Vasilopita is a Greek cake or bread eaten during the New Year. It is named after Agios Vasilis (Saint Basil), with Saint Basil’s Day being January 1st. The exact cake/bread differs depending on the region or family. This version is more cake-like and flavored with orange, but not overly sweet. Traditionally a coin (wrap it in foil) is added to the batter. It was originally a valuable gold coin. Who ever finds the coin will be blessed and have good luck in the next year. Chad takes large bites and I was slightly afraid of him swallowing a smaller coin, so I wrapped a quarter. It happened to be in my piece following dinner!
The cake slices are served from eldest to youngest and slices are also cut for symbolic people (the church, saints- Saint Basil, the household, family who couldn’t join, the poor, etc).
Honest Cooking has more details on the history of Saint Basil and Vasilopita.
The top of the cake is simply decorated with powdered sugar or almonds. I printed off the 2015 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. You can also form the numbers with almonds. Don’t decorate with powdered sugar until shortly before serving. With time, the powdered sugar will absorb moisture and soak into the cake.
Vasilopita (Greek New Year Cake)
Adapted from Elly Says Opa
1 (9 inch) cake
4 eggs, separated
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 large oranges)
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar or almonds for topping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch springform or cake pan.
Separate the eggs into yolks and whites. In a medium bowl or in a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until medium peaks form.
In another medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, beat the butter until light and smooth. Beat in the sugar, then the separated egg yolks one at a time. Mix in the orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla. Gently fold in 1/3 of the beaten egg whites just until no streaks remain. Fold in 1/3rd of the dry ingredients, then 1/3 egg whites, 1/3 dry ingredients, remaining egg whites, and remaining dry ingredients. If using, add the aluminum foil wrapped coin.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven until edges are golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes.
Allow to cool in pan before removing to serving stand. Decorate with powdered sugar or almonds right before serving.