The Vasilopita is a Greek New Year's Bread. It is made in honor of a beautiful act of charity by St. Basil to the poor and needy of his flock. In order to ensure that the needy would have money for life's necessities, and knowing that they were also proud people, St. Basil had the ladies of his church bake sweet bread with coins baked into them. In this way he could give them money without demeaning them at all. It is therefore traditional to bake a coin into the Vasilopita (St. Basil's Bread). The one who receives the coin is considered to be especially blessed for the year.
We prepare this cake on the last day of the year and decorate it with almonds, sugar or dough stripes, depending on the family tradition. More often than not, it has the numbers of the new year on top of it.
Blessing the Vasilopita
At precisely 12.00 o’clock at midnight, with the turn of the year, we turn off the lights. After a minute we turn it back on and wish everyone a Happy New Year and Many years in good health. The mother of the family brings in the Vasilopita and puts it on the table. The father of the family blesses the New Years Cake by making 3 times a cross with a knife on top of it. After that he starts cutting the cake into triangular pieces for each member of the family or group of friends and relatives that have gathered.
The first piece is dedicated to the house, the family or to Christ. The successive pieces are then for the father who is cutting the cake, the next for the mother who made the cake, and so all other members of family and friends get a turn. The last piece is dedicated to the poor without forgetting any other family persons who for various reasons are not able to attend. We sometimes even cut pieces for subjects that are important for the family. So my father would not only cut a piece for our family restaurant, but also for the tractor he used in his quarry or for his fishing boat to catch lots of fish.
Finding the coin
The new year will be very successful for the person that finds the coin in the piece of the Vasilopita. He, she or it will be healthy, lucky and have lots of success the whole year through. In Greece this is still a vibrant and very important tradition, whose roots go way back in history. If you like to enjoy this tradition, bake along with us and have a happy healthy New Year!
- 1.5 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar (add more if you want it sweeter)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 eggs
- Zest and juice of 1 large orange
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 1/3 cup of Cherry De-Lite dried tart cherries
- 1/2 cup brandy, preferably Metaxa or Cognac
- Powder sugar for sprinkling
- Cherry De-Lite Almond Sprinkle
- Squeeze the juice of an orange in a bowl and add the Cherry De-Lite dried cherries to soften them. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Beat butter and sugar in mixer until the mix becomes fluffy, add the vanilla and the eggs one by one. Mix the flour and baking powder together and then add into mixer little by little. Add the zest and orange juice with the softened dried cherries, nuts and brandy.
- Put the mixture into a 9 inch round baking dish of which has been buttered and floured. Then, with no one looking, put in the coin somewhere at the side. We recommend wrapping the coin in tinfoil. Do not put the coin in the middle as chances are that in that case more people will get the coin ;-)
- Bake in preheated oven at 350° F for 45-50 minutes (depending on your oven) until the knife you stick in the center of the cake comes out clean. When you take it out of the oven let it cool down a little, put it on a nice plate, decorate with icing sugar, Cherry De-Lite Almond Sprinkles on top and add the year.
- Servings : 6-8
- Ready in : 90 Minutes