Vasilopita is a traditional Greek dessert prepared across Greece for New Year’s Day with the roots of the tradition stemming from the legend of Saint Basil.
According to legend, St. Basil called on the citizens of Caesarea to raise a ransom payment to stop the siege of the city. Each member of the city gave whatever they had in gold and jewelry. When the ransom was raised, the enemy was so embarrassed by the act of collective giving that he called off the siege without collecting payment.
St. Basil was then tasked with returning the unpaid ransom, but had no way to know which items belonged to which family. So he baked all of the jewelry into loaves of bread and distributed the loaves to the city, and by a miracle each citizen received their exact share, the legend goes.
At midnight after the year changes, families across Greece cut the vasilopita to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year. A coin is hidden in the cake before baking and the sign of the cross is etched with a knife across the cake. A piece of cake is sliced for each member of the family and any visitors present at the time, usually by order of age from eldest to youngest. Slices are also cut for symbolic people or groups, depending on each family’s tradition.
In older times, the coin was often a valuable one, such as a gold sovereign. Nowadays there is often a prearranged gift, usually a charm that is given to the coin recipient, which is supposed to bring its owner luck.
Give it a go!
LEMON FLAVORED GREEK NEW YEARS CAKE -MADE WITH OLIVE OIL-
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons hard flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon Vrisi36 olive oil
- zest from 2 lemons
- Lemon juice from 1 lemon
- 4 eggs yolks and whites seperated
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon cognac (brandy)
- 3 ½ ounces low fat Greek yogurt
- 2 ½ ounces almond powder (ground almond)
1. Preheat oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius)
2. In a medium bowl, mix the flour and baking powder and baking soda.
3. In a large bowl, mix the olive oil, zest and sugar. Once combined add the yogurt and mix well. Then add the vanilla and cognac and mix.
4. In a small bowl mix the egg yolks with the lemon juice and add to the olive oil mix. Once blended add the almond powder and mix well.
5. Add the flour mixture to the olive oil mixture, stirring until flour has blended in, do not overmix (I did this with a wooden spoon).
6. Beat the egg whites until you get soft peaks. Fold in the batter.
7. Line the base of an 8 inch pan (20 cm) with wax paper (I use a springform pan). Grease the whole pan and sprinkle with flour.
8. Pour the batter in the pan (it will be thick).
9. Bake in the oven for about 40-50 minutes. The top of the cake will brown (don’t worry about it). Check with a toothpick for doneness.
10. Remove from oven and let it cool. Remove from pan. And let it cool. Turn upside down and push your coin in the cake (wrap in foil first).
11. Turn right side up. Once completely cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Add any designs you like on top.
Please contact us with any questions or comments. And Happy Baking!