Sticky Cake (Nian Gao)

READY IN: 1hr 20mins
Recipe by swirlycinnacakes

This is a cake traditionally served on Chinese New Year. It doesn't appeal to everyone, but a lot of people like it.

Top Review by JMigs0

I just wanted to comment, my mom makes these every year. She varies the flavor by adding coconut extract (using white sugar), or red bean paste with whole red beans. I don't know her recipes, but it looks like this is a good base recipe. We always put them in the fridge since it is perishable, so once it's been in the fridge it gets hard (like rice). The best way to heat it back up is to steam it (it needs the moisture). But another way, our favorite way to eat it (and heat it up)is to slice Nian Gao in thin slices (about 1/4" thick, and 2" x 3" or what ever size you prefer) and dip it in beaten eggs, pan fry with a tiny bit of vegetable oil, re-dip it in egg wash, and pan fry again (this double dip method gives it a better egg flavor and coating). Mmmm.... I'm making some tomorrow!

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 3 14 cups glutinous-rice flour
  • 23 cup brown sugar
  • 7 ounces boiling water
  • 12 cup chinese dates, softened in water and cut in half with pits removed (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • water, as needed
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or 1 tablespoon nonstick cooking spray


  1. Prepare the wok for steaming.
  2. In a bowl, mix the boiling water and the sugar, stirring to dissolve.
  3. Cool. Soak the Chinese dates in hot water for at least 30 minutes to soften. (You can also
  4. soften them quickly by placing them in a bowl with water and microwaving on high heat for
  5. 30 seconds). Cut the dates in half and remove the pits.
  6. Place the glutinous rice flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and stir in the sugar and water mixture. Add the milk and begin shaping the dough. Add 1 tablespoon of
  7. water to the dough at a time, until you have a smooth dough with a satiny texture. Incorporate 1/2 - 3/4 of the Chinese dates, nuts or other dried fruit as you are adding water and working with the dough.
  8. Grease a 7-inch square cake pan with vegetable oil or a non-stick cooking spray. Place the dough in the cake pan and spread it out to the edges. Decorate with the remaining
  9. dates, lightly pushing them into the dough. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.
  10. Steam the cake over medium-high to high heat for 45 minutes, or until the edges of the cake pull away from the pan. Remove the cake from the heat and cool.
  11. Use a knife to loosen the edges, then remove the cake. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate overnight.
  12. To serve: Cut the cake into quarters, and then into thin slices 2 – 3 inches long and 1/4-inch wide. You can serve the cake as is, or reheat it in the microwave (the amount of time will depend on the size and power of your microwave – start with 10 seconds and then microwave an extra 5 seconds if needed) or re-steam it for 4 – 5 minutes.
  13. You can also pan-fry the cake, dipping the cake slices in an egg wash before frying. Use a small amount of oil so that the cake will not taste oily. Heat the oil on medium-high to high heat, then turn the heat down to medium and brown the cake slices briefly on both sides.

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