年糕 Chinese New Year Cake

Nian Gao 年糕,which translates to year cake in English, is a dessert dish normally served during Chinese New Year. In Chinese, Nian gao is a harmony for “a higher year”, thus it’s considered to bring good luck and prosperity. There are many variations, and a popular one is made with glutinous rice flour and brown sugar. It’s super easy to make, chewy and sweet like mochi!

To make brown sugar nian gao, simply mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients, and steam. That’s basically IT. However I always like to slice cooled year cake, and pan fry them until golden. This creates an interesting texture – crispy on the outside, chewy and sticky on the inside. Serve with osmanthus syrup or condensed milk, anyone with a sweet tooth will be satisfied!

Ingredients (serves 2-4, about one 4-inch year cake)

  • 100g glutinous rice flour
  • 15-20g tapioca flour
  • 60g brown sugar
  • 100g hot water


  1. Dissolve brown sugar with hot water, slightly let cool. Mix dry ingredients with the brown sugar liquid, until smooth.The batter should be thick, but pourable.
  2. Pour batter into a greased cake pan / heat-resistant container, cover with aluminum foil. Bring a pot of water to a boil, place the cake pan in the steamer, steam over medium heat for 40 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out relatively clean (small bits are ok).
  3. Let cool, remove from cake pan, cut into individual slices and serve.

To make crispy year cake: heat little oil/butter in a non-stick pan, pan fry sliced year cake over medium low heat until golden and crispy on both sides.


  • Amount of liquid needed may vary, you want the batter to be thick, but still pourable, as shown in the GIF above. If batter is too thick, add more liquid. If it’s too thin, add more glutinous rice flour.
  • To make coconut flavour nian gao, replace a portion of water with coconut cream, or add 1tbs coconut milk powder.
  • Cooking time depends on size, material of container, etc. Adjust and test with a toothpick as suggested in step 3.
  • Garnish the cake with roasted white sesame seeds if desired.

Chinese Version

http://jiu niangChinese Dessert 酒酿圆子 Jiu Niang Yuan Zi
Black rice cake 黑米糕

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