A traditional Chinese year occurs on the lunar calendar, and this year the Chinese New Year will be on February 3, 2011. There are many things that a Chinese family will prepare for New Year’s Eve as well as New Year’s Day. As a child, I was always in and out of the kitchen, helping my mother prepare her 12-course New Year’s Eve dinner. Each dish had an important meaning to bring good luck in many areas. There were also many items that were not included in the 12-course meal, to be presented outside of the meal in worship of our ancestors and God, showing our appreciation for what they had provided for us. Those items were eaten on New Year’s Day and included the Good Luck New Year’s Cake and the Abundance Cake.
I have been living in the US since 1988 and finding these cakes is very difficult. My husband TC and I used to drive to China Town in Flushing Queens, New York to find these cakes. Most of the time, we came back empty handed because the people who lived in that area got them before us. For years, getting those delicious cakes has been hit or miss. Lately, I had decided to forget about cakes.
My mother-in-law, Lily, has been making New Year’s cake for many years, and from time to time we get one, depending on whether there is a US holiday around Chinese New Year. In different years, we may or may not come to her house for New Year’s dinner. In fact, I have to admit that we never did in twenty years of marriage. But last year we did, and Lily taught me how to make the Abundance Cake, and I’ve been making them throughout 2010 and sharing them with many of my clients and friends. I have gotten pretty good at making abundance cakes and make them almost monthly. Last Christmas, Lily taught me how to make New Year’s Cake, my daughter’s favorite.
New Year’s cake, pronounced “Nian Gao” It is a sweet steamed glutinous rice cake. Ingredients include dark brown sugar, hot water, banana extract, and glutinous rice flour. There are premixed packets, but the final product is not that great. I make mine from scratch. And do you see my “Nian Gao” next to a rabbit in the photo? (left) That’s because 2011 is the year of the rabbit.
Abundance cake pronounced “Fa Gao” It’s like a muffin but steamed. The ingredients include rice flour, sugar, flour, and banana extract, or you can get a ready mix for them now. I think the combination of packages is quite good. The secret is in the degree of “steam” of your pot. Here is my “Fa Gao” next to a rabbit. (Correct)
Looking at these recipes, one would think that any cake should be easy to make. So why do people who live in China or Taiwan still buy these in stores? Well, according to my mom, who never made these cakes, you don’t want to take the risk of making them at home. What if it didn’t go up? You see, both cakes are supposed to bring good luck if they rise correctly. For this reason, many families transfer that risk to their bakery and simply buy them.
Well, that explains how many people risk starting a business and successfully coming out of it. In many small businesses, we don’t really know the ingredients or recipes of how to make our business successful. It does not come with a premixed package (except maybe for licensed or franchised companies). Even if you have the recipes, you still have to master the degree of “steam” (power, fire, or energy) to produce consistent results year after year.
What I like about these cakes is that they can give my clients a mode of action affirmation. Within a solid 1-year action plan is a visual image of what success looks like. Putting it into action results in the sweet taste of success. My customers who have accepted these sweet cakes and tried them are the same customers who continually taste success in their businesses. They have enjoyed rapid growth in their businesses, along with top net profit percentiles in their industries. Is this a Chinese superstition or just believing that you are and will be successful?
Okay, yes”luck is when preparation meets opportunity”, you should probably ask yourself if your preparations are consistent and if you know what to do when opportunities appear. Or do you even know where to look for opportunities?
If you want to experience the sweet taste of these cakes, then the cakes are not for sale. I make them personally to show my appreciation to my clients. You too can have one if you want to experience the sweet taste of success.