Vasilopita: Greek New Year’s Cake
It seems like whatever the occasion Greeks will have a specific food to celebrate it. New Year’s Day is no different. To mark the start of the year Greeks will make a cake called vasilopita (Βασιλόπιτα), which translates as Basil’s cake. The Basil in question is Saint Basil the Great one of the Cappadocian Fathers whose name day is celebrated on January 1. An interesting custom associated with vasilopita is that a coin is placed inside of it and who ever is fortunate to get the piece of cake containing the coin (hopefully they don’t unsuspectingly consume it and choke) will have good luck for the year ahead.
Depending on the region of Greece the vasilopita will either be a cake or a bread. The recipe that I am using is for the cake version which I have taken from The Complete Book of Greek Cooking. One thing with this recipe is that it is quite rich, containing half a pound of butter and 2 cups of sugar, so this cake may violate any New Year’s resolutions towards healthy eating you may have made, but since its made only once a year I think an exception can be granted.
- ½ pound unsalted butter at room temperature (2 sticks)
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 6 eggs
- 2 tsp double acting baking powder
- 1 cup lukewarm milk
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
- some icing sugar
- a clean coin or an almond
- Preheat oven to 350°F or 175°C.
- Using an electric mixing cream butter and sugar together until light
- Add flour, a heaping tablespoon at a time, mixing continuously. After all the flour has been added the mixture will be like a course meal.
- One at a time add the eggs, mixing after each addition.
- To the lukewarm milk add the baking powder and mix. Then add this mixture to the batter. Mix well.
- To the lemon juice add the baking soda and mix. Then add this mixture to the batter. Mix well.
- At this point you can add the coin or a whole almond. If you are using a coin you may want to wrap it in aluminum foil.
- Grease a 10 inch cake pan.
- Add the batter to the pan.
- Bake in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a tooth pick comes out clean.
- When finished baking allow it to cool for 10 minutes in the pan.
- Then remove cake from pan and allow to cool.
- Once cooled you can sprinkle icing sugar on top of the cake.
There you have it a vasilopita…hopefully your piece will contain the coin so that you will have good luck throughout the year!
Happy New Year and Χρόνια Πολλά