Happy New Year!

I wish you all a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2012.  Vasilopita is a traditional Greek bread-like cake made every New Year. The cake is made to bless the house and to bring good luck for the next year.

In the Greek tradition, it is a custom to have sweet bread-like cake on New Years Eve. After the last few minutes of the Year we welcome the New Year by parceling out slices of vasilopita to the family. Each slice is dedicated to someone beginning with the church, the home, and then the family members from oldest to youngest. The vasilopita is baked with many ingredients, but most important is the coin which placed inside the cake, represents good luck throughout the year! Sweet flavoring is added to the bread which symbolizes the hope that the New Year will be filled with the sweetness of life, liberty, health, and happiness for all who participate in the cutting of the vasilopita.

It’s origins stem back to the legend of Saint Basil the Great was one of the most influential of the Greek Fathers of the Church during the “Golden Age of the Fathers” (the 4th and 5th Centuries).  Saint Basil died on the 1st of January which is when his Feast Day is observed.  According to the legend, one year during a famine the emperor levied a sinfully excessive tax upon the people of his parish.  The tax was such a heavy burden upon the already impoverished people,  Saint Basil came to his people’s defense by fearlessly calling the emperor to repentance.  The emperor did repent!   He cancelled the tax and instructed his tax collectors to give back the loot taken. But now Saint Basil was faced with the daunting and impossible task of returning these thousand coins to the rightful owners. He commissioned some women to bake sweetened bread, in which he arranged to place gold coins. Miraculously, each owner received in his piece of Vasilopita his own gold coins.

Saint Basil was a very giving man and took care of the poor and needy. He is also associated with bringing gifts to the children which is when gifts are given in Greece.  Normally kids get their gifts on New Years Day rather than on Christmas Day!

Stelios Parliaro’s recipe was used again for this recipe.

Ingredients (for 16 pieces)

250 gr butter at room temperature
250 gr sifted icing sugar
250 gr ground blanched almonds
6 large eggs, preferably organic
250 gr all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
100 gr raisins
100 gr prunes, stoned and finely chopped
100 gr dried figs, finely chopped
200 ml cognac

Soak the dried fruits in the cognac overnight.

The next day, puree the mixture.

Preheat the oven to 170-180C.

Beat the butter, icing sugar and ground almonds until a fluffy white cream forms. Keep beating and gradually add the pureed fruit, mixing well. Then add the eggs gradually. Stop beating and add the flour and baking powder, stirring with a spoon.

Pour the mixture into a greased and floured 30 cm diameter cake tin. Bake for an hour. If desired, glaze the Vasilopita with lemon icing: Mix 200 gr of icing sugar with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and spread over the cake.

Otherwise, dust the cake with sifted icing sugar.


3 thoughts on “Vasilopita

  1. This is a bit like our Christmas Pudding which you are supposed to put coins in. It was supposed to have silver sixpences in, but they are long gone now, so I suppose one of our 5p would suffice. Except for the Health and Safety brigade which wouldn’t let you put them just in case someone swallowed one. More likely to break a tooth! Might give it a try next year.

    • Well, you are supossed to put a sovereign gold coin in it but lots don’t nowadays! Now, that would be a great new year treat!! As for the coin being eaten, most people look for the coin first and eat the cake afterwards.

  2. I can just imagine all those beady eyes watching as it is dished out, waiting for their piece and trying to see if they can see a coin! Especially if there were a Gold Sovereign in it!

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