In Chinese tradition, food is often imbued with spiritual meaning, promising good fortune upon consumption. The mooncake—tender dough encasing a sweet or savory filling, often carrying at its center a salted duck egg as round and golden as a harvest moon—is no exception. The molded pastry is the centerpiece of the Mid-Autumn Festival, which annually falls on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. (That’s September 10 in 2022.) The delicate dessert, which comes in shapes both round and square, is said to honor the Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e.
My grandmother confesses to me that as a child, the egg yolk center was the only part of the Chinese mooncake she liked, and she’d excavate it from the rest of the dessert to eat it on its own. While the yolk is a fixture of more traditional mooncakes along with fillings made of lotus seed and red bean paste, modern purveyors offer riffs with melty lava custard at the center or featuring pastry with a flaky rather than dense texture. Luxury hotels and popular bakeries in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Chinatowns around the world are taking their mooncakes to a whole new level with creative flavors like durian and prawn.
Nowadays, mooncake aficionados don’t need to live near a Chinese bakery to indulge in the festive pastry. You can buy mooncakes online with ease, directly from the source or from Amazon, where you’ll find a range of celebratory gift sets suited to a range of flavor preferences and price points. For the traditionalists and modernists alike, here’s a roundup of the best mooncakes you can buy online ahead of this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival.
Founded in Taiwan in 1948, Sheng Kee Bakery is still run by the original family and now has 11 stores in California. If you pop into a brick-and-mortar location, you can pick from a wide array of different mooncake varieties, including date, taro, and pineapple. But Sheng Kee also sells mooncakes online—more than 1.5 million a year—to meet the demands of homesick Taiwanese Americans. Our two favorite boxes are the Deluxe Assorted Mooncake Mix, which includes both oolong and chestnut fillings, and the Taiwanese Yummy Paste box, which has mooncakes with an exceptionally flaky, delicate crust and four different fillings.
If you crave a denser filling that has more oomph in every bite, then the Amoy lava custard mooncake set is for you. Each box of eight contains plain custard, matcha, and purple sweet potato flavors that are decadent and rich, like slicing into a New York cheesecake. You’ll find a melty center in each tiny pastry. For something more traditional, get the classic Amoy white lotus paste with two egg yolks to bring good vibes for you and your fellow mooncake eaters this Mid-Autumn Festival.
This 84-year-old bakery is a Hong Kong institution with locations in California as well. But if you cannot get to Monterey Park, San Gabriel, or any of Kee Wah’s other locations, the bakery also sells all its signature Cantonese-style mooncakes online with free shipping via Amazon. Stick with the traditional mooncakes like golden lotus seed (with double salted egg yolk to bring extra luck) or date paste, or choose custard mooncakes, which ooze when you bite into them.
Brooklyn-based Kitsby offers mooncake gift boxes ranging from classic to a tiny bit boozy. The All Star Large Mooncake Box Set contains traditional salted egg mooncakes in flavors like black sesame and white lotus seed paste; the Assorted Teochew Mooncake set features similar fillings baked in crispy layered pastry and shaped into cartoon animal characters. If you find yourself on the hunt for a booze-brushed mooncake (or never knew you wanted one until now?), opt for the Lunar Mini Mooncake Set, which includes yuzu and passion fruit–flavored treats in a collaboration with Lunar Hard Seltzer.
Wing Wah mooncakes can be found in festive, decorative tins in most Asian grocers in the United States, and they are also available online. Go for the original Cantonese-style white lotus paste with single or double yolk or choose the molten custard variety which has a luscious, liquidy duck-egg center instead of the drier yolk found in classic mooncakes.
This hugely popular Taiwanese bakery chain has carb fans lining out the door for pillowy-soft pork floss buns and custard doughnuts seven days a week. But during the Mid-Autumn Festival, 85℃ patrons can enjoy both Cantonese- and Taiwanese-style mooncakes made fresh on the premises. What sets 85℃’s mooncakes apart is the addition of mochi, which adds extra chew and bounce. We recommend the Dong Po 85℃ mooncake, which contains pork floss, mochi, red bean, walnut, salted egg and Asiago cheese, but if you want to impress your in-laws, you can’t go wrong with the Cantonese-Style Mooncake Gift Box, which features walnut date mochi, almond lotus seed, red bean yolk, and pineapple yolk mooncakes.
Traditionalists can opt for the lotus seed, red bean, and mixed nut mooncake gift sets (with optional salted egg yolk inside, of course) at Fay Da Bakery in NYC. But if you want to add some color to your life, go for the rainbow-hued Lava Collection, which boasts fillings of gooey custard, orange, matcha, and durian.