Chinese new years is just around the corner, and I got an idea to tweak one of the most classic dessert dishes of the new years feast – the nian gao 红糖年糕 rice cakes, also called “year cake” - with coffee.
If you’ve ever tried nian gao, you’d know just how addictingly tasty they are. Made with glutinous rice flour (the same flour that gets added to mochi dough), the nian gao cakes have a chewy and soft texture that is such a joy to eat. This coffee nian gao cake is so easy to make and can be made ahead of time and has an amazing flavor that comes from almond milk and dehydrated coffee, aka instant coffee 🙂 The addition of the chestnuts and raisins add both texture and sweetness, but you’re welcome to play around with the add ins by trying different dried fruits, nuts and seeds.
Ingredients Used to Make Almond Milk Coffee Nian Gao
**I've linked some of these ingredients to amazon.com to give you an idea of what they are, but you should also be able to find them in your local grocery store (usually, the natural & organic food section). They are also affiliate links, which means that I earn a commission as an Amazon Associate if you decide to purchase the items. The price will be the same for you, link or no link 🙂
- Glutinous Rice Flour - this goes by many names. You'll see Glutinous Rice Flour and Mochiko Flour (my favorite brand) in Asian grocery stores, and Sweet White Rice Flour in most other stores. ***Please note that regular white rice flour or brown rice flour is NOT the same thing as glutinous rice flour!!!
- Sugar of Choice – I used dark brown sugar in this recipe, but many traditional nian gao recipes use Chinese Rock Sugar (also called Slab Sugar) which you can typically find in Asian grocery stores or buy online, here. Raw cane sugar, coconut, date, and maple sugars are also great substitutes if you have them at home, and if you want you can also use sugar-free substitutes such as monk fruit sweetener in this recipe for a slightly lower-sugar / lower-carb option.
- Coconut Oil - You can use regular coconut oil, or refined coconut oil, like this one, which has a neutral scent and flavor (this is great for people who do not like the distinct smell and flavor of coconut. You can also use other oils in this recipe such as light olive oil, avocado oil, or regular canola oil. You can also use plant-based, dairy-free butter or regular butter instead.
- Milk of Choice – I used unsweetened almond milk, but any milk (dairy or dairy free) works in this recipe.
- Chestnuts (optional) – these can be bought online, pre roasted, shelled and ready to eat. You can find them on Amazon, like below:
- Chopped dates - or other dried fruit such as raisins or jujube.
More Recipes Using Glutinous Rice Flour (HERE)
How to Make Almond Milk Coffee Nian Gao (mochi cake)
In a clean bowl, mix glutinous rice flour (also called sweet rice flour or mochiko flour) with sugar. Set aside.
Heat almond milk in a microwave safe bowl or glass measuring cup until hot, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the instant coffee granules into the milk until completely dissolved.
Pour the coffee almond milk into the flour-sugar mixture and use a whisk to mix well.
Stir the coconut oil into the batter
Add chestnuts and dried fruit to the batter
Pour batter into the greased cake pan / pyrex containers, and bake in oven 340F for 40 minutes for TWO-4 cup cakes, or about 60 minutes for 7 cup cakes, or until the middle is set and the edges are crispy.
For softer traditional texture, steam batter on medium heat for 45-60 mins for large cakes, 30-40 minutes for smaller cakes, or until the center of the mochi cake is set.
Steamed nian gao cakes will have a smoother, glossy exterior and have a softer texture than the baked nian gao cakes have crispier edges and a slightly rougher crust.
Let cool completely before serving, or cool the cakes in the freezer for 2-3 hours which helps to get clean slices of cakes. Enjoy!
Recipe Variations and Optional Add Ins:
- The add in options for this Almond Milk Coffee Nian Gao recipe are pretty much unlimited and you can easily customize the flavor and texture of this nian gao recipe to fit your own tastes! Here are some awesome ways you can make this sweet rice cake your own
- Add more flavor! Add up to 1 Tbsp of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice to bring out the fall flavors of this recipe. You can also add cocoa, ginger powder, cardamom powder, or a teaspoon of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste. They're not typically added to a traditional recipe, but you're welcome to experiment!
- Add more texture! Adding chopped nuts, seeds, or dried fruits or oats is a fantastic way to increase the nutrition and flavor in rice cakes. If you’re feeling indulgent, you can also add chocolate chips.
- Turn them into muffins – instead of baking this recipe in a round pan, divide the batter into muffin pans and steam/bake. You’ll have to adjust the baking time (about 20-25 minutes).
- Change up the liquid. For a more authentic flavor, try using full fat coconut milk instead of almond milk. The fat in the coconut milk will translate to a silky, glossy rice cake that is more decadent than just almond milk.
How to Store Almond Milk Coffee Nian Gao
- The Almond Milk Coffee Nian Gao (mochi cake) can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 24 hours, or in the fridge for 5 days.
- Rice flour desserts like mochi and nian gao usually tend to develop a weird, waxy hard texture when stored in the fridge for more than 1-2 days. To revive the nian gao to its original soft and chewy texture, you'll need to re-steam or pan-fry the rice cake until hot and completely translucent.
- For the best texture (and longer storage), I would wrap the sweet rice cake completely in a plastic wrap or Ziploc bag and freeze it and then defrost it at room temperature when ready to eat. Frozen nian gao does not have to be re-steamed, which is why I usually freeze all my leftover nian gao and mochi recipes.
Final Tips & Reminders
- Glutinous rice flour goes by many names. You'll see Glutinous Rice Flour and Mochiko Flour (my favorite brand) in Asian grocery stores, and Sweet White Rice Flour in most other stores. Please note that regular white rice flour or brown rice flour is NOT the same thing as glutinous rice flour!!!
- When using liquid ingredients in mochi recipes like this one, it's best if the liquid is hot (but not boiling). The heat of the liquid helps the mochi / glutinous flour become even more chewy and also makes the final product develop a glossy sheen.
Almond Milk Coffee Nian Gao (Mochi Cake)
- 1 ½ cup mochiko flour, sweet rice or glutinous rice flour (175 g), read notes*
- 2 Tbsp instant coffee granules (10 g)
- ⅓ cup dark brown sugar (74 g), or a sugar free substitute, such as granulated monk fruit sweetener
- 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp almond milk, regular milk or water (250 g)
- 3 Tbsp coconut oil (42 g), use refined for neutral flavor
- 20 oz package cooked or roasted chestnuts (568 g), can replace with chopped nuts if desired
- ⅓ cup chopped dates, raisins or other dried fruits (49 g)
- Preheat oven to 340 F or boil water to prepare the steamer. Also grease a Pyrex 7 cup round container or two 4 cup round containers with some oil (spray oil works fine, too).
- In a clean bowl, mix glutinous rice flour (mochiko flour) with sugar. Set aside.
- Heat almond milk in a microwave safe bowl or glass measuring cup until hot, about 2 minutes. (This is an optional step to make the mochi chewier. Read notes**)
- Stir in the instant coffee granules into the milk until completely dissolved.
- Pour the coffee almond milk into the flour-sugar mixture and use a whisk to mix well.
- Stir the coconut oil into the batter
- Add chestnuts and dried fruit to the batter
- Pour batter into the prepared pan or container, and bake in oven 340F for 40 minutes for TWO-4 cup cakes, or about 60 minutes for 7 cup cakes, or until the middle is set and the edges are crispy.
- For softer traditional texture, steam on medium heat for 45-60 mins for large cakes, 30-40 minutes for smaller cakes, or until the center of the mochi cake is set.
- Let cool completely before serving, or cool the cakes in the freezer for 2-3 hours which helps to get clean slices of cakes.
- Fry the sliced mochi cakes in oil if desired. Enjoy!