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Monday, 20 January 2014

Nian Gao - The Cheater's Way

Nian gao (年糕) is a traditional chinese cake that is mostly eaten during the lunar new year.   Like most food that are eaten during the new year, there is an auspicious meaning to it.  Nian means year in mandarin while gao which means cake also sounds like the word 'high', hence when put together it's a homonym for higher year i.e.  a better year ahead.  And mind you, Nian Gao is also food for the Gods, it is offered to the Kitchen God in hope that he will report only the good seen in the household, some goes to the extent of sticking a piece of the cake on his mouth to ensures this :)

Making the real mc coy is quite an effort as it is steamed over medium heat for at least 2-3 hours.  It takes patience and constant monitoring to ensure water in the steamer doesn't dry out.  I don't think I am up for this yet :)  I shudder to think of the disappointment that i will have to face should it fails after that enormous amount of effort. 

This version that i have here is a baked version that is more popular in the West.  Its preparation is much easier compared to the traditional one.  The recipe was shared by my sister.  It does not taste exactly like the traditional ones but there is some resemblance in terms of texture.  A different type of fragrance altogether with eggs and milk in the recipe.  And since it's bake it has a nice crust on top with some toasted sesame seeds adding to the crunch.    To be fair, me thinks this version of the nian gao should be allowed to bask in its own limelight, it's truly delicious in its own way.

The nian gao is baked in a square pan lined with banana leaves.

I have made this a couple of new years now and it has been quite well received.  I normally serve it as a dessert.


  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar (mildly sweet, possible to add up 1 1/2 cup if preferred)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 450g glutinous rice flour
  1. Prepare a 7 inch square pan.  Line pan with banana leaves (if available).  If banana leaves is not used, pan is to be greased with oil. 
  2. Beat eggs and sugar until pale in color and looks creamy.
  3. Add oil gradually and mix well.
  4. Add milk and flour alternately ending with flour and making sure batter is well mixed.
  5. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds for a nutty fragrance and to make it look prettier. 
  6. Bake at 180C for about 1 hour.
I am submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #39: CNY Rock and Roll! (Jan 2014) hosted by Food Playground 


Hi, your baked nian gao look good and the texture look really nice. Well done!

Have a nice week ahead,regards.

Didn't know there's a baked version of nian gao, it looks a lot easier than those steamed ones!

I love the twist of this classic Chinese dessert and they look very delicious too.

WOW! I like this baked nian gao version. Would love to give it a try. Thank you for sharing :)

Looks interesting! Never heard of baked nian gao before...the traditional ones are very expensive this year! Maybe I should consider making my own:P

I have never try making my own Niao Gao before... Nice to learn that there is a cheater's way....

About your query about linking Nian Gao with Bake-along (CNY Cookies), I'm sorry to mention that Joyce, Lena and I have agreed that Nian Gao is not CNY cookies and we will not be accepted any Nian Gao post in our linky. Sadly for those who linked their Niao Gao with us, we have to remove their links :p


Wow interesting version of nian gao. Reminds me of kuih bingka. Thanks for sharing.

Ade , I love nian gao and yeah , it's too time consuming to make though I really want to try making it someday :D Wu tao and loh bak go are more easier to make . Your cheat's version is great , the texture looks soft and way easier than steaming for hours !

Lite Home Bake, like this also can. Baking 1 hour is easier than steaming for 8 hours, Good option if we need Nian Giao straight away.

Interesting ! I shall try this out one day.

Looks & sounds good . Never heard of bake nian giao before but love to try this version . Thanks for sharing ;)

hmm..this nian gao is rather unique and the work is so much easier than making the traditional ones..if you never tell it;s nian gao, i wld hv thought it's kuih bingka :D

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