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Baked Chinese New Year Cake Recipe: A Delicious Celebration Treat

If you're looking for a delicious way to celebrate Chinese New Year, why not try making a baked Chinese New Year cake? This traditional dessert, also known as Nian Gao, is a sweet and sticky rice cake that's typically enjoyed during the Lunar New Year festivities.

A table set with ingredients and utensils for making Chinese New Year cake

While the exact recipe for baked Chinese New Year cake can vary depending on the region and family tradition, there are a few essential ingredients that are typically used. Glutinous rice flour, coconut milk, and sugar are the main components of this dish, giving it its signature texture and sweetness.

Preparing and cooking the cake can be a bit time-consuming, but the end result is well worth it. Whether you're celebrating Chinese New Year or simply looking for a tasty dessert to enjoy, a baked Chinese New Year cake is a great choice.

Key Takeaways

  • Baked Chinese New Year cake, or Nian Gao, is a traditional dessert enjoyed during the Lunar New Year festivities.
  • Essential ingredients for the cake include glutinous rice flour, coconut milk, and sugar.
  • While preparation and cooking can be time-consuming, the end result is a delicious and satisfying dessert.

History and Significance

A traditional Chinese kitchen with ingredients and utensils laid out for baking a Chinese New Year cake

Tradition of Nian Gao

Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the most important traditional festival in China. It is celebrated on the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar, which usually falls between January 21 and February 20. One of the most popular foods during the Chinese New Year is Nian Gao, a sweet and sticky rice cake. The tradition of eating Nian Gao during Chinese New Year dates back to ancient times.

According to legend, Nian Gao was first made during the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). It was originally called "Year Cake" (Nian Gao) and was made to offer to the Kitchen God, who was believed to oversee the household and report to the Jade Emperor about the family's behaviour. The Kitchen God would then return to the household on New Year's Eve, and the family would offer him the Nian Gao as a sweet treat to bribe him into giving a good report to the Jade Emperor.

Symbolism in Chinese Culture

Nian Gao is not only a delicious treat but also a symbol of good luck, growth, and prosperity. The Chinese word for "sticky" (Nian) sounds like the word for "year," while the word for "cake" (Gao) sounds like the word for "high." Therefore, eating Nian Gao during Chinese New Year is believed to bring good luck and promote growth and prosperity in the coming year.

In addition, the round shape of Nian Gao represents unity and completeness, while the sticky texture symbolises the family's togetherness and unity. It is also believed that the higher the Nian Gao rises during cooking, the greater the family's prosperity will be in the coming year.

As for the suggestion of seafood in the recipe, you can add some dried shrimp or scallops to the batter for a savoury twist. Alternatively, you can serve the Nian Gao with some steamed prawns or lobster for a luxurious touch.

Essential Ingredients

A table filled with flour, sugar, eggs, and a mixing bowl. A whisk and measuring cups sit nearby. A recipe book lays open to a page titled "Chinese New Year Cake."

When it comes to making baked Chinese New Year cake, there are a few essential ingredients that you will need to have on hand. These include:

Choosing the Right Flour

One of the most important ingredients in any cake recipe is the flour, and this is especially true for Chinese New Year cake. Traditionally, glutinous rice flour is used to make this cake, but you can also use regular rice flour or sweet rice flour. It is important to choose the right type of flour to ensure that your cake turns out correctly.

Sweeteners in the Recipe

Sweeteners are another key ingredient in Chinese New Year cake. Brown sugar, dark brown sugar, and regular sugar are all commonly used in this recipe. If you prefer a less sweet cake, you can reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe or use a sugar substitute.

Additional Flavours and Textures

While the basic recipe for Chinese New Year cake is quite simple, there are many ways to add extra flavour and texture to this cake. Some people like to add coconut milk or oil to the recipe for a richer flavour, while others add eggs or milk for a creamier texture. You can also experiment with different types of sweeteners, such as honey or maple syrup, to give your cake a unique flavour.

Seafood can also be a great addition to this recipe. For example, you could try adding prawns or crab meat to the cake batter for a savoury twist. Just be sure to cook the seafood thoroughly before adding it to the batter, and adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Preparation Techniques

Ingredients being mixed in a large bowl, while a steaming pot sits on a stove in the background. A cake mold is being greased and lined with parchment paper

Mixing the Batter

To prepare the batter for your baked Chinese New Year cake, you will need to mix the glutinous rice flour and rice flour together in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add in the sugar water mixture and stir thoroughly until the batter is smooth and without any lumps. You can also add in vanilla extract, molasses, orange zest, and vegetable oil to the batter to enhance the flavour.

Baking vs Steaming

The traditional method for making Chinese New Year Cake is steaming, which can take up to 20 hours in a bamboo steamer. However, you can also bake the cake, which is much easier and faster. To bake the cake, preheat your oven to 350°F and grease a baking pan with butter or oil. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth it out with a spatula. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 40-50 minutes until the cake is cooked through.

If you want to add seafood to your baked Chinese New Year cake recipe, you can use shrimp or crab meat. Simply chop the seafood into small pieces and mix it into the batter before baking. This will add a delicious seafood flavour to your cake and make it even more special for your Chinese New Year celebration.

Cooking Instructions

A mixing bowl filled with flour, sugar, and eggs. A wooden spoon stirs the ingredients together. A steaming pot sits on the stove

Preheating and Baking

Before you start baking the Chinese New Year Cake, preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 9-inch (23cm) square baking pan with butter or oil and lightly dust it with flour. You can also line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper for easy removal.

Next, pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it out with a spatula. Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Checking for Doneness

To check if the cake is done, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready. If there is batter on the toothpick, bake for a few more minutes and check again.

Cooling and Storing

Once the cake is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool on a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes. Then, using a knife, loosen the edges of the cake from the pan and carefully remove it from the pan. Place the cake on a cooling rack and let it cool completely.

If you want to store the cake, wrap it in foil or plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can also freeze the cake for up to 3 months.

For seafood lovers, you can add some seafood to the recipe to make it more interesting. Shrimps, scallops, and crab meat are great options that you can add to the batter before baking. This will give the cake a unique flavour and texture. However, make sure that the seafood is cooked before adding it to the batter to ensure that it is safe to eat.

The Chinese New Year Cake should have a soft and chewy consistency when baked properly. Enjoy it with your family and friends during the Chinese New Year celebration.

Serving and Customisation

A table displays various ingredients and tools for making Chinese New Year cake, with a recipe card nearby. Ingredients include flour, sugar, and red bean paste

Cutting and Presentation

Once your baked Chinese New Year cake is ready, it's time to present it! You can cut the cake into small squares or rectangles to serve as bite-sized pieces. Alternatively, you can cut it into larger slices and serve it as a dessert.

To make your presentation more interesting, you can sprinkle sesame seeds or toasted coconut on top of the cake. You can also add a dollop of red bean paste or ginger syrup on the side for extra sweetness.

Accompaniments and Variations

If you want to customise your baked Chinese New Year cake, there are plenty of options available. You can add coconut extract or vanilla extract to the batter to give it a unique flavour. Alternatively, you can add molasses to make the cake more moist and gooey.

To make the cake more interesting, you can add different types of seafood such as shrimp or crab meat. These can be added to the batter or served on top of the cake as a garnish.

If you want to give the cake as a gift, you can wrap it in red paper and tie it with a gold ribbon. This is a traditional way of presenting gifts during the Lunar New Year.

Overall, the baked Chinese New Year cake is a delicious dessert that can be customised to suit your tastes. Whether you prefer it sweet or savoury, there are plenty of options available to make it your own.

Frequently Asked Questions

A table with ingredients and utensils for baking Chinese New Year cake

How do you make a baked Nian Gao with coconut milk?

To make a baked Nian Gao with coconut milk, you will need to use glutinous rice flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder, and coconut milk. First, mix the glutinous rice flour, sugar, and baking powder in a bowl. Then, add the eggs and coconut milk and stir until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into a greased baking dish and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until the cake is cooked through.

What's the secret to a perfectly moist Chinese New Year cake?

The secret to a perfectly moist Chinese New Year cake is to use the right amount of liquid in the batter. You can use water, milk, or coconut milk to make the cake moist and tender. Another tip is to wrap the cake in plastic wrap while it's still warm to keep the moisture inside.

Can you share an easy recipe for baked glutinous rice cake?

Sure, here's a simple recipe for baked glutinous rice cake:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups glutinous rice flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the glutinous rice flour, sugar, and baking powder.
  3. Add the eggs, water, and vegetable oil, and stir until well combined.
  4. Pour the batter into a greased baking dish and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  5. Let the cake cool before slicing and serving.

What are the best fillings to add to a baked Nian Gao?

Some popular fillings for baked Nian Gao include red bean paste, sweetened shredded coconut, and chopped nuts. You can also add dried fruits, such as raisins or chopped dates, for extra flavour and texture. If you're feeling adventurous, you can even try adding seafood, such as shrimp or crab meat, to the filling for a savoury twist.

How does one incorporate red bean into a baked Chinese New Year cake?

To incorporate red bean into a baked Chinese New Year cake, you can use store-bought red bean paste or make your own by boiling red beans with sugar until they are soft and mashed. Once you have the red bean paste, you can spread it on top of the cake batter before baking, or mix it into the batter for a marbled effect.

Is there a difference between Nian Gao and mochi, and if so, what is it?

Yes, there is a difference between Nian Gao and mochi. Nian Gao is a Chinese New Year cake made from glutinous rice flour, while mochi is a Japanese rice cake made from mochigome, a short-grain glutinous rice. While both are made from glutinous rice, the texture and flavour of the two cakes are different. Nian Gao is denser and chewier, while mochi is softer and more elastic.