Place water and sugar in sauce pan over medium low heat to melt the sugar and have no sugar crystals remaining- stir. Do Not boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, sift in glutinous rice flour and rice flour. SLOWLY add a little of the room temperature sugar water a little bit of time and mix well with a whisk. Then, add a little more sugar water and whisk well to remove lumps as you go. Maybe about 5-6 separate additions of the sugar water addition to the dry ingredients. Depending on your due diligence to weigh your ingredients properly and the climate being more humid or dry outside you will keep adding the sugar water mixture to the dry flour mixture until it is the consistency of sweetened condensed milk. Whisk well to remove all lumps.
Prepare your steamer vessel. If you have a traditional wicker steamer make sure to wrap the lid with a clean dry tea towel. This helps prevent any water droplets from landing on top of your Chinese New Year Cake. Place a few inches of water in the bottom of the pan. (we used a big soup pot) that fits the diameter of our steamer basket. If you do not have a steamer basket, you can make your own using items in your kitchen. All you need is a big pot with a lid that fits and a smaller container that will fit inside to hold the Sweet Sticky Rice Chinese New Year Cake and allow the lid to close. We used a wok. Inside the wok (or other large pot) you can either use 2 chopsticks that crisscross on the bottom of the pan or a small dish placed upside down on the bottom of the pan to be able to support the dish with your Chinese New Year Cake out of the water at the bottom of the pan. Fill your wok or cooking vessel with a few inches of water on the bottom. Place a tea towel around the lid to prevent condensation from contacting the top of the cake. Close the lid and over medium high heat allow the steamer to come up to temperature. You do not want the water to boil but just a heavy simmer.
In the meantime, find a dish, flat bowl, loaf pans or even those disposable aluminum pie pans work great (especially if giving away as gifts). You want to pick a bowl/dish that will fit inside your cooking vessel and allow the lid to seal completely. We had two little 6 x 6 baking dishes that fit in ours perfectly.
Grease your baking dish with a little canola oil on bottom and all sides. Pour half of the Chinese New Year Cake batter into one dish and half of the batter into the other dish slowly. Allow the batter to sit a moment to allow the bubbles to rise to the top of the dish and then pop the bubbles with a little toothpick. Not a required step but makes your cake look pretty.
Place your prepared Sweet Sticky Rice Chinese New Year Cake into the steamer and steam for about 1.5 hours or until the toothpick comes out clean. The amount of time for steaming depends on how efficient your steamer is. If you have an ill-fitting lid or a lot of steam is escaping then you will need more time. (Please note! Check on your steamer part way through and you may need to add a little additional water to your cooking vessel). Be careful to not get any water on your cake. If you have a super-efficient steaming vessel, your cake may be done after 1 hour.
If you wish to add any decorations to the top of your Sweet Sticky Rice Chinese New Year Cake such as Chinese Red Dates or goji berries do this the last 10-15 minutes of steaming.
Once your toothpick comes out clean, your Sweet Sticky Rice Chinese New Year Cake is done. Carefully, with hot pads, remove your cakes from the steamer and allow to come to room temperature. Once your cakes are room temperature, cover with cling wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight. IMPORTANT STEP: You MUST place your Sweet Sticky Rice Chinese New Year Cake in the refrigerator overnight or they will be too sticky to cut and enjoy.
Take your Sweet Sticky Rice Chinese New Year Cake out of the refrigerator and run a butter knife several times around the edges. Each time dip your knife in a glass of cold water to prevent sticking. Next, place a little oil on a spatula and on your fingers and gently pull the Chinese New Year cake up and out of your cooking dish. (Needs a little persistence) Rub the bottom of the cake with a little bit of the oil before setting on a cutting board to slice. Slice the Chinese New Year Cake (nian gao) with a knife and each time dip your knife in cool water to prevent sticking. Cut it in about ⅛ inch slices. At this point, your Chinese New Year cakes can be eaten as is, but why when you can make it taste even better!!!!
These Sweet Sticky Rice Chinese New Year Cake are 100 times more delicious by dipping the Cake thin slices in a little beaten egg and then pan frying then in a little canola oil for about 2 minutes on each side. Just until a little crispy on the outside and chewy and delicious on the inside.
Enjoy! Kung Hei Fat Choi! Xin Nian Kaui Le! (Happy Chinese New Year from our family to yours!)