Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Delicious Nian Gao Recipe

Nian Gao translates to New Years Cake and is a traditional dessert enjoyed by Chinese families around the time of the Lunar New Year. 

It is traditionally made from glutinous rice flour and eaten plain, though they do make redbean version, and versions with brown sugar, essentially you can add what you like to it! Baked Nian Gao is a holiday favorite and for years I was making a really rich, not very perfect, nian gao recipe that called for sticks of butter and always ended up looking more like something that emerged from a swamp with uneven edges that ballooned out of the pan but quickly deflated into a disappointing mess. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious, but the butter fat separated out making the top kind of golden and flaky with the actual correct nian gao texture lying beneath. My family willingly ate this debacle for years (actually they did enjoy it) but I thought this year would be time to try a completely different recipe in hopes of finding a healthier, more visually appealing version. 

Lo and behold, there is a NIANGAORECIPE.COM. Its an entire website devoted to ONE recipe, with English and Chinese translations, so I thought, must be the most legit recipe out thereI tried it and was really happy with the results! It got golden brown on the top, had a light yet sweet taste with the perfect nian gao consistency- without requiring any butter! Im definitely sticking with this recipe in the future, though I’d love to branch out and try adding things to the nian gao, like redbean, raisins, and nuts.

Our lovely poinsettia + nian gao.

Here’s the recipe (I tweaked the sugar to be 75% than what the website calls for) and my finished product!


  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1.5  cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of oil
  • 1 tsp of oil
  • 1/2 tsp. of baking soda
  • 1 lb. of glutinous rice powder (usually found in any Asian grocery store)


1) Crack the eggs into the bowl.
2) Put the remaining of the ingredients into the bowl.
3) Blend the ingredients in the bowl with the electric whisk (I just did it by manual whisk) for 5 mins.
4) Allow the mixture to sit for 30 minutes.
5) Preheat the oven at 350°F for 2 mins.
6) Oil the cake pan along its bottom and sides.
7) Pour the mixture into the cake pan.
8) With a rubber spatula, evenly distribute the mixture.
9) Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
10) Take out the cake and let it cool for 5 minutes.
11) Use the bread knife and cut into rectangles.
12) Enjoy.

Deliciousness that can only be captured on macro setting. ahha.

Another one of my absolute FAVORITE things to do with nian gao (usually done with hard store-bought nian gao rounds for some reason it doesn’t work as well with soft baked nian gao) is to slice it into quarter inch thick pieces, dip it into a beaten egg with sugar added to it, and fry it in a pan. The nian gao softens to a deliciously chewy and sweet mess but is contained within the structure of the egg batter. I’ve loved waking up to this treat at the start of each Lunar New Year!


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