Happy Chinese New Year! This is a variant on the vanilla-flavored nian gao that my mom makes (recipe here), inspired by flavorings from this recipe. It has an intense orange flavor.
Orange-Flavored Baked Chinese New Year Cake (Nian Gao)
Recipe from my mom and Woks of Life
- 1 lb sticky rice flour (I like to use a Thai brand, Erawan)
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup butter (or margarine), softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups milk
- Zest of half an orange
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon molasses
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″x 9″ baking pan thoroughly.
2. Beat the butter until creamy, then beat in all the other ingredients. The batter will be runny, and it’s fine if there are little pieces of butter floating in it.
3. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until the top is golden brown. Don’t worry if a tester comes out with nian gao on it still; that’s expected. It’s also difficult to over-bake – you’ll just get a crackly, crunchy layer on top that has a great texture. When done, the cake will be sort of jiggly and (what else?) sticky.
Here is a chocolate and orange marbled cake to add to the collection! Other variants include the vanilla and chocolate marbled cake and the cardamom and coffee marbled cake.
Chocolate and Orange Marbled Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours
Yield: 9″ x 4″ loaf cake
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons gluten-free OR all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4-1 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup milk
- 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325ºF.
- Butter and flour a 9″ x 4″ loaf pan. Place pan on an insulated baking sheet or on 2 regular baking sheets stacked one on top of the other.
- Using a stand mixer (preferably with the paddle attachment) or a hand mixer, beat butter on medium speed for 3 minutes, until smooth.
- Add sugar and beat for 2-3 minutes.
- Beat in eggs 1 at a time. The batter might curdle, but don’t worry.
- Beat in vanilla.
- Beat in baking powder and salt.
- On low speed, alternately beat in flour and milk in 3 additions of flour and 2 of milk (this is more important if you’re using normal flour, where you don’t want to over-beat).
- Scrape half the batter into a mixing bowl and stir in the melted chocolate.
- Stir orange zest and extract into the other half of the batter.
- Drop spoonfuls of chocolate and orange batters randomly into the loaf pan.
- Plunge a table knife deep into the batter and zigzag from one end of the pan to the other, making only 6-8 zigzags. Even though it’s fun, you don’t want to mix the two batters too much.
- Bake for 1 hour and 20-30 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool cake on a wire rack for 15 minutes before unmolding. Cool to room temperature right side up on rack.
- Wrap the cake well and store at room temperature for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Candied oranges are delicious on their own or with other desserts, such as on top of carrot cake.
Candied Orange Slices
From David Lebowitz
- 2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
- Cut the orange into 1/4-inch slices. Put the slices in a nonreactive saucepan, add enough water to cover them well, and bring to a simmer.
- Blanche for 10 minutes, then drain well. The rinds should be mostly translucent at this point.
- Put orange slices back in the saucepan and add 2/3 cup sugar and 2/3 cup water.
- Cook orange slices at a simmer for about 10 minutes, or until they are tender and translucent.
The New York Times recipe’s name for these brownies is “supernatural,” and after tasting them, I’m inclined to agree! The addition of orange zest is my own touch, but I happen to love the combination of chocolate and orange in chocolate bars, so why not orange-flavored brownies?
Update: I discovered that if you drizzle key lime cream cheese glaze over these brownies, they become even more delicious.
Adapted from Julia Moskin in the New York TImes
Yield: 15 large or 24 small brownies
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter, more for pan and parchment paper
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- 1 cup dark brown sugar (such as muscovado) OR 1 cup granulated sugar+generous dollop of molasses
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 eggs
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup gluten-free OR all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons citrus zest (I used the zest from 2 cuties, but an orange or even a lemon should be fine)
- ½ cup chopped walnuts OR 3/4 cup whole walnuts (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9″ x 13″ baking pan and line with buttered parchment paper.
- In the top of a double boiler set over barely simmering water, or on low power in a microwave, melt butter, chocolate, and sugars together. (Actually, I melted everything together in a small non-stick pot over very low heat, but that runs the risk of burning the chocolate.) If using just granulated sugar plus molasses, you’ll add the molasses in a later step. Don’t worry if the mixture looks somewhat grainy at this stage.
- Cool mixture slightly.
- While it’s cooling, whisk eggs in a large bowl or mixer. Whisk in molasses, if using.
- Whisk in salt and vanilla.
- Whisk in chocolate mixture and stir in zest.
- Fold in flour just until combined. (Don’t worry about over-mixing if you’re using gluten-free flour.) If using chopped walnuts, stir them in.
- Pour batter into prepared pan. If using whole walnuts, arrange on top of batter.
- Bake 35-40 minutes, or until shiny and beginning to crack on top.
- Cool in pan on rack. The brownies will be a lot easier to cut and handle if you cool them completely first. Of course, they also taste great warm if you don’t mind using a spoon to help scoop out portions!
Since some of my family and friends who don’t have food allergies are also trying recipes from here, from now on I’ll include the baking times and any special instructions for normal baking too. There isn’t much difference between the two versions because I deliberately pick recipes that don’t require much change.
For these cookies, you can use whatever citrus fruit you have on hand! Oranges, lemons, they’re all fine.
This recipe comes from Simply Recipes:
Original Simply Recipes recipe
Chocolate Citrus Shortbread Cookies
Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes
Yield: 30 cookies
- 1 cup gluten-free OR all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder (such as Hershey’s Special Dark)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (11 is also fine if that’s what you happen to have…)
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon of citrus zest (or if you love citrus flavor, just use zest from the entire orange/lemon)
1. Preheat oven to 325°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Or, if you’re like my tipsy friend, with both!
2. Beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed in a mixer for 5 minutes.
3. Mix in the vanilla and citrus zest.
4. Mix in salt. Stir in the flour and cocoa powder, then beat for 2 minutes. The dough will be somewhat soft and sticky. If it’s too hard to work with, you can put it in the freezer for 10 minutes.
5. If you’re feeling fancy, you can roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper to 1/4-inch thickness and use cookie cutters to make nice shapes. I’m lazy, so I just shaped the dough into 1-inch balls and squashed them into circles. Regardless of how you get cookies, space them 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes if gluten-free OR 13-15 minutes if not. The cookies are done when the sides are slightly firm but still have some give when nudged with a fork. The center will be soft if poked, but the cookies will firm up as they cool.