant Gattopardo in Tras Street and Flourish Pastries and chef Masataka Yamashita's eponymous bakery, both at Tanjong Pagar Plaza.
Gattopardo's chef-owner Lino Sauro has created Italian-inspired mooncakes that look like a cross between a meringue and a kueh tutu.
He says: "I have never made mooncakes before, but have always been fascinated with this tradition. This year, I felt it was time to break the boundaries. I didn't want to do anything traditional, as there would be nothing new or different."
Also introducing something unusual is Ms Serene Mok, one of the owners of Flourish Pastries. On her range of moontarts, she says: "We wanted to introduce something different from traditional mooncakes, yet retaining the core elements. Tarts are Flourish's main line of products, so moontarts came naturally."
The tarts are topped with marzipan and feature flavours such as raspberry rose and salted caramel with mixed nuts.
Business is brisk so far and sales, mooncake sellers say, are likely to pick up from tomorrow, which marks the start of the eighth month of the lunar calendar.
Corporate orders are up between 5 and 20 per cent, with baked mooncakes remaining more popular as they last longer and do not need to be refrigerated.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, when families come together to eat mooncakes.
Legend has it that the mooncakes were stuffed with secret messages which were passed along to start a rebellion in China under the rule of the Mongols. The patterns on the surface of the pastry served as coded messages.
With the slew of new flavours that boast premium ingredients, prices have also increased by 3 to 12 per cent, retailers say.
Regent Singapore's director of food and beverage, Mr Martin Dell, says: "The price increase helps to mitigate not just the increase in labour and transportation costs, but also the cost of ingredients. Some examples include the increase in price of durians and Amedei chocolate."
Mr Nick Flynn, director of food and beverage at Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford, adds: "The price increase is a result of the rise in the cost of premium quality ingredients used due to inflation, currency exchange rates and transport costs. Materials of our packaging have also been enhanced."
What: Previously available for in-flight passengers only, Singapore Airlines' mooncakes are now on sale to the public. New SIA Selections flavours this year include Passion Fruit With Rosella, Pandan With Five Grains, Orange Lotus With Walnuts and White Lotus With Black Sesame. There are also two Heritage Favourites flavours, White Lotus Double Yolk and White Lotus Mashed Yolk.
Where: Order in-flight for home delivery, online at www.krisshop.com, or at mooncake booths at the Takashimaya Mooncake Fair, and the SilverKris and KrisFlyer Gold lounges at Changi Airport Terminals 2 and 3
When: Until Sept 8
Price: $68 for a box of four (SIA Selections flavours, and white lotus double yolk), $64 for a box of four (White Lotus Mashed Yolk)
What: If you are not a fan of the usual lotus paste or snowskin mooncakes, try Japanese pastry chef Masataka Yamashita's take on the mooncake with a rich almond butter sponge and a layer of puff pastry for crunch. Four fillings - sweet potato, apple, pumpkin and chestnut - are available.
Where: Block 1 Tanjong Pagar Plaza, 02-44
When: Pre-orders open now, collection from Wednesday to Sept 9, 10am to 6.30pm (Monday to Saturday), 10am to 4pm (Sunday)
Price: $40 for a box of eight (two flavours each)
Info: Call 6604-9709 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
NEAL'S YARD REMEDIES
What: It may be better known as an organic health and beauty brand, but Neal's Yard Remedies from Britain is selling baked mooncakes at its first Singapore shop at Millenia Walk.
The two options are baked mooncake with organic red bean and pumpkin seed, and baked mooncake with organic mixed nuts such as almonds, white sesame, walnuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.
Where: Millenia Walk, 9 Raffles Boulevard, 01-75
When: Until Sept 8, 11am to 8pm daily
Price: $68 for a box of four mooncakes with a choice of organic tea
Info: Call 6298-1311 or e-mail email@example.com
What: This pastry shop at Tanjong Pagar Plaza used to be called Village of Shueu Puffs, and was located in Chinatown Complex Food Centre. Flourish Pastries features more than just choux puffs, offering a variety of tarts and cakes.
One of the owners, Ms Serene Mok, created Moontarts for the Mid-Autumn Festival.
There are four flavours - Raspberry Rose, Pandan Coconut, Red Bean Yuzu and Salted Caramel Mixed Nuts. The filling is encased in a tart shell with an almond paste base and a thin layer of macaron crust. It is topped with housemade marzipan. Only 25 boxes are produced a day, so order two days in advance.
Where: Block 1 Tanjong Pagar Plaza, 02-06 When: Until Sept 8, 10.30am to 7pm (weekday), 10.30am to 5pm (Saturday), 10.30am to 2.30pm (Sunday)
Price: $45 for a box of four mooncakes, 20 per cent off from now until Aug 31
Info: Call 6444-1924 or go to www.flourishpastries.com
DA PAOLO GASTRONOMIA
What: The croissant and doughnut hybrid pastry now comes in mooncake flavours. The White Lotus Crodo is filled with pastry cream combined with traditional white lotus paste, and topped with pink snowskin flowers. The Golden Custard Crodo features a blend of salted egg yolk, custard and is lightly sprinkled with gold dust. Pre-order three days in advance.
Where: All Da Paolo Gastronomia outlets including Holland Village, Paragon and Great World City
When: Until Sept 8, various opening hours
Price: $5.80 for a piece, $11 for two, $21 for four; online orders cost $23.20 for four, $40.80 for eight
Info: Order online at dapaolo.com.sg/gastronomia/festive/
What: Gattopardo's chef Lino Sauro gives an Italian spin to the traditional mooncakes. Not wanting to follow the usual round shape, his version looks like a cross between a madeleine and a kueh tutu. The baked mooncake has a shortbread casing with a chocolate and truffle cheese filling, while the snow skin mooncake has a Marsala wine and tiramisu filling.
Where: 34/36 Tras Street
When: Until mid-September, noon to 2.30pm (weekday), 6.30 to 10.30pm daily
Price: $20++ for a box of four
Info: Call 6338-5498 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Mooncakes are taking on new-fangled shapes, aside from the traditional round and square ones. Here are some that look different:
What: Aside from traditional baked mooncakes and snowskin creations in various flavours, The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore has also introduced a Full Moon cake. It is inspired by the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.
Each cake is made up of a layer of almond sponge cake and hazelnuts and chocolate crisps with vanilla caramel laced with Frangelico liqueur, encased in silverdusted marzipan.
Where: Summer Pavilion, The Ritz- Carlton Millenia Singapore, 7 Raffles Avenue. The Full Moon cakes are also available at mooncake kiosks at Millenia Walk and Takashimaya.
When: Summer Pavilion - 11am to 9pm, daily; Millenia Walk, 10.30am to 9.30pm, daily; Takashimaya - 10.30am to 9.30pm, daily. A total of 20 boxes of the Full Moon cakes are available across the three locations daily. Available until Sept 8.
Price: $69++ for a box of four
Info: Call 6434-5286 or email@example.com.
What: Macaron and mooncake unite in Antoinette's sweet and salty treat. The macarons are filled with a low-sugar white lotus paste with salted egg yolk in the centre. The patisserie chain also sells mini snowskin mooncakes and traditional ones with roasted macadamia nuts.
Where: Three outlets at 30 Penhas Road; Palais Renaissance, 390 Orchard Road, B1-08/09/10C; and Mandarin Gallery, 333A Orchard Road, 02-33/34
When: All outlets open from 11am to 10pm daily. The Penhas one closes at 11pm on Saturdays, and opens at 10am on Sundays. Mooncakes are available until Sept 8.
Price: $19 for a box of six.
Info: Call 6293-3121 (Penhas Road), 6735-6392 (Palais Renaissance), and 68369527 (Mandarin Gallery). Go to www.antoinette.com.sg
THE COOKIE MUSEUM
What: The Cookie Museum's Fruity Treasures mooncake, with fruit, seeds and nuts, comes in the shape of a peach.
Where: Raffles City Shopping Centre, basement 1; Takashimaya; and VivoCity.
When: 10am to 10pm at Raffles City and VivoCity; 10.30am to 9.30pm at Takashimaya, until Sept 8.
Price: From $65 for a box of four
Info: Call 6749-7496 or go to www.thecookiemuseum.com
What: The Sichuan and Cantonese restaurant, known for its flaky Teochew mooncakes and durian snowskin options, is offering mooncakes in the shape of cute, round little pigs. The Baked Prosperous Piglets with silver lotus paste, macadamia nuts and single yolk also come with little sugar rosettes on their heads.
Where: Peony Jade at Keppel Club, Bukit Chermin Road, mezzanine level; and at Clarke Quay, 3A River Valley Road, 02-02. Also available at 14 mooncake fairs island- wide including Parkway Parade, VivoCity, nex mall and Lot One.
When: 11am to 9pm daily (Keppel Club & Clarke Quay), until Sept 8. The fairs usually open between 10am and 10pm, daily, and end on Sept 7.
Price: $36 for two, $65 for a box of four.
Info: Call 6659-4159, 6659-4918, or 6659-4161. Go to www.pjmooncakes.com
What: The hotel restaurant has a range of baked and mini snowskin mooncakes. But in place of the usual circular shape for some of its offerings, it has opted for peach-shaped ones. Peach-shaped mini snowskin mooncakes come in flavours such as Triple Treasues - melon seeds and sweet corn in a water chestnut white lotus paste; as well as Rum And Raisin; and Champagne Truffle And Chocolate Ganache. One of its baked mooncakes - single yolk with macadamia nuts in white lotus paste - is also peach-shaped.
Where: Szechuan Court, Fairmont Singapore, Level 2, 80 Bras Basah Road; and 11 mooncake fairs islandwide including Takashimaya, Tampines Mall and Bugis Junction.
When: Szechuan Court, 10am to 10pm, daily. Mooncake fairs usually open between 10am and 10pm daily and end on Sept 7, except Takashimaya and Chevron House (open on weekdays only) - these end on Sept 8.
Price: From $59+ for a box of eight mini snowskin mooncakes; from $60+ for a box of four baked moocakes.
What: The traditional cake maker goes patriotic with two versions of baked Merlion mooncakes. The mini ones are Merlion-shaped, while the normal-sized round ones have the Merlion crest and "Singapore" stamped on them. They are made with plain lotus paste and no yolk.
Where: Gin Thye outlets, including Block 152 Bukit Batok Street 11, 01-264, tel: 6899-6929; Block 513 Bishan Street 13, 01-504, tel: 6255-6362; and Block 539 Bedok North Street 3, 01-645, tel: 6449-4684; and mooncake fairs at Takashimaya, VivoCity and Tangs Orchard
When: Various opening hours, until Sept 8.
Price: $52 for a box of eight
MAJESTIC RESTAURANT, NEW MAJESTIC HOTEL
What: The restaurant is already known for its piglet mooncakes. This year, it has rolled out baked mooncakes in the shape of orchids and Merlions, to celebrate Singapore's 50th year of independence. The vegetarian egg yolks in these mooncakes are made of bean paste.
Where: New Majestic Hotel lobby, 31 to 37 Bukit Pasoh Road
When: 11am to 8.30pm daily, until Sept 8
Price: A box of four orchid mooncakes and two Merlion mooncakes is priced at $88.
Info: Call 6511-4718 or go to www.restaurantmajestic.com
Note: Most mooncake fairs end on Sept 7, except the ones at Takshimaya Shopping Centre and Chevron House, which end on Sept 8. The fair at Raffles X'Change ends on Sept 5.