Chinese New Year Cake aka Nian Gao (年糕)


Happy Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year is the time of enjoying delicious food with family. One thing I miss about being away from home is not getting to eat the traditional food my mom makes for the new year.

Why is it that I want to learn how to cook traditional Chinese meals after I leave home? Ever since I moved to San Francisco, I call my mom asking her how to make some of my favorite childhood dishes growing up. From soups to main dishes and now for Nian Gao, the new year cake. Let me say asking for measurements from my mom was like comparing spoons and bowls as measuring cups. You see, my mom usually made this by eye, never measuring the amount. Super fun trying to figure out the right measurements.. I guess… but hey in the end, the results worked out perfectly.


Nian gao is made up of ingredients that can all be found in an Asian supermarket. Super convenient since I head over to Chinatown weekly to buy groceries. I was tempted to buy a premade nian gao at Chinatown, but decided to challenge myself and make my own, hence the phone call to my mom for the recipe. Overall, I approve of the recipe and definitely reminds me of the times I would stuff my face with all the food from Chinese New Year because my mom would only make them once a year.


Traditionally, my mom pans fry each slice of nian gao until golden brown, which causes the cake to soften and is easier to take a bite out of. This was the way I grew up eating my nian gao. However, this year, my roommate taught me another favorite Chinese way to eat nian gao by dipping slices in egg and pan frying. I really do enjoy this way too, it’s more savory/sweet (since you add a pinch of salt in the egg) taste. If you pan fry, the taste is more sweet. Make and enjoy this Chinese dessert with your friends and family!



And again, Happy Chinese New Year! Hope your year is filled with happiness, health and prosperity!

Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao


  • 4 slabs of chinese brown sugar candy (peen tong)
  • 1 cup + 1 1/4 cup water, divided
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 bag (16oz) of glutinous rice flour
  • 1 cup (4oz) rice flour
  • 3 tsp neutral oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
  • 1 red date (optional)


  1. In a sauce pan over medium heat, dissolve the 4 slabs of brown sugar candy and 1/4 tsp into 1 cup of water together. Set aside to cool down to completely.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 tsp oil, rice flour and glutinous rice flour. Make a well in the center of the bowl and stir in the syrup. Slowly add 1 1/4 cup of water into the dough as needed. Mix until the dough is smooth and falls off the spoon/whisk. The mixture will look thick.
  3. Grease an 8 inch cake pan with 1 tsp of oil.
  4. Steam for 1.5 hours over medium high. Checking the water halfway at 45 minutes to make sure there is enough water. If not, add more boiling water.
  5. Carefully remove the cake pan from the steamer and let cool on a rack. Sprinkle 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds on top and place a red date in the center.
  6. When cooled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to firm up overnight. Don't start cutting without letting refreigerating overnight, otherwise, it'll be very sticky and difficult to slice.
  7. To serve, pan fry cake slices over medium heat until each side is golden brown.

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