There’s always a new recipe that you find by accident and it fast becomes a staple and that is most certainly the case with my Baked Chinese New Year Glutinous Rice Cake (焗年糕)!
Now I know that I’ve missed the Lunar New Year for this year at least but this Baked Glutinous Rice Cake is honestly too good not to be eaten just once each year! Like most foods in Chinese culture, there is a huge amount of symbolism that goes with niangao. It sounds like ‘higher year’ so there is implication of growing prosperity upon the new year or promotion. You’ll often find niangao being made in various shapes such as ingots to symbolise wealth or koi carp to symbolise good luck.
I’d never heard of a baked glutinous rice cake (often called year cake or niangao, 年糕) before, I’m just used to the steamed version which we often dip in egg and panfry. The egg forms a crust and the heat softens the cake which becomes sticky and chewy so you have this contrast in texture.
It’s actually thanks to my mum who mentioned it to me when I was asking how to make traditional rice cake and I did some research and came across Florence Lin’s Baked Coconut Sticky Rice Cake which my recipe is adapted from. And despite the name, this cake is gluten-free!
Glutinous rice flour seems like a foreign ingredient that you can’t really find in most places but the Asian supermarket is the place to go! I frequented many an Asian supermarket around New Year in the search for glutinous rice flour, tapioca starch and rice flour to make lots of New Year goodies and it’s super easy to find. You’ll often be looking for a green bag or a clear bag with green writing. Fortunately, glutinous rice flour has many uses so it’s not an ingredient that will slowly make its way towards to the back of the cupboard.
The recipe is incredibly simple, it’s just a case of putting everything into a bowl, mixing together, pouring into the greased and lined tin, sprinkling with some nuts and sesame seeds and baking for an hour. I’ll admit, I would much prefer to make this version than the steamed version! I think it’s even tastier too with the textural contrasts.
225g glutinous rice flour
130g granulated sugar
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
200ml coconut milk
175ml whole milk
50ml sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g untoasted hazelnuts, crushed
1 tbsp untoasted black sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease and line a 24cm square oven dish with baking parchment.
In a large bowl, place the dry ingredients and whisk together to incorporate. Make a well in the centre and add all the liquid ingredients and whisk until the batter is even. Pour the batter into the lined dish. Mix together the crushed nuts and black sesame seeds and sprinkle liberally over the top of the batter.
Bake the rice cake for around 1 hour or until the top is a nice golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. The cake will have risen but sinks upon cooling; this is normal. Leave the rice cake to cool in the tin for about 30 minutes before moving to a cooling rack to cool fully.
To serve, peel the parchment off the cake and using a sharp knife, slice the rice cake into squares or diamonds which I think are more aesthetically pleasing.