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Brown Sugar Rice Cake {桂花红糖年糕}

by Shirley

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Dark Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Cake {Hong Tang Nian Gao 红糖年糕}

Brown Sugar Rice Cake {Gui Hua Hong Tang Nian Gao 桂花红糖年糕} is a traditional dessert native to China’s Yangtze River Delta area. It features soft & chewy sweet rice flour, black or dark brown sugar, and Gui Hua {Osmanthus flowers}. So naturally delicious and satisfying.

“Gao” in Chinese means “cake”, but also means “above” or “advance”. For that reason, it has become a must-have during the Chinese New Year’s Celebration wishing for a prosperous upcoming new year.

Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Cake {Hong Tang Nian Gao}
Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Cake {Hong Tang Nian Gao}

What do you need to make this tasty traditional treat?

Ingredients Required:

Ingredients for Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Cake
Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Cake Ingredients

Sweet Rice Flour – People sometimes refer to as “sticky rice” flour, or Nuo Mi Fen {糯米粉} in Chinese. This is the regular sweet rice flour, not the water-milled version, which we primarily use for Red Bean Mochi Soup or Sweet Rice Flour Dumplings with red bean or pork as filling.

Black or Dark Brown Sugar – The sugar used determines the ultimate taste and color of the rice cake. My favorite one is handmade and old-fashioned black sugar. In Chinese, we call them Tu Hong Tang {土红糖} or Hei Tang {黑糖} . They usually come in a bar form and have a penetrating deep black color.

Handmade Black Sugar
Handmade Black Sugar

Since the ancient time, people in China also use handmade black sugar to make a ginger sugar tea to relieve cold and/or pain.

If black sugar is not available, then you can also use organic dark brown sugar.

Dried Osmanthus Flower {Gui Hua} – This is an optional item, but definitely the highlight of the authentic version. The osmanthus has such a penetrating, sweet, enticing fragrance that elevates the taste to another level. I also add dried osmanthus flower to the well-liked Red Bean Sweet Rice Flour Mochi {Yuan Zi} Soup.

Coconut Oil – I use a bit of coconut oil to grease the steaming glassware so that I can easily remove the cake.

Helpful Kitchen Utensils

A 3 Qt. Saucepan – I use a 3 Qt. saucepan to boil the sugar and water mixture.

A Mini Whisk – the mini rubber whisk is so handy to mix things evenly in a saucepan or bowl. The sugar liquid surface tension makes it a little difficult to mix in the flour initially. Once you gradually whisk the flour, that helps breaks the tension.

Make Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Cake
Mix Sweet Rice Flour with Sugar Water to make Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Cake

Steaming Set – I typically just use my Wok with a 9×12 rectangle glassware as my go-to steaming set. The same steaming set I use for Steamed Fish. One benefit of this steaming set is that I do not need any steaming rack to hold the steaming ware as the rectangle glassware snugs inside the wok nicely with the water beneath the glassware.

Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Cake
Freshly Steamed Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Cake

It is also very helpful to have a dome-shaped wok lid for steaming. The dome-shape allows more hot temperature steam to circulate better, which helps the cooking process.

A Small Kitchen Brush – I use a small kitchen brush to grease the steaming ware with coconut oil. It works out well. I can easily remove the rice cake out of the glassware once it cools down.

Kitchen Brush and Coconut Oil to Grease the Steaming Ware
Kitchen Brush and Coconut Oil to Grease the Steaming Ware

How to make Brown Sugar Rice Cake from scratch?

Easier and simpler than you thought.

Step 1: Mix dark brown sugar, water, and osmanthus flowers in a 3 Qt. saucepan

For 1 lb sweet rice flour, you will need 2 cups of water, 70 grams of black sugar or 4-6 tablespoons of dark brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon of dried osmanthus flowers. For mild sweet level, go with 4 tablespoons of dark brown sugar.

Mix Brown Sugar, Water and Osmanthus
Mix Brown Sugar, Water and Osmanthus

Step 2: Bring the saucepan to a boil and then turn off the heat

Stir and mix a few times during the boiling.

Step 3: Wait for it to cool to room temperature and then sift in sweet rice flour and mix well

Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Flour Batter
Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Flour Batter

A mini whisk helps to mix evenly and easily.

Step 4: Pour the batter into a coconut oil greased steaming ware and steam on high heat for 35 minutes over boiling water

Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Flour Batter for Cake
Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Flour Batter for Cake

If you use a Wok, add about 7 cups of water and bring it to a boil first. Add the glassware filled with the cake batter, cover the wok with a dome-shaped lid, and steam on high heat for 35 minutes.

Brown Sugar Rice Cake {Hong Tang Nian Gao}
Brown Sugar Rice Cake {Hong Tang Nian Gao}

Brown Sugar Rice Cake Frequently Asked Questions:

When I am done steaming, how do I remove the rice cake from the steaming ware?

Grease the glassware before steaming with coconut oil generously using a small kitchen brush. When you complete steaming, remove the glassware from the Wok and let it cool on a wire rack to room temperature.

Use a knife to slice the cake around the edge of the glassware to separate it from the wall of the glassware. Gradually remove the cake from the glassware with the help of the stainless steel griddle scraper.

How Do I cut brown sugar rice cake?

Rice has an interesting characteristic, they are hard in cooler temperatures but soft in warmer temperatures. This is especially true for sweet rice, which is so soft and chewy when they are warm but hardens as they cool down.

Therefore, if you are not in a hurry, store the rice cake in the refrigerator for a few hours, you can then slice them easily when they are in a hard state.

If you’d like to enjoy a freshly steamed room temperature rice cake, like I do all the time, LOL, grease a sharp knife with coconut oil or avocado oil, and then slice through the cake.

How do I store them?

You should store homemade brown sugar rice cake in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. They are good in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.

How do I re-soften the brown sugar rice cake?

1. the easiest way is by a microwave

Place the rice cake in a microwave-safe plate and cover it with a glass plate cover to maintain the moisture. Turn the heat on high for 30 seconds or till softened.

2. you can also do it over stove top

The key here is to use low heat and gradually soften the cake from inside-out. Do not turn the heat on high, as this may quickly melt the outer layer of the cake while the inside is still solid.

It helps to use a quality non-stick fry-pan, as it can handle heat well without burning the food. Also, the non-stick function will prevent the rice cake from sticking to the pan.

So how to do it? Turn the heat on high for 1 minute, and then turn the heat to low, and then place the rice cake onto the fry-pan. Let it cook for about 1 minute and then flip using a slotted turner and warm up the other side for about 30 seconds or till the rice cake slice becomes soft.

3. last but not least is to re-steam it

Bring the water in the steaming set to a boil and then add the rice cake in a glassware. Close the lid and steam for 5-8 minutes or till the rice cake is soft.

Like Sweet Rice? Make sure you check out:

Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Cake {Hong Tang Nian Gao}

Brown Sugar Rice Cake {Hong Tang Nian Gao 桂花红糖年糕}

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Brown Sugar Rice Cake {Gui Hua Hong Tang Nian Gao 桂花红糖年糕} is a traditional dessert native to China’s Yangtze River Delta area. It features sweet rice flour, dark brown sugar, and Gui Hua {Osmanthus flowers}.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sweet rice flour
  • 70 g black sugar, or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp dried osmanthus flowers, optional
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 tsp coconut oil, for greasing the steaming glassware

Instructions

    1. Mix dark brown sugar, water, and half of osmanthus flowers in a 3 Qt. saucepan. Turn the heat to high, and bring it to a boil.
      Mix Brown Sugar, Water and Osmanthus
    2. Turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature
    3. Sift in sweet rice flour using a flour sifter.
      Make Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Cake
    4. Mix well using a mini whisk and turn into a smooth cake batter
      Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Flour Batter
    5. Fill the Wok with 7 cups of water, bring it to a boil
    6. While waiting, grease a 9x12 glassware with coconut oil using a small cooking brush
      Kitchen Brush and Coconut Oil to Grease the Steaming Ware
    7. Pour the cake batter into the greased glassware, gently shake. Use a mini rubber spatula to scrape the saucepan. Sprinkle the remaining osmanthus flowers to the top of the batter.
      Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Flour Batter for Cake
    8. Snug the glassare into the wok, cover with a lid, and steam for 35 minutes
    9. Remove the steaming glassware from the Wok and let it cool down on a wire rack
      Brown Sugar Sweet Rice Cake
    10. Use a knife to slice the cake around the edge of the glassware to separate it from the wall of the glassware. Gradually remove the cake from the glassware with the help of the stainless steel griddle scraper. You should be able to pull the brown sugar rice flour cake off from the glassware using hands too, thanks to the coconut oil.
      Brown Sugar Rice Cake
    11. Grease a sharp knife with coconut oil or avocado oil, and then slice through the cake into serving sizes.
      Brown Sugar Rice Cake

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 servings Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 222Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 9mgCarbohydrates: 52gFiber: 1gSugar: 21gProtein: 2g

Nutrition calculation is provided by Nutritionix to the best knowledge per ingredients description and isn't always accurate.

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