The Mid-Autumn Festival symbolizes peaceful family togetherness under the brightest full moon of the year, and mooncakes, mooncakes, everywhere. The moon is full and huge, down low close to the horizon, and almost orange in color. Cultures that use the lunar calendar celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, including but not limited to Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese communities. The San Francisco Bay Area is more familiar with the traditional Cantonese mooncakes, which feature elaborately molded round or square-shaped pastries with a dense, slightly sweetened paste made from lotus seeds or red beans, encased by a thin, chewy, alkaline dough. Some have a dried, salted egg yolk in the middle to represent the full moon, and double or more egg yolks are for extra prosperity. You only need to eat a couple of small wedges from the pastry, since it’s so dense. We recommend sharing and washing it down with hot tea.
This year, the festival falls on September 10, but San Francisco will host its Mid-Autumn Festival street fair on August 27 and 28 in Chinatown, where you can definitely get mooncakes from local bakeries while watching lion dancing and other entertainment. If you want more of the palm-sized deliciousness outside of the street fair, you’ll find plenty of options across the Bay, including an exciting crop of new-school mooncakes, from vegan versions to mooncake-inspired chocolates, and with more pan-Asian flavors beyond traditional Chinese. Below is just a sampling of the mouthwatering varieties available.
Made fresh daily without preservatives, this year’s mooncakes include salted egg custard and a pungent Musang King durian—not for the uninitiated. While you’re there, you must also get a warmed original pineapple bun (there’s no pineapple, but the crackly, sugar-egg paste on top looks like one) stuffed with a chilled slab of Kerrygold butter, or the guava butter version. You probably had to wait in a line that wrapped around the corner, anyway. Might as well make it worth your while. Bring cash.
How to order: Walk-in or preorder online for pick-up and third-party delivery.
This is the spot for traditional mooncakes like lotus seed, red bean, and black bean paste. If you’re feeling extra prosperous, get a quadruple yolk one! Plus, mooncakes cookies made from leftover dough, which have had a resurgence as of late, shaped like pigs, fish, and the Buddha. While you might already be weighed down by 50 pounds of mooncakes as gifts, add on a slice of Eastern Bakery’s famous coffee crunch cake.
How to order: Walk-in or pre-order by phone 415-433-7973 or email for pick-up or shipping.
Oakland, San Jose, rest of the Bay Area
Known for plant-based and gluten-free Taiwanese pineapple cakes since 2021, Annie’s T Cakes has been part of the recent wave of vegan Asian baked goods in the Bay Area. For the Mid-Autumn Festival, rejoice at the vegan mini mooncake options of jasmine tea, matcha, red bean, and black sesame. A bigger bonus is the Gift Box that just dropped, featuring full-sized mooncakes in new flavors like White Chocolate Hojicha and matcha with strawberry filling, with an option to add a greeting card. Pre-orders close on August 28, and the boxes will be available for pick-up in Oakland and San Jose from September 7 through September 10, or can be shipped throughout California.
How to order: Pre-order full-sized mooncake Gift Boxes online (until 8/28) via Hotplate for pick-up in Oakland or San Jose, or shipping throughout California; pre-order mini mooncakes for pick-up or delivery via Pastel.
Daly City, Dublin, Milpitas
Another established spot for dim sum and Cantonese seafood also offers seasonal mooncakes gift boxes. The Luxury Seven Stars Reunion Mooncakes box features one full-sized traditional Lotus Seed Paste Cake with double egg yolk, surrounded by a circle of colorful, mini mooncakes with oozy lava centers like chocolate and ube.
How to order: Pre-order online for pickup or national shipping.
While the Vietnamese American chocolate company started by two sisters had already established itself as an early purveyor of Asian American fine chocolates, the pandemic spurred a Mid-Autumn Festival innovation of mooncake-inspired chocolates. Back again this year and hopefully every year, three types of boxed sets are available, including the 2022 Mid-Autumn Collection gift box that features six types of exquisite chocolates, including Mango Pate de Fruit with fish sauce, a Vietnamese floral gin with dark chocolate ganache, and a chrysanthemum and honey-infused mix of dark and milk chocolate ganache. The Mooncake Chocolates box actually has tiny pieces of egg yolk in each chocolate, with fillings ranging from lotus seed paste to ube.
How to order: Pre-order from the full selection online for shipping on August 30 or September 6. Pre-order for pickup or Bay Area delivery with a limited menu via Pastel.
Making mooncakes is a labor-intensive, but fascinating process. Learn to make the trendy translucent snowskin ones alongside friends or family members in this mooncake-making class hosted by BiteUnite. Each person will end up with a dozen mini mooncakes to take home.
How to order: Book a September class online for $120.
All over the Bay Area
While SF is notoriously anti-chain, the Asian bakery chains know what’s up, and roll out their Mid-Autumn Festival goods with a practiced precision across their locations. Sheng Kee offers some unusual mooncake flavors like mulberry and lychee. 85 Degree has both Cantonese and spherical Taiwanese-style mooncakes, including a signature savory-sweet Dong-Po flavor filled with walnuts, pork floss, red bean, mochi, and egg yolk. Kee Wah, established in Hong Kong in 1938, has Bay Area locations that offer low-sugar and pineapple mooncakes, plus piggy biscuits made from leftover dough. Online, order from Hong Kong’s Wing Wah, whose mooncakes are popular for their mild white lotus paste filling. Many mom-and-pop Chinese bakeries sell their own mooncakes, too, like Napoleon Super Bakery and iCafe in Chinatown, and Cherry Blossom Bakery in the Ingleside and Richmond districts.
All over the Bay Area
Don’t discount the old-school mooncakes from Asian grocery stores.They tend to have preservatives in them, if you care about that sort of thing, but are reliable and usually come in gorgeous tins or gift boxes adorned with detailed portraits of Change’e, the immortal Moon Lady, or the rabbit on the moon. Aside from the 99 Ranch chain, Richmond New May Wah Supermarket in the Inner Richmond District is a solid Chinese grocery store, and Costcos in the Bay Area are also a sure bet for mooncakes this time of year. A popular brand to try is Maxim, when available.