Monday, February 6, 2012

New Year's Rice Cake

Admittedly I'm a bit late making this cake, a dessert traditionally served around Chinese New Year.  But I was away from home a couple weeks ago when we rang in the Year of the Dragon, and still wanted a chance to bake this intriguing dessert - better late than never.  It was my first time baking with glutinous (sweet) rice flour, so I was curious to see how the cake would turn out.  Don't mistakenly buy regular white flour; made from short (sticky) rice, sweet rice flour is essential to making the cake turn out right.  Bob's Red Mill and Ener-G are two common brands to look for.

  • 3 and 1/2 cups sweet rice flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups vegan sugar
  • 1/4 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied pineapple
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 and 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3 Ener-G eggs
1. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  (For even more accurate measuring, use a kitchen scale; the 3 and 1/2 cups called for should be about 1 pound).  Combine the flour in a bowl with the sugar, dried cherries, candied pineapple, dates, almonds, and baking powder.

Note: check for candied pineapple made with raw or otherwise vegan sugar. I would normally caution the same when purchasing dried sweetened cherries, but dried tart cherries shouldn't have any sweetener added.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, canola oil, and Ener-G eggs.  Add the water mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until moist.

3. Spoon the batter into a 9-inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes - a wooden pick inserted in the center should come out clean.  Cool the cake for 15 minutes in the pan on a wire rack.  Remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

If you want to continue the theme, serve after a dinner of vegan fish (a symbol of prosperity at the New Year), dumplings (representing togetherness), and Chinese stir-fried vegetables (symbolizing happiness and good fortune). 

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (1 wedge), Calories 389 

Tasting Notes:
This cake was like nothing I've ever tasted; if you've ever had mochi squares, that's the closest I can think of to describe it.  If you haven't had mochi, think of rice pudding in a cake form, and you'll sort of grasp the taste.  In other words, the rice flavor is quite pronounced (more so than I would have thought), but the dried fruit was a nice contrast and sweet burst of flavor.  I was not a huge fan of the chewy interior at first, but it actually grew on me.  Eating slices of cake for a snack two days later (chilled from the fridge), the flavor had only improved.  My verdict is that it's definitely worth baking with sweet rice flour at least once.


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