Prosperity Cakes (Fatt Gou)
Over the last few days, I’ve had the good fortune of spending quality time in the kitchen with Auntie Hon Tim, the Colorado-based mother of my dear Auntie Donna in Singapore. Now, Auntie Hon Tim used to own and run a Chinese restaurant in Lakewood, Colo. — so she’s got some serious cooking chops. Besides teaching me the quickest way to skim fat off a pot of stew and how to rapidly chop carrots without slicing off my fingernails, Auntie Hon Tim has been showing me how to make some of her favorite lunar new year recipes.
On her must list every year is fatt gou, or prosperity cakes — cupcake-sized desserts that she makes to send friends wishes of riches and sweetness in the new year. Auntie Hon Tim’s cakes are super simple to make — they require just four ingredients (all-purpose flour, pancake mix, water and brown sugar) and the instructions basically involve stirring and steaming. What you’ll have to be careful about, it turns out, is how many you give. ”Don’t give five!” Auntie Hon Tim sternly warns in Cantonese. ”The word for “five,” sounds like “won’t” or “don’t,” implying that the recipient won’t prosper in the new year. Eight or “fatt,” which sounds like “prosperity,” is the luckiest number, of course. Nine or “gow,” a homonym for the word for “enough,” is great, too. And three, which sounds like the word for “business,” isn’t bad either. Like many other Chinese desserts, their sweetness is subtle and they’re not overwhelming or heavy.And, hey, if eating some may bring you a year of good fortune, what’s not to love about them, right?
Here’s to a happy and prosperous year !
Makes six cakes
1 cup water (room temperature)
1/2 to 1 cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet you want the cakes)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup pancake mix
Decoration: 3 dried red dates, each sliced in half (optional)
Stir together brown sugar and water until sugar has dissolved. Then, gradually mix in flour and pancake mix until a batter forms.
Insert six paper cupcake liners into six stiff tin-foil cups that will hold their shape during steaming. Fill cupcake liners to the brim with batter. If using red dates, cut dates in half and soak them in hot water for a few minutes to soften before using. Then, dot the top of each cake with half a red date.
Steam for 30 to 45 minutes — the cakes are done when you stick a toothpick in and it comes out clean.
If not eating right away, keep them refrigerated and re-steam them for five minutes before serving.