Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao

The Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao also known as Rice Cake is the quintessential dessert for the Chinese New Year celebrations. Nian meas year in Mandarin and Gao means cake. Many desserts contain the word Gao that reveals their sweet nature. Gāo also means high or tall in Mandarin, so both words having the same sound, the cake becomes way far more important. It becomes a wish for a “higher” New Year that also can mean a more successful and prosperous year.

What is the Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao?

This must-have cake on the Chinese New Year celebrations is made of sticky glutenous rice and is brown. This color may represent gold so also brings prosperity. The popular celebratory dessert, it is largely available in various regions of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong and is made in different ways.

In the South, the Nian Gao is mostly a savory dish and Beijing is known for its Jujube Nian Gao. The cake is made with glutinous rice or yellow rice, is steamed in a flower mold and has a single jujube in the center. Nian Gao can also be dipped in white sugar to make it way far more sugary and therefore give the New Year extra layers of sweetness.

But no matter how you make it, this dessert will usher in the Chinese New Year with success, fun and will not disappoint your sweet tooth. For a roundup of the most popular Chinese New Year desserts, read the WD article here.

Tips on how to perfect this Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao recipe

The recipe is not particularly difficult to make. However, there are a few tips below to make it even better.

  • When you add the brown sugar slabs to boiling water to dissolve and later add in the coconut cream, the mixture will be slightly lumpy. Sieve the mixture to remove the lumps.
  • It is best to sift the glutinous rice flour and the wheat starch together twice to reduce the formation of lumps and make the batter smoother.
  • The cooking time for the Nian Gao depends on the size of your cake pan. In order to ensure that it will be cooked thoroughly, steam it a bit longer to be safe. We used the 5” cake pan and a Wok.
  • The Nian Gao is steamed until the surface is slightly solidified. Insert a red date in the center in keeping with tradition!
  • Cut it in slices and serve or fry them in the beaten egg sauce and serve warm for a much flavorful dish.
Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao
Sliced Nian Gao

Astrology fan? Check out the Chinese New Year of the Tiger horoscopes here

This a Chinese New Year dessert, the Nian Gao- on of the popular desserts for the Chinese New Year

Nian Gao Chinese New Year Cake

This is the recipe of the popular New Year Cake in China
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: New Year Cake, Nian Gao, Nian Gao Chinese New Year Cake
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 327kcal


  • 5'' baking pan
  • Wok


  • 250 ml water
  • 80 ml coconut cream
  • 30 g vegetable oil
  • 200 g glutinous rice flour
  • 70 g wheat starch
  • 250 g brown slab sugar slightly chopped
  • 1 beaten egg for frying


  • Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a deep pot. Add the brown slab sugar and cook until completely dissolved. Pour in the coconut cream and oil. Mix well. Sieve to remove the lumps. Let cool and set aside.
  • Sift the glutinous rice flour and wheat starch first, and add it slowly to the mixture. Keep stirring the mixture while you are adding the glutinous rice flour and wheat starch until it is completely combined. If you want the batter to be smoother, sieve it again.
  • Grease the cake pan. Pour the batter into the greased cake pan, then put it in a wok, and steam over high heat for about 60 to 75 minutes. The rice cake itself is very sticky, and it will be sticky if you insert chopsticks in it.
  • After cooling, put it in the refrigerator for at least three hours. After the rice cake has hardened, it is easier to slice it. Cut in slices and serve.
  • Alternatively, dip the nian gao slices in the beaten egg sauce, use a flat, non-stick pan and fry both sides over medium-low heat until golden brown and soft. Serve while hot.


  • You can make this cake in advance, keep it in the refrigerator airtight for up to three weeks.
  • Ingredients as wheat starch and glutinous rice are largely available in most grocery stores. You can get everything online and in specialty Asian stores.


Calories: 327kcal | Carbohydrates: 66g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 20mg | Sodium: 24mg | Potassium: 68mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 37g | Vitamin A: 30IU | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 1mg