Sticky Cake (Nian Gao)

READY IN: 1hr 20mins


  • 23
  • 7
  • 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


  • Prepare the wok for steaming.
  • In a bowl, mix the boiling water and the sugar, stirring to dissolve.
  • Cool. Soak the Chinese dates in hot water for at least 30 minutes to soften. (You can also
  • soften them quickly by placing them in a bowl with water and microwaving on high heat for
  • 30 seconds). Cut the dates in half and remove the pits.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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
  • dates, lightly pushing them into the dough. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.
  • 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.
  • Use a knife to loosen the edges, then remove the cake. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate overnight.
  • 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.
  • 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.