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Chinese New Year Cake – Grandma’s Nian Gao Recipe

Nian Gao

Nian Gao Recipe

Nian Gao is a traditional cake eaten during Chinese New Year to bring good luck and prosperity. Traditionally, Nian Gao takes hours or even days to make. But these days, it can be done in a shorter time.

Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 3 hr
Total Time: 3 hr 30 min
Yield: 3 servings (4 inch / 10cm round cake tin)


Nian Gao Ingredients A(A)
125g sugar
75g water
Nian Gao Ingredients B(B)
500g glutinous rice flour
450g water
375g sugar
Nian Gao Ingredients C[ For Lining ]
some banana leaves
some aluminium foils


Nian Gao Step 1Toast fresh banana leaves over an open flame or hot griddle until pliable and bright green. Wash and wipe the leaves dry. Cut the leaves into pieces large enough to hang over the sides of the cake tin. Line the bottom and sides of the cake tin (at least 2-3 layers), overlapping generously. Tie with string or rubber bands.
Nian Gao Step 2Ingredients (A) To make caramel:
Heat sugar in a pot over medium heat until it melts and turns golden brown. When the color turns golden brown, turn off the heat and add water immediately. Quickly swirl the pan until combined (otherwise the caramel will seize up and crystallize). Set aside to cool completely.

Nian Gao Step 3Ingredients (B)
In a bowl, mix the glutinous rice flour and water. Knead until a soft dough forms. Add sugar and mix until it becomes a runny paste. Add the caramel syrup and mix well. Strain the mixture through a sieve. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Wrap the top of the cake tin with aluminium foil. Steam in a steamer over high heat for 3 hours. Remove the aluminium foil immediately to prevent water vapour dripping in.


  • Allow the Nian Gao to cool completely before removing from the mould. To unmold the Nian Gao, fold the leaves upwards, then pull the nian gao out from the mold. Cut off the excess leaves on top of Nian Gao.
  • Freshly made Nian Gao is very soft. It will gradually become firmer after a few days.
  • Nian Gao can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge.
  • For storing at room temperature, put the Nian Gao on a wire rack and keep at cool, dry and well-ventilated place for up to 2 weeks. Please note that moisture would encourage mold (mildew) growth on the surface.