Chinese New Year cake 新年年糕

Chinese New Year cake

Chinese New Year cake

Chinese New Year cake

Chinese New Year is coming early this year (25 January 2020 instead of the usual February timeframe). With just a week before the first day of the Lunar New Year, I thought I’d better get some of the traditional celebration food items ready.

Now traditionally these steamed cakes are made in round pans, then cut into thin slices before the last bit of pan frying. I thought, since the end game is to have relatively similar sized pieces for ease of cooking, why don’t I use a rectangular loaf pan? That way I can cut pieces of the same size throughout, easily. Unconventional I know, with the use of a sharp-edged loaf pan, as the Chinese uses the round shape for its auspicious meaning of fulfillment, completeness and unity. I made a little round one to satisfy tradition but am not afraid to break from it.

These are sticky when it first comes out of the steamer; allow it to cool for a good few hours in the fridge to firm up. This will make it much easier to cut. It will look opaque when it is cold. Don’t fret: once pan fried, the cake softens, turns slightly transculent and is so moreish and lovely to eat. It’s not overly sweet either, and is the perfect sweet dish to serve any guests who come to wish you well/ “bai nin” 拜年.

I’ve shown the Chinese translation of some of the ingredients below, just in case you need it to find the right kind.

These cakes symbolizes a pay rise or promotion in the coming year. Happy New Year!


  • 320g Glutinous flour 糯米粉
  • 115g Wheat starch 澄麵粉
  • 400ml water
  • 400g Chinese brown cane sugar (rectangular pieces) 片糖
  • 130ml coconut cream
  • 30g Rice Bran oil
  • Egg, beaten, for frying

Makes 1 large 6 inch cake or
1 small 4 inch and a bread loaf pan


  1. Sieve flours into a bowl and set aside.
  2. In a deep saucepan, add water and bring to a boil. Add sugar and dissolve. Add coconut cream and rice bran oil. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Add flours in small portions to the sugar syrup, all the while stiring. Ensure mixture is homogenous and lump free. If required, push mixture through a sieve to remove all lumps.
  4. Oil your choice of cake pan(s) and line with baking paper. Pour the cake mixture in and steam over a high heat till fully cooked, 65 to 75 minutes. I place a round steaming rack on the bottom of my wok, add hot water right up to the bottom of the pan and cover it with the lid to steam. Remember to check often and add hot water to the wok from time to time, to maintain the water level – be careful not to let the water run dry. Test with a skewer to ensure the centre isn’t watery.
  5. Remove from the steaming station to cool. Leave in the fridge to harden for a few hours. This will make it easier to slice.
  6. Slice into 1 cm thick pieces. Beat an egg in a bowl and dip each piece of steamed cake in the egg to coat.
  7. Pan fry both sides till golden and the cake has softened.

Chinese New Year cake

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