The seventh day of Chinese New Year is also known as 人日 (ren ri) or the birthday of Man. My mum calls it “Everybody’s Birthday.”
On this day, we eat something called 鱼生 (yu sheng), a sweetened salad of raw fish, shredded carrot, radish and ginger that we toss communally for luck and prosperity. Inspired by the flavours of yu sheng, I created a birthday cake. For everyone.
Each ingredient of yu sheng symbolises good luck in some form. As each salad ingredient is added to the salad, you’re supposed to recite a Chinese idiom of prosperity. For example, when laying down the slices of raw fish, you would say 年年有余 (nian nian you yu), meaning abundance all year round. (The Wikipedia entry on yu sheng has the full list of ingredients and idioms.)
Then, everyone will gather round and toss the salad. The higher you toss, the more luck you’ll have for the year. It can get really messy, but that’s part of the fun! Here’s a picture of what a yu sheng toss would look like:
In this carrot and honey cake, I tried to maintain the symbolism of yu sheng. If you want, you can recite these idioms before adding them to your mixing bowl. Notice I’ve also kept the quantities of the ingredients to Chinese lucky numbers (mostly twos and eights) to maximise luck.
108g carrots, grated (approx. 2 medium carrots) 鸿运当头
128g all-purpose flour 风生水起
38g mixed peel 大吉大利
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon 青春常驻
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper 招财进宝
1/2 cup honey 甜甜蜜蜜
1/3 cup yoghurt
3 tbsp vegetable oil 一本万利
Honey for brushing over top
Sesame seeds 生意兴隆
Makes one 6-inch cake.
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 175°C (350°F). Grease and line a 6-inch round cake tin.
Step 2: Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another bowl. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry. Stir to combine.
Step 3: Pour the batter into your cake tin and bake for 60 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
Step 4: Once the cake has cooled, brush the top with honey and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
This cake is sweet and dense, and the carrot and honey ensure that it stays extremely moist. Light some candles and get everyone to make a wish before blowing them out!
Happy birthday, everyone, and good luck!