Chinese New Year, the time of year to take advantage of the special dishes that only make an appearance once a year and as kids, gather our year's income from red envelopes. Of all the traditional new year foods, my favourite has always been the sweet rice cake, known as nian gao (年糕). In Korean it's called dduk (떡) and in Japanese it's mochi.
I can use the Chinese characters to further explain what nian gao is; the word nian 年 means 'year' and the word gao 糕 is 'cake'. However, there are a lot of different types of gao. The cake we know in English is dan gao, literally translated into 'egg cake'. There is also savoury so-called cakes, such as the radish or taro cakes that are also served during new years. Chinese is kinda confusing like that.
Back to talking about nian gao, the most traditional version of it is flavored with sugar (brown, white, or sometimes red sugar) and simply steamed. Once the nian gao is completely chilled, it is sliced up, dipped into beaten egg, and pan fried to a golden brown. A crispy layer on the outside and super chewy on the inside. I drool at the thought. My grandma makes an amazing lower sugar version, since she is diabetic, and it I look forward to a pan of it every year.
Another childhood memory of nian gao is eating the baked version at church potlucks. Other aunties would bring a big pan of it and I'd be the one to constantly re-visit the table to grab myself another serving. Now that I'm a cook myself, I want to recreate it at home. Two years ago, I began baking my own nian gao. I remember baking three or four batches in a week, tweaking the recipe each time, to achieve the perfect baked nian gao. And oh ho ho, whaddya know, my version is packed with coconut flavour!
"Define perfect", okay, I accept the challenge.
- Minimal sugar
I've tried using only half a cup of sugar and it just didn't have enough taste. So ⅔ cup is optimal amount, not overwhelmingly sweet nor flavourless. Also keep in mind that the recipe yields TWO pans of cake, coming out to a mere ⅓ cup per pan.
- Minimal fat, and only healthy fat
During my mad scouring through the internet to get a sense of the ratio of ingredients used, I noticed a lot of butter or cooking oil being used. But you know me, I tend to keep my distance from using butter in my recipes. In my healthy version of nian gao, I've used coconut oil, and a minimal amount of it as well! ⅓ cup of coconut oil makes the cake rich without leaving the eater with greasy fingers. It also enhances the aroma of the cake, making the house smell glorious~
- Bold coconut flavour
Ahem, I'm not Coconut Crumpet for no reason. I highly recommend using the Gold Label coconut milk from Rooster Brand (photo of it linked in the recipe); it contains much more coconut cream than the typical can of coconut milk. And that coconut cream (yes also very fat but it's the good stuff!) is what provides the maximum amount of coconut flavour to the nian gao.
|Lotus Seed Paste Stuffed Baked Coconut Rice Cake|
Perfected Baked Coconut Rice Cake (椰汁烤年糕)
Recipe by Coconut Crumpet
Yield: two 8-inch round pans
- 1 (400g) bag glutinous rice flour
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 (400mL) can Rooster Brand Gold Label coconut milk
- 3 eggs
- ⅓ cup coconut oil, melted
- ~2 or 3 tbsp milk
- Optional fillings: Red bean paste, lotus seed paste, black sesame paste etc.
- Optional topping: Large shredded coconut flakes
- Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease two 8 inch cake pans.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and baking powder.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, coconut milk, and oil.
- Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until combined.
- Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until batter flows off spatula in ribbons.
- Pour ¼ of batter into the bottom of each pan. Spread evenly.
- Dot red bean paste (or whatever filling you choose) over batter.
- Pour ¼ more batter on top of filling and spread evenly.
- Sprinkle coconut flakes on top.
- Bake for 55 minutes, until golden brown.
- Cool in pans for a few minutes before turning out onto plate. It should fall out very easily. Use kitchen scissors for clean cuts.
Love from Coconut Crumpet's Corner ♡