Kirbie's Cravings

Chinese New Year Cake

One of the traditional dishes eaten during Chinese New Year is a New Year Cake. It’s a very simple steamed cake, made with glutinous rice flour for a mochi-like chewy texture and sweetened with brown sugar.

photo of slices of Chinese New Year Cake on a plate
The Lunar New Year is this Friday, January 31, 2014.

One of the traditional dishes eaten during the New Year for Chinese people is a New Year Cake.

It’s a very simple steamed cake, made with glutinous rice flour for a mochi-like chewy texture and sweetened with brown sugar.
Chinese New Year Cake with red chopsticks
The name literally translates as “year cake.” It is supposed to be good luck to eat it because the cake name is a homonym for “higher year.” Thus, the belief is if you consume the cake, you will have a successful upcoming year. I always eat it simply because I love it, especially with its chewy texture.
close-up photo of deep fried Chinese New Year Cake
The cake is readily available in Chinese markets around this time of year, but you can also easily make it at home. After the cake is finished steaming, it’s soft and chewy. Once it cools and is stored, it will become hard and dense. As a result, it is usually sliced and served either pan fried or dipped in egg batter and deep fried. Both methods heat the cake and restore it to its originally sticky and chewy form.

There’s many variations and flavors, but the most basic one which I grew up with is only three ingredients: glutinous rice flour, water, and brown sugar.  You can make these ahead of time, store them in the fridge, gift them to friends.
slices of deep fried Chinese New Year Cake on a white plate

Chinese New Year Cake

Servings: 1 cake
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Chinese
One of the traditional dishes eaten during the New Year for Chinese people is a New Year Cake. It's a very simple steamed cake, made with glutinous rice flour for a mochi-like chewy texture and sweetened with brown sugar.


  • 400 g glutinous rice flour
  • 300 g dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups water


  • Bring water to a boil and stir in sugar until it is completely dissolved. Remove from stove and let syrup cool completely. Then, slowly add in rice flour, whisking it into the syrup. Whisk until batter is smooth and no lumps remain. Grease an 8 inch round cake pan. Pour in batter. 
  • Steam about 1 hour or until sides begin to pull away from cake and cake is solid and no longer a liquid batter. The cake will still be very soft. This is normal. You can eat as is, though it is more difficult to cut. To make it hard like the kind sold at the store, wrap cake with plastic wrap and place in fridge overnight. To reheat, slice into 1/2 inch thick squares and pan fry with some oil until the cake is soft and chewy again and no longer hard. Another popular way to reheat is to coat the squares in egg and flour and deep fry.


  • You can also use light brown sugar though the color of your cake will be lighter.
  • I can never resist eating some right after it is steamed. I then place the rest in the fridge as it will be easier to cut into squares. 
  • Store any uneaten cake in the fridge.

The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.

Did you make this recipe?I'd love to see it! Mention @KirbieCravings and tag #kirbiecravings!

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18 comments on “Chinese New Year Cake”

  1. Can i bake instead of steam method ? 

  2. I tried this recipe and it is amazing but I was wondering if the recipe is keto friendly.

  3. Can I use brown sugar instead of dark brown sugar?

  4. To pan fry in egg and flour, how much flour to one egg.

    • You only need a thin coating of egg and flour. 1 whisked egg should be enough. How much flour depends on how many slices you are cooking. You coat each slice in egg just enough so that the flour will stick on. Then you coat in flour. Just a thin layer, shaking off any excess flour. This will create a crispy coating around the new year cake when fried

  5. Can rice flour be used or only glutinous?

  6. Hi! Im attempting to make this for the first time, but I have no idea how to steam in a pan like this! What is an easy way to do this, for those of us who have no knowledge of steaming foods!

    • are you using a steamer, or what are you using for steaming? You can use almost any round cake pan for this. And you can line it with parchment paper to make it easier. I put mine in a steamer. if you’re not using a traditional steamer, you want to put water at the bottom of your pot, then have something sitting above it which you can place your cake pan on, so that the steam from the water will rise and cook the cake without the cake floating in the water.

  7. I already have the steamed nian gao, but I was wondering whether I’d somehow be able to bake it instead of frying. I’ve been raised with the panfried method, but I’ve been attempting to ‘healthify’ New Year treats. 🙂

    • If you want to do really healthy, I sometimes slice it, put it on parchment paper and microwave it. It won’t stick to the parchment paper and it becomes nice and chewy again in the microwave. =) Baking should work too but will take longer

  8. Woo! I was just looking for this recipe to make on Friday. Have you ever made it with red bean? I’m wondering how to adjust the wet/dry ingredient ratio to allow for the increased liquid… Thanks, and happy new year!

    • Unfortunately, I have not tried the red bean. It seems like a little too much work for me and I’d just go and buy it. haha. good luck!

  9. I didn’t know these were so easy to make. I always buy mine from 99 ranch. Do you coat it with flour before you pan fry? Mine always gets sooo sticky when I pan fry so I’m wondering if flour will do the trick.

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