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Sticky Coconut Rice “Cake” with Ginger-Orange Flambé

Servings: 4

A traditional Chinese New Year dessert called nian gao (or sticky cake) is a steamed rice-flour cake. In this version, I leave the rice whole and make a sticky coconut rice “cake” with a ginger-orange I include oranges because guests usually bring a basket of oranges to the hosts’ home to wish them good luck in the new year.


  • 8 oz. glutinous or sweet rice
  • 1 banana leaf
  • 1 13-1/2-oz. can coconut milk, well shaken
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large oranges, zested, segmented, and reserved separately
  • 1 Tbs. minced ginger, plus thinly sliced ginger for garnish (optional)
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz.) orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
  • Toasted coconut flakes, for garnish


  • Put the rice in a medium bowl, and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Cover with plastic, and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  • Cut the banana leaf to fit one tier of a large bamboo steamer basket. Fill a large wok halfway with water, and bring to a boil, keeping extra boiled water on hand to replenish the wok as necessary. Drain the rice and spread it in an even layer on top of the banana leaf. Lower the heat on the wok to medium low, and put the steamer basket into the wok with the rice on the top tier. Cover and steam until the rice is cooked through, soft, and translucent, about 1 hour.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat the coconut milk and sugar over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. While still hot, transfer the rice to a medium bowl, add half of the coconut milk, and mix until well combined. Add the remaining coconut milk and mix well. Coat an 8-inch round cake pan or four 1-cup ramekins with cooking spray. Line the pan (if using) with parchment, and mist the parchment with cooking spray. Press the rice mixture evenly into the cake pan or ramekins. Cover with plastic, and refrigerate until completely cool, about 30 minutes.
  • In a medium skillet over medium heat, add 1 Tbs. butter, the orange zest, and minced ginger, and cook, stirring continuously, until the butter is melted and the mixture is well combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the orange segments, and cook until just warmed through but not falling apart, about 30 seconds.
  • Add the liqueur. Carefully tilt the pan slightly to ignite the liqueur. Remove from the heat, and let the flame burn out. Add the remaining 1 Tbs. butter, stirring gently, until melted. Set aside.
  • Run a small offset spatula or knife around the cake or ramekins, then turn out onto a plate(s); remove the parchment and discard. Top with the ginger-orange mixture, and garnish with the coconut and thinly sliced ginger, if you like.


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