My mom is a fantastic cook, one who takes a ridiculous amount of pride in the fact that it's been nearly three decades since she's last used a recipe. When I was at home for Christmas she was experimenting and perfecting her own version of Chinese New Year Cake (Nian Gao), only instead of steaming it (as it's traditionally done), she was baking it. During the course of a week, she concocted at least five creations, one of which came surprisingly close to the steamed version, but with a crust on the outside. I wrote down her "recipe" and was determined to recreate it at home.
Now, fast forward a few months, Chinese New Year is this weekend and I still had a baking project to tend to. So I rolled up my sleeves, put on my apron and realized I didn't have all of the ingredients. I could have gone to the store, but I decided to do what my mom would do and made it up as I went along.
The end result was pretty great directly out of the oven, the edges were nice and crispy, and the middle oddly chewy (just like real Nian Gao). I didn't have sweet red beans, so I used shredded Medjool dates instead (which, by the way, is my current favorite food item), and the flavor really complemented the cake.
To check out my version of New Year Cake, which is very unlike real New Year Cake, read more