Learn how to make this super easy yet amazingly delicious gluten-free baked Chinese sticky rice cake (nian gao). Crusty top with soft and chewy middle will seriously knock your socks off!
BAKED CHINESE STICKY RICE CAKE (BAKED MOCHI CAKE)
My life is seriously changed forever after I tried this baked nian gao. All these years, I’ve been making steamed nian gao and it’s a must in our house to celebrate Chinese New Year. The Chinese wants to start the year (nian) high (gao) 😉 I decided I need to try the baked version.
This baked nian gao, YOU MUST TRY! I mean it! Even if you don’t celebrate Chinese New Year, this naturally gluten-free cake with its crusty top, soft, chewy, and stretchy middle is just so addicting! If you have eaten mochi before, that’s exactly how the texture is like, only that this has a crusty top for that amazing contrast of texture!
It is so easy to make and I must say the cake is impossible to fail. For real! The cake is made with 6 common ingredients: glutinous rice flour (sweet/sticky rice flour), coconut milk (or you can use cow’s milk), sugar, eggs, butter, and sweetened toasted coconut. You can easily find glutinous rice flour in non-Asian grocery store too these days.
HOW TO MAKE BAKED NIAN GAO (IN FEW SIMPLE STEPS)
1. TOAST THE COCONUT
Toast the shredded coconut on a dry pan over medium heat until golden brown
2. MIX DRY INGREDIENTS
Mix the glutinous rice flour, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the middle
3. ADD WET INGREDIENTS
In this case: coconut milk, eggs (lightly beaten), melted butter. Grease the baking pan with solid butter on the bottom and side of pan
4. STIR UNTIL BATTER IS SMOOTH AND RUNNY
Use a sieve to strain the batter if necessary, to get rid of any lumps
5. BAKE AT PREHEATED OVEN AT 350 F
Pour the batter into a baking pan and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes
6. TOP WITH TOASTED COCONUT
The cake will rise a little bit after 30 minutes of baking
Top with toasted coconut on top of the cake and bake again for another 30-40 minutes until slightly golden brown on the edge and toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean
7. COOL DOWN IN THE OVEN FIRST
Turn off the oven heat and open the door ajar and let the cake sit for another 10 minutes in there. This helps to prevent the cake from sinking too much. Then transfer to a cooling rack to let it cool down for at least 1 hour before cutting
The minute I sliced this cake, my two kiddos ate two slices each!! They love baked nian gao a lot! They say “So soft and chewy and crispy (referring to the crusty top!)”
GREAT ALTERNATIVE TO TRADITIONAL STEAMED NIAN GAO
If you can’t be bothered to make traditional steamed nian gao, this baked nian gao is truly a great alternative to celebrate Chinese New Year. Sure it’s a bit unorthodox, but it is also a nian gao (year high ;)) and can be eaten as is. Most people don’t eat traditional steamed nian gao as is. They will make Sweet Potato Nian Gao Sandwich or fry the nian gao with eggs.
I think this is one of the things I’m going to make every year now to celebrate Chinese New Year 🙂
DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which support this site at no extra cost to you. Learn more.
Recipe is adapted from here. I used coconut milk instead of cow’s milk and standardized the recipe for easier measuring.
Baked Chinese New Year Sweet Nian Gao
- 5 gr sweetened shredded coconut about 3 Tbsp
- Butter to grease the pan
- 225 gr glutinous rice flour 1 1/2 cups
- 270 gr sugar 1 1/4 cups
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs about 110 gr
- 350 gr coconut milk 1 1/2 cups
- 20 gr butter 2 Tbsp, melted
- 8 inch round pan, about 1 1/2-inch depth
Toast the coconut:
- Place the coconut on a dry pan over medium heat and toast until lightly golden brown. Remove from the heat and set aside
Make the batter:
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Melt 20 gr of butter on a small pan, let it cool down a bit. Lightly whisk 2 eggs and add in coconut milk and melted butter and whisk again to mix
- Mix all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients while mixing with a spatula until you get a smooth runny batter. Strain this batter if you see any lumps. The batter should be smooth and runny
- Use a small amount of solid butter to grease the bottom and the side of the baking pan
- Pour the batter into the pan and bake in the preheated oven, 3rd rack from the top for 30 minutes
- After 30 minutes, the cake should have risen up a little bit. Gently sprinkle the toasted coconut you made earlier on the surface of the cake. Bake again for another 30-40 minutes (took about 40 minutes for mine, but check at 30 minutes mark). The side of the cake will be lightly golden brown and the middle of the cake will no longer be jiggly. If you insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake, it should come out clean
- Optional step: Turn off the oven and leave the oven door slightly ajar and let the cake sit in there for about 10 minutes and then put on a cooling rack to cool down. I feel like the cake doesn't sink as much compared to when I pull it out from the oven directly to cool down
- Let the cake cool down for at least 1 hour before attempting to cut
- Leftover of the cake can be kept in the refrigerator. After the cake has cooled down completely, you can wrap it up with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator for up to one week