China – Nian Gao Cake

What’s cooking in China?

Nian Gao, Chinese New Year Cake

Around the Chinese New Year, I saw some traditional Chinese cakes popping up on our Instagram feed. One of them was from Jūratė. I asked her if she wanted to share her recipe with us, which she kindly did!

Jūratė’s family is an international one. She is from Vilnius, Lithuania and her husband is of Chinese origin, born in Africa and lived most of his life in New York City.  They moved to Geneva 12 years ago and enjoy living here. The city has a lot to offer. Its calmer and slower pace, especially after having lived in NYC, made them appreciate certain things in life more.

Jūratė is the woman behind the Kid’ing in Geneva Facebook and Instagram! She loved her job in New York and missed working. Subsequently she created Kid’ing in Geneva as previously there was no centralized source where one could find activities for kids in the area. What I like about Kid’ing in Geneva is that by keeping the pages bilingual, Jūratė tries to bridge multicultural & local French speaking Geneva.

Jūratė celebrates the Chinese New Year with family and friends. They have dinner with traditional meals and decorate the house with traditional ornaments. Of course, a Nian Gao cake is a part of this celebration! Jūratė shares her version of this steamed cake recipe, which she has changed according to her taste. Traditionally, the Chinese New Year Cake is made with bean paste, but since this is less popular in her family, she decided to top it with mangos or coconut. At Let’s Explore we have tried out her version of the steamed Nian Gao recipe, and we loved the amended recipe like Jūratė makes it!

How to make Nian Gao


  • 400 gr glutinous rice flower
  • 250 ml hot (boiled) water
  • 200 ml cold water
  • 250 gr brown sugar
  • 50 gr dried mangos
  • Shredded coconut
  • Vegetable oil

How to proceed :

  • Boil water in a medium size pan. Add all the sugar and stir until it completely dissolves. Then add 200 ml of cold water to cool off the mixture.
  • Cut up the dried mangos into smaller pieces and soak it in boiling water for at least 30 minutes.
  • Put the flour in a large bowl and then slowly add the sugar/water mixture. Stir thoroughly until the batter is smooth and does not have any lumps. It should be the consistency like that of condensed milk. If the batter is too thick/lumpy, just add remaining cold water until desired consistency.


  • Oil your steam pan.
  • Side note: Jurate makes 2 different Nian Gao cakes out of this, one topped with shredded coconut, and one topped with mango. At Let’s Explore, since we only have one steam pan, we mixed 3 tablespoons of shredded coconut through the batter, and topped it with pieces of mango. Jurate divides the batter equally, places each pan into a steamer and covers tightly so that the steam doesn’t escape. We do not have a steamer and so we have put our covered steam pan into a big wok with boiling water.


  • Steam your Nian Gao for approximately one hour on high heat.
  • You will have to check once or twice whether you need to add some water, so that it doesn’t dry up.
  • Once the sides of the cake lift up easily and the cake looks like dense jelly, take it out of the steamer and let it cool off completely.
  • Once it is cooled off, you put the cake in the fridge. The Chinese New Year Cake can easily be made a day in advance and just kept in the fridge.

You can serve the cake cold, sliced. Or you can fry slices with a bit of coconut oil and serve it warm. Jurate enjoys her Nian Gao cake most with a cup of Jasmin tea. Thank you for sharing Jūratė!


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