In cookbook author Kristina Cho’s family, you can’t celebrate Lunar New Year without fa gao. The unfrosted Chinese cupcakes cook in a steamer basket, and how high they rise is just as important as their taste. “As the tradition goes, the taller your cupcakes bloom and blossom, the more good luck and prosperity you’re going to have,” she says. Like many of the family recipes in her book Mooncakes and Milk Bread, this one took many tries to get right because Kristina re-created it from her grandmother’s vague directions. “She would be happy to give me the recipe, but she just does everything by feel — she uses a coffee mug as a measuring cup,” Kristina says. But it turns out there is a secret to these fluffy prosperity cakes: pancake mix!
Prepare your steamer setup: Fill a heavy-bottomed pot (the same diameter as your steamers) with 3 to 4 inches water. Bring the water to a rapid boil. Line 10 individual 3-inch cupcake molds with paper liners and arrange in 2 bamboo steamers.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the pancake mix, flour, brown sugar and water until smooth. (The batter should be thick but runny.)
Divide the batter evenly between the molds, filling each about three-quarters full. Stack the bamboo steamers and cover with the lid. Steam for 15 minutes. Lift the lid, remove the steamers and allow the cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
The cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container or resealable bag at room temperature for up to 4 days.
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Photograph by Kristina Cho
REPRINTED FROM MOONCAKES AND MILK BREAD BY KRISTINA CHO. COPYRIGHT 2021 BY KRISTINA CHO. PHOTOGRAPHS COPYRIGHT KRISTINA CHO. USED BY PERMISSION OF HARPER HORIZON, AN IMPRINT OF HARPERCOLLINS FOCUS LLC.
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