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Chinese New Year Cake

Nian GaoIt’s that time of the year again…the time we all anticipate…Red Pocket Day!  Okay, okay, Chinese New Year isn’t ALL about getting money – it’s also about spending time with your family on the one holiday every year that people can travel home.  In Chinese tradition, Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival as it’s called in China) is the biggest holiday of the year, ushering in the new lunar year.  On this day, many Chinese communities will have parades and festivals, with dragon dancing, fireworks, and loads of goodies.  People may wear traditional Chinese clothing, and older or married couples will give red pockets filled with money to relatives who are still children.  The lucky thing to do is to give two red pockets at a time, with an equal amount of money in each pocket, to each child (lucky things come in twos).

Nian Gao bake

One of the goodies we like to eat at Chinese New Year is Nian Gao, or “Year Cake”.  This version of New Year Cake is made with glutinous rice flour and coconut milk.  It has a slightly chewy consistency and a custardy, subtle coconut flavor.  It’s a bit different from the traditional New Year Cake that you can buy at the Chinese supermarket around this time of year.  The traditional cake is more of a pudding, and you cut it into slices and fry them.  This one is kind of in-between a Western style cake and a traditional nian gao.

The recipe for this cake is coming – I forgot to copy it down so I’m waiting for my mom to send it to me.  In the meantime, enjoy these pictures.  Oh, and Happy Chinese New Year!  Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Nian Gao pour

And for all you Year of the Tiger folks out there…  I was told that in the second cycle of the year you were born in (so the year you are 24), you will find true love.  I met my husband in the Year of the Pig when I was 24 =).  Rather suitable for Valentine’s Day, eh?

Update: Here, finally, is the recipe for the Chinese New Year Cake.  It’s incredibly simple to make.  Just mix together the (very few) ingredients, bake, and serve.

Chinese New Year Cake

1 package of Glutinous Rice Flour (400 g)
1 can coconut milk
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
a little bit of desiccated coconut

1. Turn on oven at 350 F
2. Use a mixer to blend all the above ingredients. Put the mixture in a parchment paper lined baking dish. Sprinkle the desiccated coconut on top. Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until crackly and crunchy on top.

9 comments to Chinese New Year Cake

  • Jo

    did mom give you the recipe for this yet? if not, i’ll ask her to send it to you!

  • Camilla

    Yea she did, I just haven’t put it up yet:)

  • Lisa

    Please post the recipe! I’ve become addicted to this treat, since a Chinese bakery opened nearby. They sell the cake as muffins, which gives a terrific ratio of crunchy outside/chewy inside. The make a filling with azuki beans and another with an apple filling.

    Do you think your mom’s recipe will work in cupcake form?

  • Camilla

    Haha, okay, finally I’ve overcome my laziness and posted the recipe. Yes, I think the muffin idea is awesome! I’ll definitely have to try it myself. And maybe I’ll experiment with some fillings too. Thanks for the idea!

  • Miranda

    Does this recipe have a good taste?
    Would you think kids will like it?
    Is this a real chinese recipe?

  • Camilla

    Yes this is a real Chinese recipe. As for whether kids will like it, it’s quite subjective, I think. It has a coconut taste, and it’s a bit chewy (from the glutinous rice flour), like mochi, if you’ve had that.

  • Debbie

    What size baking dish should be used for the Chinese New Year Cake? Going to try it with a class of pre-schoolers celebrating the Lunar New Year.

  • Camilla

    An 8-inch round dish should be fine. A springform pan would work best, just make sure it doesn’t leak. Hope it turns out well!

  • Sibyl

    I’m so glad I found your blog. I can understand the recipes and they are authentic. Other authentic recipes websites are mostly in Chinese and in metric systems. So it’s much more difficult for me to understand. Thanks!