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Nian Gao -i.e. Sticky Cake, 年糕 {gluten free}

January 31, 2016 | 6 comments

Okay so sticky cake is only what I translate this as. It seems that whenever the chinese name foods cake, it’s not actually the stereotypical soft, fluffy, thickly frosted cakes that are so common in America. This particular cake is apologetically bouncy, squishy, and chewy.

Nian gao is essentially a mix between mochi and a blondie. Their baby somehow had cake-like characteristics. 😛

Nian Gao-2

Nian Gao

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Nian Gao-3
that picture is basically showing how i take pictures -on my tippy toes because i’m short 😉

Also funny story (at least to me, it might not make sense to you), I wanted to put the chinese characters on this post and I didn’t know which ones they were (because some characters sound exactly the same in chinese but are completely different) so I went to ask my mom because moms know everything, right? Well, she wrote down 年糕, and I asked her if she was sure that she got the right 年. Apparently she wasn’t sure. 😐 I searched it up later and it turns out she was right which means this actually roughly translates to “yearly cake” but I like the sound “sticky cake” better. 😛

Nian Gao-12

Nian Gao-11

Nian Gao-8

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Nian Gao-7

Nian Gao-13

I realized this weekend that I don’t really have any simple, traditional recipes on here that make me think of home. While this mochi-blondie mix of a cake isn’t necessarily one of them, it is certainly one of my favorite cakes for the unique, moreish texture and the ease of preparation. It’s really unbeatable.


// I got this recipe from a friend of ours.
// I split this up among three pans and topped one with coconut. Another I stirred in about 1/2 a tsp of matcha and lined the pan with dollops of red bean paste. The last one was plain because plain is actually pretty great!:D

Nian Gao


  • 1 bag of glutinous flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1.5 cup sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 stick of non salt butter


read or add your own

  1. Aria on

    January 31, 2016 at 6:50 pm says

    Anne! This looks absolutely delizioso! It sounds like quite an interesting cake! and it looks so very easy! Question: What’s red bean paste? What does it taste like? I notice you use it in several other recipes…so I was just wondering! The recipe reminds me of Dutch Boeterkoek, which uses: sugar, flour, butter, and almond extract. It bakes very dense and tastes just like, well, sugar, butter, and almonds!
    As always, the pictures are perfection. I can’t wait to try this!

    • Anne on

      January 31, 2016 at 8:48 pm says

      Red bean paste? I don’t really know how to describe it (…goes to the kitchen and eats a spoonful :P). If you buy the kind at the store, it’s quite sugary but either way it really doesn’t taste like what you would imagine actual sugary beans tasting like (unless you imagine them tasting very delicious, then yes, you’re right on track). You can’t really taste the bean part but there is definitely flavor! You should go buy some and try it 😉 It’s quite common in Asian desserts.
      Ohhh that sounds absolutely delicious! I’m gonna have to try that soon!
      Thanks Aria!

  2. Josefine @ Sprouted Fig on

    February 1, 2016 at 2:50 am says

    Haha, I always put by photo backgrounds on the ground because I am so short too. Funny 😉
    Love the cake. I mean, can a cake even be easier.
    And you sound so much like one of my best friends in this post. It’s so funny. She’s Chinese too and always complain that you can’t translate things properly.

    • Anne on

      February 21, 2016 at 8:06 pm says

      Hahahaa I do that alwaysss too! Translation is such a pain, ug.
      Thank you so much Josefine!

  3. genevieve @ gratitude & greens on

    February 1, 2016 at 4:45 pm says

    I love nian gao so much! My favourite is probably the red kind, and then the white coconut kind. We used to have it for breakfast around Chinese New Year when I was growing up and mmm… I just love the smell of it frying on a pan in the morning! Also, yes. Moms totally know everything!

    • Anne on

      February 21, 2016 at 8:08 pm says

      Ohhh my favorite is the coconut kind. There’s something about toasted coconut sticking out that makes it so irresistible 😉 Food memories are the best 😀



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