Nian Gao – Chinese Coconut Sticky Rice Cake

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Last Updated on May 20, 2020 by Chef Mireille

Nian Gao – Chinese Coconut Sticky Rice Cake is the traditional way to celebrate Chinese New Year. A required cake to celebrate the Lunar Festival.

Nian Gao, Sticky Rice Cake, Chinese New Year

This week I am presenting some foods that are traditional for different global festivals. Chinese New Year is a holiday that is celebrated in many countries around the world, due to global Chinese migration.

Almost every country in the world has a Chinese population and this is the most celebrated holiday that is always acknowledged no matter what county they may be residing in for countless generations. Here in NYC, there is a huge parade in Chinatown as well as smaller street celebrations in the smaller Chinatowns located in Brooklyn & Queens.

Chinese culture is very symbolic. The foods that are cooked for the holiday represent things like good fortune, longevity, prosperity, and family unity.

This gluten free cake is one of the most important cakes to eat for Chinese New Year. Made with sticky/glutinous rice flour, it symbolizes family cohesiveness. Nian Gao, the Chinese name for it means increasing prosperity every year. The New Years greeting is Nian Nian Gao Sheng, which means “advance toward higher positions and prosperity step by step”.

Although traditionally the cake is steamed, this modern baked version is just as delicious.

It may not be the season for Chinese New Year at present, but we can always use blessings for prosperity, good fortune and family cohesiveness. This cake was thoroughly enjoyed by me as I wait for the blessings to be showered upon me ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’d like more ideas to celebrate next Chinese New Year, you can also try these Peanut Sesame Dumplings.

Nian Gao Chinese New Year Cake -edit

As with all Chinese desserts, these are just barely sweet. Due to the gelatinous nature of sticky rice flour, it’s difficult to cut, but that’s the whole point – so that you can maintain close familial relations that are unbreakable. Even if you are not Chinese, baking and eating this for all it symbolizes is a great way to celebrate both familial and global unity.

Nian Gao, Chinese New Year, Coconut Sticky Rice Cake

Nian Gao - Chinese Coconut Sticky Rice Cake
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Nian Gao โ€“ Chinese Coconut Sticky Rice Cake

Nian Gao is the traditional Coconut Cake made to celebrate Chinese New Year.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Chinese
Calories: 301.42kcal


  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups lowfat milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup chopped nuts slivered almonds and walnuts
  • 1 lb. glutinous rice flour
  • Notes: You can also top with black or white sesame seeds.


  • Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray a 13x9x2″ rectangular pan with non stick spray.
  • In a large bowl, combine coconut milk, milk, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, olive oil and almond extract. Mix well to combine. Add half of the nuts and stir to combine.
  • Slowly add the flour, a little at a time, until thoroughly combined.
  • Transfer to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle remaining nuts on top. Bake for 60-75 minutes, until deep golden brown. When you remove from the oven the middle will appear a little wobbly if you touch it. Let it rest for 15 minutes and it will set.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.


You can also top with black or white sesame seeds


Calories: 301.42kcal | Carbohydrates: 40.42g | Protein: 3.88g | Fat: 14.49g | Saturated Fat: 5.14g | Sodium: 67.75mg | Fiber: 1.29g | Sugar: 17.75g
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Complete the menu with some other Chinese New Year Recipes!

Chinese New Year Recipes

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Reader Interactions


  1. I always love to read the intro paragraph in your post. Good to know about the chinese culture. This cake sounds very interesting and i bookmarked it .. gonna try it soon.

  2. What a lovely cake and it is always interesting to learn the story behind the cake as well. All of us need blessings throughout the year, will try this cake some time.

  3. Very interesting to read about the chinese new year and the dish looks very new too..I had tough time trying to think of festivals, must say it was quite challenging for have come up with very good ones..

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