Fa Gao (Steamed Cupcakes)

From Hong Kong to Cleveland, these sky-high steamed cakes usher in a prosperous new year.

  • Serves

    Makes 10 cupcakes

  • Cook

    25 minutes


By Kristina Cho

Updated on February 1, 2022

Growing up, cookbook author Kristina Cho called these fluffy treats Pau Pau’s cupcakes. Her grandmother, whom she calls Pau Pau, makes them just for the Lunar New Year. Sometimes called “prosperity cake,” fa gao is an auspicious dish for the holiday: according to Chinese culture, the taller the cakes rise, the more prosperous the new year promises to be. 

Back in Hong Kong, Cho’s grandmother used a special self-rising flour made specifically for fa gao, but when she immigrated to the United States, she adapted the recipe to use ingredients she could find at her local markets in downtown Cleveland. Today, Bisquick is still Pau Pau’s secret ingredient for super soft, ultra fluffy fa gao.

This recipe is adapted from Kristina Cho’s cookbook, Mooncakes and Milk Bread: Sweet and Savory Recipes Inspired by Chinese Bakeries.


  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups Bisquick baking mix
  • ⅔ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed


Step 1

Fill a large, wide pot with 2 inches of water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.

Step 2

Meanwhile, line 10 individual 3-inch cake molds with paper liners and arrange them in two 10-inch stackable bamboo steamers.

Step 3

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, Bisquick, brown sugar, and 1⅓ cups water until smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the molds, filling each about ¾ of the way full. Stack the bamboo steamers, cover with a lid, and steam until the tops of the cakes have blossomed open and are somewhat firm to the touch, about 15 minutes.

Step 4

Lift the lid, carefully remove the steamers, and set aside until the cupcakes have cooled slightly, about 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

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