Celebrating lunar new year the Chinese way is a multi-day ordeal. Last night I tried explaining to American Boyfriend how we used to visit family and friends with a scheduling algorithm that assigns priority based on seniority in the family, how close we are, geographical location, and whether we can optimize one visit to meet with as many people as possible. The goal is to meet everyone on the (very long) list within the three statutory holidays though there is some leeway since the new year celebration officially lasts for ten consecutive days. Boyfriend’s head just about to explode before I even got around to explain the etiquette of red pockets.
With all the visiting back and forth, of course the house needs to be stocked with treats for the guests. On Monday I wrote about Split Pea Coconut Pudding 椰汁馬荳糕 and last year I shared with you my recipe for Steamed Turnip Cake 臘味蘿蔔糕. Both are very traditional recipes. Another popular choice is steamed glutinous rice cake, nian gao 年糕. I absolutely love the soft chewy texture reminiscent of Japanese mochi. Unfortunately, the cake hardens up once cooled. My favourite way to enjoy nian gao is pan fry the slices with a thin coating of eggs. It’s totally awesome but can be a greasy treat, not to mention a lot of work. Enter the baked glutinous rice cake. This is a fusion dessert that combines the traditional taste and texture of steamed rice cake with the richness and ease of butter cake. You can simply slice and serve the cake at room temperature yet still enjoy the soft chewy texture of rice cake. I can’t get enough of this!
I made mochi cake before with more emphasis on Japanese flavour by way of mochiko and Ueno black sugar. This time around, I went with a Chinese flavour profile. The cake is made with raw cane sugar slabs 片糖 and ginger in three different guises. The triple ginger whammy includes freshly grated ginger, ground ginger, and crystalized ginger pieces. Glutinous rice flour replaced mochiko. You can easily find raw cane sugar slabs in Chinese grocery stores. Each slab has two dark brown layers sandwiching a pale beige centre. They are pretty handy to have around if you’re interest in making Cantonese dessert since it is a common sweetener for dessert soups.
One more thing, this cake is gluten-free!
Baked Ginger Glutinous Rice Cake 薑汁片糖烤年糕
yields one 6” round cake
- 227g of glutinous rice flour 糯米粉
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- a pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 112g of unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 150g of raw cane sugar slabs 片糖 (about two and a half slabs), broken into pieces
- 185mL of evaporated milk
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- handful of chopped crystalized ginger (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottom of a 6” round cake pan with parchment paper and grease the side with butter.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together glutinous rice flour, baking powder, salt, and ground ginger. Set aside.
- Put butter and chunks of sugar slabs in a small pot over low heat. Heat gently and stir occasionally until all the sugar has melted, about 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in evaporated milk. Add grated ginger and vanilla extract.
- Whisk in eggs until batter is smooth.
- Pour batter into flour mixture and stir until flour there’s no lumps. Don’t worry about overmixing because rice flour does not develop gluten. Stir in crystalized ginger if using.
- Tip batter into prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes until toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs. If it comes out clean, chances are the cake is not done yet because this batter doesn’t cling much.
- Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes and unmould. Enjoy when cake is still warm or room temperature.