Chinese New Year red date cake 紅棗年糕

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Chinese New Year is always a festive occasion.  A lot of my friends and family who are more traditional do not celebrate Christmas, but they will celebrate Chinese New Year!  This special day is the new moon day, and is basically the first day of the first Chinese lunar month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar system.  The first day of the 2012 Chinese New Year occurs earlier this year than it did last year, landing on January 23rd.  It will be a very special and lucky year because it will be the year of the Dragon.

So much goes into preparing for Chinese New Year festivities.  Before the reunion dinner held on New Year’s Eve, there are many cuisines that people prepare or buy at local Asian stores to be involved in the festivities.  One of the must-have cuisines is a Chinese new year cake, which is known as “nian gao” (年糕), where the pronunciation sounds like you are saying “a prosperous new year”.

In Cantonese style cuisines, the nian gao is sweetened with brown sugar to give it a distinct dark yellow color, which can be steamed into a stretchy and sticky cake and served as is, or pan fried afterwards (often with egg wash) to make a fried version called “jian nian gao” (煎年糕).

For this nian gao recipe, I have decided to make a healthier modification by adding red dates (also called jujube), which have multiple medicinal uses in Chinese traditional medicine.  Adding the red dates gave it an extra layer of fruitiness that was an improvement from the plain brown sugar cakes.  I found that this recipe was delicious with or without the added pan fry step at the end.  The countdown begins for the Year of the Dragon!

Red Date cake

Grocery list

300 g pitted red dates
300 g glutinous rice flour
40 g Tang (wheat) flour
160 g brown sugar
3 tbsp peanut oil
Egg wash


去核紅棗 300 克
糯米粉 300 克
澄麵 40 克
片糖 160 克
生油  2 湯匙

Rinse red dates and cook in 2 cups of water for about 20 minutes.  Mash and sieve the red dates.  Set aside.

Sieve glutinous rice flour and Tang flour together in a large bowl.  Add 1 cup of water and mix well.

Heat 1/2 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat and add brown sugar, cooking until it dissolves.

Pour the brown sugar mixture into the flour mixture.  Mix well.

Grease a steaming tray with the oil.  Pour in the cake batter and steam over boiling water (medium heat) for 1 hour.

Remove the steaming tray from heat and let it cool on a rack.  Slice and coat with egg wash.

Fry in a non-stick skillet on both sides until golden.  Serve immediately.


紅棗洗淨, 用 2 杯水煮約 20 分鐘, 壓爛, 用篩, 過濾, 將棗茸取出, 待用.

糯米粉和澄麵同篩勻深碗中, 加 1 杯水調勻.

片糖加 1/2 杯水煮溶, 傾入粉漿中, 拌勻, 拌入棗茸.

蒸盤掃上生油, 傾入粉漿,  以中火隔水蒸 1 小時.

待年糕涼後切件, 沾上蛋汁, 略煎至兩面金黃色, 即可品嘗.

Red Date cake


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