Traditional Chinese superstition feeds a lot of attention onto the seemingly aimless yet highly indicative number nine. According to the Book of Changes or I Ching 易经, “nine” is a lucky Yang 阳 number; nine is also the largest single number, and its Chinese character shares the same pronunciation as “lasting” or 久 jiu. Thus, the holiday celebrates the longevity of elders by hiking, drinking, and enthusing one’s sweet tooth. Communities would gather and host a feast called the Banquet of Longevity to wish their elders long and healthy life, symbolically finished with a coda of Jiu Jiu Chongyang Cake. Made of rice flour and dressed in different flavors, Chongyang Cake must have nine layers for its implication of longevity.
- 1 Cup Rice flour
- ½ C Glutinous rice flour
- ¼ tsp Salt
- 1/3 C Sugar
- 1/3 C Boiling water
- 200 g Jujube date paste or red bean paste, as filling
- One 7-inch bamboo steamer
- 1 Cheese cloth
- 8 Jujube dates, halved
- ½ C Goji berries
- ¼ C Walnut, chopped
1 Mix sugar and boiling water, set aside.
2 In a big bowl, mix the rice flour, glutinous rice flour, and salt.
3 Drizzle in the hot sugar water into the flour mix. Mix them well––this process is like “cooking” the dry flour mix with hot water. You will see small clusters form.
4 Caution, the clusters can be hot, so use an oven mitt. Break the small clusters between your fingers. Though tedious, this will make the sifting easier later.
5 Perform a dough consistency test to see if you need to add more sugar water or not. Grab a palm-full of flour mix. If it holds its shape after the squeeze but crumbles between your fingers when you try to break them apart, then the dough is ready.
6 Sift the flour mixture through a sifter (or strainer) couple times. Eyeball to divide the sifted flour into 5 portions.
7 Divide your jujube date paste (or red bean paste) into 4 portions.
8 Place the cheese cloth into the steamer. Put a layer of rice flour mix onto the clothed steamer, that is the base layer of the cake. Place it in a bigger steamer on high flame for 5 minutes.
9 Take the steamed flour base out. Careful, it will be hot. Spread one portion of the jujube date paste onto the steamed base, then add another layer of the flour mix. Steam on high flame for another 5 minutes. Repeat this process of building the layers and steaming after each flour layers until you finish with all the paste and flour mix.
10 Your last layer which is the top layer of the cake should be the flour layer. Now it is time to decorate the cake before we steam it for one last time. We used halved jujube dates, dried Goji berries, and chopped walnuts on ours.
11 Place the bamboo steamer into the bigger steamer, steam for 20 minutes.
Enjoy this cake with the elderlies in your family. With each layer, another year of life is added. My grandma is making it to 100.