Baked Chinese New Year Cake (Nian Gao)

Glutinous rice flour cake

MelindaChan / Getty Images

  • Total: 60 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 50 mins
  • Yield: 10 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
338 Calories
6g Fat
60g Carbs
13g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10 servings
Amount per serving
Calories 338
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 8%
Saturated Fat 2g 11%
Cholesterol 69mg 23%
Sodium 440mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 60g 22%
Dietary Fiber 10g 36%
Protein 13g
Calcium 150mg 12%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

A Nian Gao is made for the Chinese New Year celebration in hopes of a good year ahead. The cake symbolizes growth, progress, and advancement. It is often given as a gift when visiting friends and family during the holiday. The classic ingredients are sugar, water, and rice flours and the sugar and water are cooked together and then beaten along with the rice flours. The mixture is poured into a bamboo steamer which is set in a wok with simmering water; the wok is covered and the cake is left to steam until it is firm to the touch, which can take up to 3 hours.

This recipe, reprinted with permission from "Asian American Village Online", is westernized in that it is baked and includes cake ingredients like butter and eggs. It's an ideal recipe if you are short on time or don't like standing over the stove, worrying if the steamer will boil dry. The changes also make it a great introductory dessert to share with people who might not be familiar with Asian cakes. Even with these alterations, this baked cake will give you the taste of traditional Nian Gao, if not the same texture.

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces mochiko sweet rice flour (glutinous rice flour), plus a bit extra for sprinkling on the baking dish
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, or 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 to 1 3/4 cup sugar (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • One can red azuki beans

Steps to Make It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9" x 13" baking pan with oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

  2. Place all of the ingredients but the beans in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix at medium speed for 2 minutes. Beat for 2 more minutes at high speed.

  3. Sprinkle the extra Mochiko flour into the baking dish and then add half of the batter.

  4. Spread the red adzuki beans on top. (You can mix some batter into the beans if they are too thick to spread).

  5. Spread the other half of the batter over the red azuki beans. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a chopstick (this is a Chinese New Year Cake after all!). If it comes out clean, it is done.

Tip

  • Working with glutinous rice flour for the first time can be a bit challenging since it doesn't behave exactly the same as other flours. The batter is meant to be quite liquid—consider the consistency of a milkshake. The glutinous rice flour will absorb the water during baking. When adding the adzuki beans, they will sink a bit into the batter, which is fine.

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