Make this sweet, sticky, and chewy Chinese New Year Cake for good luck and prosperity for the upcoming Lunar New Year! Making it is very easy and simple using an Instant Pot with just 3 basic ingredients! Enjoy it as it is, or pan-fried for more a crisp texture. Make it for yourself or gift it to your family and friends to attract good luck and fortune.
What is it?
Chinese New Year Cake commonly known as Nián Gāo or Tikoy in Filipino, is made using glutinous rice flour, water, and sugar. It is a traditional steamed rice cake served and eaten during the Lunar New Year. Tikoy is mostly popular during the Chinese New Year, but you can eat and enjoy it all year round. In the Philippines, Tikoy is enjoyed by slicing it to pieces, coating it with beaten eggs, and then pan-frying it. This creates a slightly crispy layer outside and a soft, chewy, sticky inside.
Eating Nian Gao or Tikoy during the Lunar New Year is said to bring good luck to Chinese people. They believe that the stickiness of the Chinese New Year Cake symbolizes a healthy bond of relationships with family and friends. For some, it denotes that good luck will stick with them all year long.
Yes, we know that you can just run to the supermarket and easily buy a Tikoy. But, wouldn’t it be more special and impressive if you made this Chinese New Year Cake yourself? It is less expensive too!
Legend and Origin of the Tikoy or Chinese New Year Cake
The pronunciation nián gāo in Chinese sounds like “grow every year” or “higher year”. So, eating it at the start of the Chinese New year promises a better year ahead. Derived from the Hokkein word “ti-ke”, the Filipino word Tikoy translates to sweet cake.
Tikoy or Nian Gao is one of China’s oldest delicacies. Different stories and legends can are traced back to this Chinese New Year Cake.
Folklore says that a “Kitchen God” makes his "yearly reports" about the behavior of families to the Jade Emperor. Because of this, people would offer the sticky rice cake to the said god making his mouth stuck with the sticky cake. This prevents him from saying anything bad about the family.
Tips in cooking the Chinese New Year Cake
- Generously oil the sides and bottom of the pan for easy removal of the rice cake.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil to avoid water drips on the rice cake to make it smoother.
- Let the rice cake completely cool at room temperature before removing it from the pan. Patience is the key, if the cake is not cool enough, it would be difficult to remove.
- Place the Tikoy in the refrigerator overnight or until it hardens. This will make the Tikoy easier to slice. If you want to eat your Tikoy right away or having trouble slicing it, lightly coat your knife with oil.
- If you want a white and steamed version of this rice cake, check out Foxy Folksy's Tikoy Recipe to find out how!
Serve and Store
Slice the Tikoy into bite-sized pieces. You may enjoy Tikoy as it is or pan-fried. For a soft and chewy bite, eat it while still warm.
Tightly wrap your Nian Gao with a plastic film or place it in a Ziplock bag. It will last in the refrigerator a month and 3 months in the freezer.
You can portion the cake into bite-size pieces and place them in a Ziplock bag so it’s easier for you to access it when you crave it.
Chinese New Year Cake (Nian Gao / Tikoy)
- Instant Pot
- 4 cups glutinous rice flour
- 1 ½ cups brown sugar
- 2 cups warm water
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla optional
- 2 medium eggs beaten
- Grease the bottom and sides of a 7 inch round pan generously with oil. Set aside.
- In a bowl, mix glutinous rice and brown sugar. Pour in warm water and mix until the batter becomes smooth and lump free. Add vanilla extract. Mix well.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Tightly wrap the cake pan with an aluminum foil.
- Pour 1 cup (250ml) of cold water into the Instant Pot. Place the cake pan on top of a trivet.
- Close and lock the lid. Set the valve to Sealing. Press Manual and then Steam and set timer for 40 minutes. When timer is done, do a Quick release. Carefully open the lid and remove pan from Instant Pot.
- Place on a cooling rack and remove foil. Allow to completely cool.
- Once cool, run a knife on the edges to loosen the Tikoy. To remove from pan, invert pan on a flat surface with plastic film. Wrap tightly with the plastic film.
- Refrigerate for 6 hours up to overnight to let it set and harden a bit.
If giving as a gift:
- Place whole rice cake (wrapped in plastic film) in a gift box after refrigerating.
To enjoy and eat the Tikoy/Nian Gao:
- Cut into thin slices about quarter of an inch thick.
- Dip the slices in the beaten eggs and fry in hot oil over low heat until both sides turn golden brown and crispy!
- Transfer fried tikoy on a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess oil. Then transfer to a serving tray or dish. Enjoy!
Looking for more awesome Instant Pot Recipes?
About the Author
Drey loves food and likes trying new things! She has been working with food bloggers providing recipe video content for years.