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December 29, 2011

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'Victory' cakes sweet way to say 'good luck'

DING sheng gao, literally sure-to-win cake, is a sweet, pink dessert from Suzhou. It's puffy and often is shaped like flowers and leaves. The red Chinese character ding sheng (sure to win) on the surface makes it easy to identify.

Rice powder, sticky rice powder, red rice powder and sugar are the main ingredients for the dough and sweetened red bean paste is sometimes used as a stuffing.

It is said that the cake has had three names over time, using different characters that are pronounced similarly.

The first name ding sheng gao (settled weight cake) originated in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) in Changshu, Jiangsu Province; the pastry was required to be made to standard weight, 50 grams each.

To make the pastry look as large as possible, locals invented molds with small bottoms and larger tops, all containing 50 grams. They were shaped like peaches, plum blossoms, morning glories and five-pointed stars. They were often colored by vegetable and flower juice.

The mark of ding sheng gao was always put on the cake. The pastry quickly became popular. During the wars in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), people often gave the cakes to soldiers as rations and changed the characters into sure-to-win for good luck.

It's still a lucky gift today, with a different meaning - sure to be promoted - which is pronounced the same.

The pasty should be eaten in moderation since it contains a lot of sugar and fat. Rice is supposed to help improve immunity and accelerate blood circulation, thus preventing problems like high blood pressure.


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