A recipe for Vasilopita (Greek New Year’s Cake)! This light and airy cake is infused with orange and has a hidden coin to celebrate the New Year.
I first came across Vasilopita (Βασιλόπιτα) over on Elly Says Opa and it is such a fun and delicious start to the year! Vasilopita is a Greek cake eaten after midnight and during the first few days of the New Year. It is named after Saint Basil with Saint Basil’s Day being January 1st.
The exact cake (or bread) differs depending on the region or family. This version is more cake-like and flavored with orange juice and orange zest. The bread version is called Vasilopita Tsoureki (Βασιλόπιτα Τσουρέκι).
Traditionally, a gold or silver coin (wrap it in foil) is added to the batter. Whoever finds the coin is said to have good luck in the next year. If doing this, take care when eating as it can pose a choking risk. The cake slices are served from eldest to youngest and slices are also cut for symbolic people.
There are a few steps to assemble the cake, but overall it comes together with just a little prep and no resting times.
After beating together the butter and sugar until creamy, egg yolks are added one at a time before blending in the orange juice, brandy, and vanilla extract.
To finish, 1/3 beaten egg whites and 1/3 of a flour mixture are alternately folded into the batter just until combined. The mixture is transferred to the prepared pan and baked until golden and tender.
The Vasilopita is best eaten the day it is baked. Leftovers will keep for up to three days in an airtight container at room temperature.
Decorating the Cake
There are a few different ways to decorate the Vasilopita.
I covered the cake with a generous dusting of powdered sugar. Before topping, I printed off the 2024 numbers on paper, cut them out, and placed them on the cake before sprinkling with powdered sugar. When I gently removed them, the outline of the numbers were left behind.
If you don’t want to deal with stencils, you can also write out the numbers with almonds, chocolate chips, pomegranate seeds, melted chocolate, and more edible options.
Don’t decorate with powdered sugar until shortly before serving. With time, the powdered sugar will absorb moisture and soak into the cake.
Over at My Greek Dish, they topped their cake with a sweet glaze.
A Few Vasilopita Tips
To really help bring out the orange flavor, use a fork or your fingers to combine the orange zest into the sugar before mixing in with the rest of the ingredients. This will infuse the flavor into every bite.
Don’t skip separating the egg whites and egg yolks! Beating the egg whites until stiff, then gently folding into the batter helps add to the light and airy texture. When folding in, take care to not deflate or over mix.
Add the egg yolks to the batter one at a time.
If avoiding alcohol, simply omit the brandy.
If using a springform pan, place it on a baking sheet before putting into the oven. This will protect the oven just in case any batter or butter seeps out.
Do not open the oven door until the cake is nearly set and golden, at least until after 30 minutes. Opening too early may cause the cake to collapse.
Bake the cake just until the top is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Too long in the oven may cause a tough texture.
Allow to cool completely to room temperature before decorating the top.
Looking for more Greek recipes?
- Kourambiethes (Greek Butter Cookies)
- Horiatiki Salata (Greek Village Salad)
- Ladenia Milou (Greek Olive Oil Flatbread)
This recipe was originally posted in December 2014 and updated in December 2023.
Vasilopita (Greek New Year’s Cake) Recipe
Adapted from Elly Says Opa
Vasilopita (Greek New Year’s Cake)
- 4 large eggs separated
- 2 3/4 cups (344 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter softened at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) brandy optional
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Powdered sugar for topping
- Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Grease a 9 inch (23 centimeter) springform pan or cake pan with butter.
- Separate the four eggs into whites and yolks.
- Beat the egg whites in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.
- In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the sugar and orange zest. Beat with the butter until light and creamy.
- Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, until incorporated.
- Slowly beat in the orange juice, followed by the brandy and vanilla extract.
- Fold in 1/3 of the beaten egg whites, followed by 1/3 of the flour mixture.
- Continue with another 1/3 egg whites, 1/3 flour, then remaining egg whites and remaining flour just until no streaks remain. Take care to not deflate the egg whites.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.
- Bake in the preheated oven until the edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Do not open the oven door until the cake is nearly done.
- Allow to cool to room temperature before decorating and dusting with a layer of powdered sugar.