Happy New Year! I wish you all a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2009. I am so thankful to all of you who read my blog, and I hope you will continue to find reasons to keep coming back in the new year.
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.
Vasilopita is named for Saint Basil (Agios Vasilis) and traditionally, the first piece “goes” to Agios Vasilis. Beyond that, each family has their own traditions. Some will cut a piece for the church or the home, the Virgin Mary, some will just cut slices for present family members and visitors, others for family far away. Typically, the head of the household cuts the cake and the slices go in order of age (oldest to youngest).
Inside the cake is a foil-wrapped coin. Whoever gets the coin in their slice is said to have good luck for the new year. This was my first time making a vasilopita, since we are often out of town (and Tom is really my only family in the state), and guess who got the coin? Ohhh, it was me! So 2009 is going to be my year, baby! I saw the foil sticking out a little from the side of my piece, which explains my burrowed hole on the right. 🙂
Vasilopita is really similar to a quickbread, though it’s baked as a cake. It’s extremely simple and not overly sweet. Some people add almonds to the top before or after baking to decorate the cake. I just sprinkled a little powdered sugar over the top. OK, maybe I went a little overboard with the powdered sugar…
By the way, this is probably not the best thing to try to carry on an airplane. This is powdered vanilla that my grandma gave me when I was in town.
Thankfully, I realized this as I was fishing for my wallet and slipped it into our checked luggage. Otherwise I may have had to go through “added security measures” for my foreign white powdery substance that certainly did not look like vanilla powder to the average individual.
Note: This recipe has been slightly modified since its original post date. This makes a smaller-than-usual vasilopita, since we are a small family. You can double it and bake it in a larger pan if desired.
2 cups + 1 Tbsp. flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 heaping tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. of salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 large naval oranges)
3/4 tsp. orange zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract (optional)
powdered sugar (for decorating)
Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease a 9″ cake pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together; set aside.
Beat the butter on its own until creamy, and then add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, until just incorporated, followed by the orange juice, zest, and extracts. Add half the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated.
Whisk the egg whites on medium-high with a hand or stand mixer until they form between medium peaks (when you lift the whisk up, the egg whites should stick to it and have “peaks”).
Use a spatula to fold half of the egg whites into the batter, followed by the remaining flour mixture. Fold in the remaining egg whites until the batter is just combined, being sure not to overmix. Stir a foil-wrapped coin into the batter and pour everything into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Dust with powdered sugar as desired.