Missing Ferris’ cake selection? Already tired of 2021? Fear not! Try this practically fail-proof recipe for a ~lucky~ cake to help celebrate a second fresh start this lunar new year.

Red bean sticky rice cakes (年糕 – “nian gao” in Chinese) are easily one of my favorite desserts because it’s soft and chewy, sweet but not too sweet, and easy to make–it was one of the only things I could make well before acquiring an air fryer. 

There are many different variations of these rice cakes, from fried versions to steamed or baked versions. While it can be eaten at any time during the year, it is most popularly eaten during the Lunar New Year period. Eating it during Lunar New Year is considered good luck and symbolic of the promise of a better year because the word “sticky” (黏 – “nian“) shares a pronunciation with “year” (年 – “nian“) and “cake” (糕 – “gao“) is a homonym of “high” or “tall” (高 – “gao“). Eating these sticky rice cakes carries the symbolism of growing taller and raising oneself to new heights during the new year. 

I, unfortunately, have not grown any taller from eating these, but nonetheless, nian gao is a delightful dessert that I eat every Lunar New Year. 

Ingredients and materials:

  • ¼ cups of vegetable oil
  • ¼ cups of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 can of coconut milk (about 14 fl oz or 400 mL). If you don’t have coconut milk, regular milk, soymilk, almond milk, or even water can be used as substitutes
  • ½ tablespoons of baking powder (NOT baking soda)
  • ½ bag (about 250 g) of glutinous rice powder
  • 1 can (about 430 g) of red beans, mashed
  • Baking pan (9 in x 13 in) or 2 pie tins
  • Optional: nuts, raisins, cranberries, or white sesame seeds to sprinkle on top
Baking powder, glutinous rice powder, sweetened red beans (mashed), coconut milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. As with most easy baked goods, pour all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix until smooth.
  3. Spray oil onto a baking pan and pour your mixture in. If you’d like nuts or sesame seeds on your rice cake, sprinkle some into the pan.
  4. Put the tray in the oven. After 10-15 minutes, change the temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 30-40 minutes. 
  5. To test if the cake is done, stick a toothpick or chopstick in the cake. If it comes out clean, then it is done.

Rice cake posing on our fancy plates by Phalaen Chang