Lunar New Year Coconut Cake -Nian Gao



Some food in China is mostly about texture. This cake, referred to as Nian Gao, is made during the Lunar New Year celebrations and it is a textural marvel. I searched the web to find something to make for our New Year’s celebration and ended up combining a few techniques and ingredients from recipes I found on Chow.

I really enjoyed the texture: chewy, gummy, silky and soft, all at once. There are many variations and traditionally it is steamed. This baked version is very easy to make. Here is a picture of Nian Gao steamed in banana leaves


Nian Gao is made with glutinous or "sticky"rice flour. What separates this type of rice is that it was specifically developed by Asian farmers over the centuries for its higher content of amylose and amylopectin, two components of starch.  

There is no dietary gluten in glutinous rice and it is used throughout Asia in numerous ways. It is more widely available here for gluten free diets. It is the primary ingredient in this dessert so do not substitute white rice flour. It will not work.

4 eggs at room temperature
 2 cans light coconut milk
3 cups sweet rice flour
2 1/2 cups sugar (you can use a combination of brown and unrefined sugar)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. toasted, shredded coconut (to use as garnish at the end)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9×13-inch pan with butter or non-stick spray coating and line with parchment paper.

Beat the eggs. Add the sugar and beat well for a few minutes. Now alternate adding wet and dry ingredients into the egg/sugar mixture (do not add the shredded coconut). This batter is very runny. Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes. Sprinkle the coconut over the top and rotate the pan. Continue baking for another 25 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes. Using the parchment paper as handles, lift the nian gao out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Cut into your desired shapes. You can chill it to serve or serve at room temperature.

For more info on Chinese New Year Celebrations, check out the video below:


3 Responses to Lunar New Year Coconut Cake -Nian Gao

  1. june23 July 21, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    The major fat in mother’s milk is the same lauric acid as in coconut oil. Baby foods all over the world do contain Lauric acid (that from coconut oil) as the prominent ingredient.

  2. how to use coconut oil July 20, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Instead of using other kinds of medications, I can resort to this.
    Vitamin E is the compound found in (virgin) coconut oil.
    The use of coconut oil for perioral dermatitis is thought of as
    one of the best.

    • Barr July 20, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

      Thanks for the information!

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