Baked Coconut Sticky Rice Cake is easy to make and a delicious version of Chinese sticky rice cake. This sweet treat can be enjoyed for Chinese New Year or as dessert throughout the year.
This year, for Chinese New Year, I’m sharing a very special recipe – my Auntie Florence’s Coconut Sticky Rice Cake. Into her 90’s Auntie Florence was as spry as could be. She lived until she was 97 years, and authored five comprehensive Chinese cookbooks of which I am the proud owner. The recipe for this coconut sticky rice cake was told to me over the phone by my aunt back in 2012 when I was looking for advice for a recipe I was trying to recreate. She described this simple Chinese New Year recipe, which was a favorite of hers. You won’t find this recipe in any of her cookbooks, so it’s is extra special to have this recipe.
Here’s a picture of my aunt with a Coconut Sticky Rice Cake I sent to her several years ago (with black sesame seeds and almonds on top).
Before we get to the recipe, I just want to explain a little something about the foods that are eaten for Chinese New Year. There are lots of traditional foods that are eaten for Chinese New Year, mostly because they either sound like words that mean prosperity, luck, wealth or good fortune, or look like money or gold. Chinese people are into the symbolism of food.
For example, food that might be served for Chinese New Year include a whole chicken (family unity), a whole fish (surplus), duck (happiness), lobster (life and energy), Buddha’s Delight (a vegetarian dish made with symbolic ingredients), shrimp (wealth and abundance), oysters (good fortune), scallops (shaped like ancient coins), tea eggs (fertility), noodles (longevity), jiao-tze or dumplings (shaped like old coins), turnip cake (prosperity and rising fortunes), and spring rolls (resemble gold bricks). Although dried bean curd can be eaten (happiness), fresh tofu is not served because its white color symbolizes death and misfortune. Tangerines, oranges and pomelos are given out for good luck and abundance.
So, back to today’s Coconut Sticky Rice Cake. This cake is considered one of the most important cakes eaten for Chinese New Year. It is made with sticky rice or glutinous rice flour, and is symbolic of family cohesiveness. In Chinese, this cake is called “nian gao,” which symbolizes increasing prosperity every year. For New Years, people greet each other “‘Nian Nian Gao Sheng” which means “advance toward higher positions and prosperity step by step.”
Although traditionally, sticky rice cake is steamed, my aunt came up with this baked version because it’s easier and tastier. This cake is nothing like your typical cake – the texture is like mochi – it’s sticky. It also happens to be gluten-free.
I have to agree with my aunt – I like this even better than the steamed version. I remember the first time I made this coconut sticky rice cake, I split it in half and shipped half to my parents, and kept the rest for our family. I’ll be making another one of these for Chinese New Year this year.
For more recipes, check out my post on 16+ Lunar and Chinese New Year Recipes. I also wrote an extensive post last year all about Chinese New Year Traditions with lots of links to books and other resources about the Chinese New Year if you’re interested in learning more.
Here are some more recipes to inspire you to cook for Chinese New Years:
My Mom’s Coconut Sticky Rice Cake
Braised Chicken with Chestnuts
Marbled Tea Eggs
Spicy Kung Pao Chicken with Walnuts
Asian Chicken Stew in a Crockpot
Stir-Fry Noodles with Chicken, Shitake Mushrooms and Vegetables
Dan Dan Mien
Chinese Turnip Cake
Gluten-Free Chinese Dumplings
Mother’s Famous Chinese Egg Rolls (Steamy Kitchen)
Long Life Fertility Noodles with Happy Shrimp (Steamy Kitchen)
Easy Chinese Steamed Fish (Appetite for China)
Dragon Well Shrimp (Appetite for China)
Soy Sauce Chicken (Rasa Malaysia)
Longevity Noodles with Chicken, Ginger and Mushrooms (Grace Young)
Stir-Fry Sugar Snap Peas with Mushrooms (Grace Young)
Chinese New Year Cake (The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook)
Tomato Chilli Prawns (Christine’s Recipes)
Braised Shitake Mushrooms (Christine’s Recipes)
Water Chestnut Cake (Christine’s Recipes)
Coconut Sticky Rice Cake Recipe for Chinese New Year
- 1 pound Mochiko Sweet Rice Flour
- 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
- 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
- 1 1/4 cup organic sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup chopped nuts almonds, walnuts or untoasted black and white sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Place coconut milk, milk, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, oil, and almond extract in a large mixing bowl. Mix well. Add rice flour while stirring. Mix well. Add nuts if desired, or sprinkle on top. Pour into a parchment paper lined 13x9x2 pan.
Bake for 1 hour.
Let cool. Cut into diamond shapes.
As told to me by my Aunt Florence.
If you like this sticky rice cake recipe, you might also like:
Mom’s Baked Coconut Sticky Rice Red Bean Paste Cake
Chinese Jujube Date Sticky Rice Cake
Love this! I have never tried anything like this but it looks so fun.
Bake mochi!!! Yum!!!
I meant “baked” 🙂
Alyce Morgan says
Beautiful for Chinese New Year’s!
I love the texture of desserts made with rice flour, so I really need to try this! It must be like eating big chunks of mochi! Yum!
Alyssa (Everyday Maven) says
That cake looks so good Jeanette! What else is on your menu for this year?
Samath Shealy says
Just made this cant wait to see how it taste tomorrow.
I can imagine how fantastic this tastes, I cannot wait to try this! happy New Year!
I can’t believe your aunt is Florence Lin! I have her Complete Book of Chinese Noodles, Dumplings and Breads. Wish it would come back in print.
Hilary – I love my aunt’s cookbooks – I have all of them. The noodle and dumpling cookbook is one of my favorites!
can i use less oil in the recipe – will it change it?
Vinod, there is quite a bit of oil in this recipe, but I haven’t played around with reducing it. My guess is that you could probably cut it back as long as you increased the liquid by the same amount. I’ll have to ask my aunt the next time I speak with her. If you try it with less oil, please let me know how it turns out.
i love mochi this looks terrific but i’m watching my fat intake…
I only have coconut cream. Can I substitute coconut milk with coconut cream?
Lily, coconut cream is very sweet and thick compared to coconut milk, so I don’t think it will work unless you eliminate the sugar. My mom used to make a coconut sticky rice cake (using rice grains, not flour) using the coconut cream (I think you mean Coco Lopez – that kind of coconut cream?).
Judy Spiegel says
I took cooking lessons From Florence at the China Institute back in the 70’s Loved every minute of it. I am at my summer home and didn’t bring my cookbooks. Do you have the recipe for her Shrimp Toast?
Judy, wow that’s great! Let me check and I will email to you.
Would 2 cups of flour be equivalent to a pound ?
Based on the label of rice flour I used, it comes out to 2 3/4 cups + 1 tablespoon sweet rice flour.
Just made this tonight, will be trying it out on our neighbors tomorrow 🙂
Two questions: How would you suggest this be stored (room temperature/counter top, covered in plastic wrap in the fridge?), and how long do you think will it keep?
Can this version be pan fried in an egg batter once it becomes firmer? That is what my family always did with nian gao, but I think we usually had the store bought version 🙂
Hi Kiana, I would store this at room temperature covered with plastic wrap; otherwise, the sticky rice might harden. I haven’t tried frying it the traditional way but it might work – if you do this, then you might want to refrigerate it first so it doesn’t melt away in the pan. Let me know if you try it pan fried.
It stored well just covered in plastic wrap at room temperature. We ate most of it, but I kept 1/5 of it to experiment on. I refrigerated it for a day and then pan fried the pieces in egg batter- it turned out ok, but it doesn’t melt and become soft inside like traditional nian gao does. I would say it turned into more of a deep fried piece of mochi cake, which was tasty in its own way 🙂
Hi Jeanette, this looks like such a delicious recipe! I can’t wait to make it tomorrow for our Chinese New Year / Super Bowl party. Do you think it would work to bake individual ones in muffin tins? Or is a glass/casserole pan best?
Hi Jennifer, I’ve never tried muffin tins – I think it might be better in a glass pan as it is a bit sticky and I’m afraid it might stick to your muffin tin.
Hi, from what I see in your picture, did you add nuts to the mixture prior to baking? Also, did you sprinkle the almonds and coconuts on the top after baking? I’m afraid if I sprinkled it before baking that they would burn since it will be in the oven in an hour. I’m planning to make this for my family this week. Thanks!
I didn’t add the almonds to the batter. The coconut and almond were sprinkled on top. If it starts to brown too quickly, cover with foil.
Hi Jeanette, I just wanted to say this was a hit with the family. I will definitely make this again. Thanks for sharing this recipe. The only thing I wanted to share with you was that when it came out of the oven, the cake was puffy. Then as it cooled, it sank. Is that how it’s supposed to be? Just curious.
So glad you enjoyed the recipe. I don’t remember my cake coming out puffy but it tasted fine, I wouldn’t worry about it.
could you replace the Mochiko Sweet Rice Flour with glutinous rice flour?? thanks :))
Amy – I believe that is the same product as glutinous rice flour.
Hi Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I love mochi! (Not so much nian gap) so I think I’m going to love this!! My oven is out of commission at this moment. Do you reckon I could still steam it? Thanks in advance!
I haven’t tried steaming this, but you could try.
Should they be refrigerated after?
I did not refrigerate mine, but it should be eaten within a few days as it will harden the longer it’s left out.
I made it and LOVED it! Thank you! I think I might add some unsweetened coconut flakes next time, and brown some for the top.
Pam – thanks so much for trying this and coming back to let us know how it turned out. Love your idea of toasted coconut flakes on top as well as adding some into the mixture.
So glad to find this recipe…
I want to make this dairy free–can I use all cocnut milk or substitute almond milk for the low-fat milk?
Hi Nancy,almond milk or some other dairy-free milk should work. The coconut milk referred to in the recipe is the kind that comes in the can. I do not recommend using that in place of the dairy milk as it is very rich and thick. You could use the coconut milk that comes in the refrigerated cartons.
is it okay to use vegetable oil instead of Olive oil?
it’s such a nice recipe,i want to try it tonight. Thanks
Christine Y says
Hi, what is the equivalent measurement size of the sweet rice flour you used? I can’t find that specific brand of rice flour, but I do have glutinous rice flour to substitute. Thanks!
1 pound of Mochiko sweet rice flour is about 2 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons glutinous rice flour.
Just found this recipe by way of Jama. Do you think a non-sugar sweetener could replace the sugar? If so, which one? I don’t eat sweets but I think this could be the exception! Thank you!
I haven’t used non-sugar sweeteners much, but I’m guessing if it’s one that is the same weight (one for one for regular sugar), it might work.
Donna Baber says
Can you use organic coconut sugar instead of organic sugar?
I’ve never tried it, but I think it should be fine – the end result may be darker in color.
Can you you add eggs
Also diabetic here can I substitute sugar for Erythritol???
Hi Vic – you might try this version of baked coconut sticky rice cake (my mom’s) with eggs. I’ve never tried substituting sugar but I’m guessing if it is a cup-for-cup substitute sugar, it might work.
I did bake it I added two eggs and the Erythritol and it tastes great just a tiny sweetness perfect for diabetics
I also added a can of unsweetened nestle cream enough to decreased the both milks
Next time I will add more sweetner. Thank you
Thanks so much for letting me know how your sticky rice came out with the substitutions. Very helpful!
How can I send u pics of cake?
Hi Vic, you can send me pictures of your cake to email@example.com – can’t wait to see!
Thank you for this recipe. I believe it’s nearly an exact replica of a recipe my grandmother use to make as a kid!! Re the other commenter: mine did indeed puff up then deflate but I remember it being that way when my grandmother made it. It’s softer than hers but like you said. It’s best the next day so I think that firms it up. You have made my day!! Thank you!!
So glad you enjoyed this recipe – it’s one of my favorite sticky rice recipes!
I just made this for a lunar new year celebration I’m attending tomorrow. I have two questions – if you make it the night before, do you serve it cold or reheat it somehow? And how do you suggest storing it if there are leftovers? Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, I can’t wait to try it!
Hi Jessi – if you leave it out at room temperature, you can just serve it room temperature. I’ve left it out for a few days – if it’s more than a couple of days, I would refrigerate it and warm it up slightly in the microwave when you’re ready to have some more. Happy Chinese New Year and hope you enjoy this! It’s a very special recipe from my aunt.
Can you leave the almonds out if you have guests with a tree but allergy? This looks good and I’d like to try it, but don’t want to leave anyone out.
You don’t need to add almonds on top – that’s just for garnish.
Hi please tell me if you can use water instead of coconut milk and milk or replace the coconut milk by milk. Thanks for your reply
Kung Chee fat choy!
I do not recommend using water – coconut milk is very thick. You might be able to substitute soy milk or almond milk which has some body.
This is a favourite! Wish I could have a small slice now. Happy New Year, Jeanette!
Delicious recipe! It’s texture it’s very Mochi like. I love that it seems slighter less sweeter than the typical sweet Nian Gao. Thanks for this recipe, it definitely reminds me of home cooking!
Christine – so glad you enjoyed this recipe – thanks so much for letting me know!
S P says
We are so excited to be baking this right now! 27 minutes to go. We subbed almond milk due to one daughter’s dairy allergy. Thank you for sharing so much information! My kids are adopted from China, so we try hard to learn what we can and appreciate their heritage.
Hope you and your kids enjoyed this sticky rice cake – so great that you are sharing their heritage with them!
Kristen Stokely says
I have never tried mochi, or anything like this, but it looks really good. I’d expect it has flavor of rice and coconut. Are there any other characteristics that you’d say about the sticky rice cake? Also, I live by myself and I won’t be able to consume all of this before it goes bad. Do you think I could try freezing individual pieces? I’d love to share it with my family (they live quite a ways away). good
Lastly, I happened across your blog when I searched for walnut red pepper dip (which looks great too!). I’ll definitely be checking out more of your recipes.
Hi Kristen – I have not tried freezing this, but I think it can be frozen since they sell frozen mochi ice cream balls in the supermarket. Thanks for checking out the recipes on my site 🙂
I want to try this with black sesame seeds instead of nuts, can you mix in untoasted black sesame seeds or should I only sprinkle on top? Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe, love your website!
Hi Ellie – I would not mix the sesame seeds in. I would just sprinkle them on top. Hope you enjoy this special recipe from my late aunt.
I’m so glad you re-published this recipe – I was having such a hard time re-finding it! I made it a few years ago but lost the recipe… My family loved it, but all I could remember was that it was somebody’s aunt’s recipe, and that it had mochiko in it! Thanks!
I’m glad your family loves this sticky rice cake recipe. It’s still my favorite. I’m making some right now – smells so good!
I only have regular rice flour, will that work in place of the glutinous rice flour?
Unfortunately, regular rice flour will not yield the “sticky” mochi consistency of the cake.
My students and I are learning about and celebrating Chinese New Year and we made this dessert today. Wondering how to store it and how long it will keep?
Hi Laura, so glad you and your students are making this for Chinese New Year! Store at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap. It should last 2-3 days (although most likely will be eaten before then!)
Just made this for CNY celebrations and took to a friends and everyone complimented me on it. Not as sweet as most similar deserts and a beautiful almond taste which I prefer to coconut. Even better it’s gluten free ….Thanks so much Amy
So glad you and your friends enjoyed this for Chinese New Year Amy!
Hi Amy – so glad you and your friends enjoyed this for Chinese New Year! It’s one of my favorites for sure 🙂
Hi , I just try to bake last night, and its so yummy and the taste is like a mochi.
I used glutinous rice flour and almond with white sesame on top.
I ate 1 slice last night and its so crispy on top.
But in the morning (I left in in the kitchen table-not put it in the refrigerator, and its not so crispy on top anymore.
Can you suggest is there a way, I can make it crispy on top? Or how to store it so it maintain its crisp?
You can try heating it up in your toaster oven
Should the cake jiggle when it comes out of the oven? Does it firm up after cooling?
The cake should be slightly firm after baking, not jiggly