Nian Gao (Yearly Cake) for Lunar New Year
Recipe Intro From thestephpn

Nian gao, or "yearly cake" is eaten to celebrate Lunar New Year. This recipe was passed down to me from my grandma, and I always looked forward to eating it every year! This chewy glutinous rice cake is flavored with brown slab sugar and steamed until firm. Slice it into strips before frying it to golden, crispy perfection. My family likes to dip the pieces in beaten egg before frying, but this step is optional. Enjoy!


Prep time 20mins
Cook time 4hrs 30mins
Serves or Makes: 1 8-inch cake


  • 4 pieces brown slab sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (1-pound) bag glutinous rice flour
  • 1/ 2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil
  • 1 dried red date or jujube
  • Neutral oil, for frying
  • Beaten egg, for frying, (optional)


  • Step 1

    Place a steamer basket in a large bot with a tight-fitting lid. Brush an 8” round pan with neutral oil and a round of parchment paper.

  • Step 2

    Add brown sugar pieces and water to a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally until sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool.

  • Step 3

    Place glutinous rice flour and granulated sugar into a large bowl. Add in all but 3/4 cup cooled brown sugar mixture to the bowl slowly. Stir mixture well until a medium-loose batter forms, adding more brown sugar mixture if necessary to thin it out. Stir for about 15-20 minutes total, then stir in oil until completely combined.

  • Step 4

    Sieve the mixture and pour into prepared pan. Cover tightly with foil and place atop the steamer basket. Add about 3 cups water to the bottom of the pot, then cover and steam over medium-low heat 3 hours. When steaming make sure there is always hot water steaming in the pot. You should check water level every so often. After 2 hours, check the mixture to make sure it’s becoming solid. Steam for another hour until the color is golden brown and the mixture is firm to the touch. (The traditional way is to stick a chopstick into the center and make sure it comes out a golden color and tight, sticky consistency. That means it’s ready.)

  • Step 5

    Pop a red date/ jujube into the top to cover up the hole for good luck and good measure :)

  • Step 6

    Let cake cool completely at room temperature, then cover and chill overnight for at least 24 hours and up to 1 week. When ready to eat, slice cake into ¼” thick pieces, then fry in a small bit of hot oil. You can dip pieces into beaten egg before frying to deepen the flavor, or you can eat them fried plain for a crispy texture!