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Lunar New Year cake (Nian gao)

Featuring four dishes symbolizing happiness and prosperity, this lucky dish symbolizes a “higher year” of wealth and prosperity.


  • 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) coconut milk
  • 3 knots of pandan leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups (255 g) grated palm sugar, grated through a coarse cheese box grater
  • 2 1/2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) ginger juice (grate ginger and squeeze through filter paper or kitchen cheesecloth)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) coconut oil
  • 1 cup (160 g) glutinous rice flour
  • 6 pieces of hydrated red dates (optional, for decoration)


  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine coconut milk, pandan knots, and grated palm sugar. Do not boil, and do not reduce any amount of the liquid. You are simply dissolving or melting the sugar into the milk and warming the pandan leaves for the aroma to release. Let it infuse overnight, tightly wrapped. 
  2. The following day, strain off the pandan knots through a fine mesh strainer. Make sure you really squeeze every bit of juice through the mesh.
  3. Whisk in the eggs, ginger juice, and coconut oil into the coconut milk.
  4. In another mixing bowl, sift the glutinous flour, and create a well in the middle of the bowl. 
  5. Using one hand to slowly pour the coconut milk mixture while the other hand whisks and folds in the milk to the flour to create a smooth batter. If it is lumpy, pass it through a mesh strainer, once again pressing thoroughly.
  6. Preheat oven to 335° F, and use parchment paper to line an oven-safe eight by 10-in casserole or baking dish. Pour the batter into the prepared dish and arrange red dates on top, if using. Bake for around 45 minutes to one hour approximately. 
  7. Using a cake tester. Insert to make sure it comes out clean. If clean, it is done. Serve and enjoy! 

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