Cakes by Happy Eatery has been around since 1984, first in Centreville, then, for the last 11 years, in Manassas. The bakery is known for its made-to-order celebration cakes, but one particular holiday is especially important to general manager Victoria Wu, who took over the business from her father when he passed away 15 years ago. Whether or not you celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival marked on the lunar calendar (also known as the Moon Festival), you’ll want to take advantage.
For decades now, the Wu family has been perfecting their moon cakes. The palm-sized pastries crumble on the outside to reveal a variety of sweet fillings. Not every moon cake is as pretty as the ones made by the Wus. Victoria credits the traditional wooden molds that her family uses with their visual beauty. Some of them are the same ones her father used. Others, like the fish above, she bought herself in Hong Kong.
And what of the flavors? For the koi fish, known as the Prosperity Fish, the Wus fill it with pineapple paste. “Asians are all about symbolism,” she jokes. The pineapple is a feng shui symbol of good luck and fortune, the perfect pairing for the fish. Other flavors include classics like red bean, lotus, winter melon and the most ambitious of all, ones with salted egg yolk in the middle. But the Wus also get creative with mixed nuts and a lemon-ginger version that uses lemon curd from the bakery and ginger crystallized in-house.
The moon cakes are available from now until Oct. 1, the night of the first full moon of autumn. But if you miss them this year, there are other Chinese treats to enjoy at Cakes by Happy Eatery. With a full-service kitchen, the sisters make roast pork buns that bring back loyal customers. They’ve also been known to make cha siu pork ribs to serve in their cafe. If you do want moon cakes this year, stop by the store, or call to order ahead.
“My dad was the absolute traditionalist,” says Victoria. “He would be thrilled his American-born kids are doing moon cakes.” So are we. // 9685 Liberia Ave., Manassas
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