Happy New Year! My First Vasilopita!

January 1, 2009 · 35 comments

in breads/muffins,desserts/sweets,greek

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.


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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter G January 1, 2009 at 10:12 pm

LOL! The vanilla powder does look suspicious! Congratulations on your vasilopita and for getting the coin. You’ve done a great job Elly!


joelen January 1, 2009 at 10:32 pm

Hahaha – I guess that lucky quarter has already worked it’s magic while you were packing your vanilla powder! :) That cake looks delicious! Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year full of more delicious eats. I’m looking forward to future posts from Elly Says Opa in 2009!


Ivy January 2, 2009 at 2:30 am

This year I made mine with confectioners’ sugar on top. You did a great job Elly. Chronia Polla kai Kali Chronia.


joan nova January 2, 2009 at 8:53 am

I’ve seen this at the Greek church’s annual festival. The line is usually very long and filled with kids hoping for a prize. I like the tradition that the eldest gets the first piece and passes it on…maybe because I’m getting to be the eldest!


fingers80 January 2, 2009 at 9:36 am

lol about the powdered vanilla on the airplane. That’s totally something I would have tried to take in a carry on b/c I never think about things like that. :) Great job with the cake!


Daniel January 2, 2009 at 10:03 am

I have always wanted to learn how to make this…thank you for sharing it! There’s nothing like making a traditional dish for the first time and really getting it perfect. Best to you in 2009.

Casual Kitchen


Peter January 2, 2009 at 11:15 am

Happy New Year Elly and I’m a fan of the cake-like Vassilopita like yours.

All best and happy cookin’ in 2009!


Cate January 2, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Happy New Year! I love reading about New Years traditions from other cultures…I love this idea!


JennDZ_The LeftoverQueen January 2, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Happy New Year, Elly! :)

That totally sounds like my kind of cake!

best of everything to you in 2009!


Kate January 2, 2009 at 6:49 pm

I love the holidays because I love seeing all the different traditions from family to family.


Maria January 3, 2009 at 4:17 am

Chronia Polla Elly! For some reason our vasilopita never looks this good although our recipe is pretty much the same as yours… It always ends up looking more like a volcano! But, I got the coin so I can’t complain…


Amber January 3, 2009 at 10:49 am

What a delicious looking cake! Congratulations on finding the coin. :) I am glad you were able to stuff the vanilla powder into your check luggage before the security people attacked you.


Jaime January 3, 2009 at 12:39 pm

happy new year, elly!

that looks delicious. i was surprised that i was able to carry on two pies with me during thanksgiving – a caramel pumpkin pie and the TWD twofer pie – i was surprised they did not even say anything after they went through the xray machine!


Bellini Valli January 3, 2009 at 1:03 pm

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons bring
the best to you and yours!


Kevin January 4, 2009 at 10:03 am

That cake looks good. I like the coin inside idea.


Annie January 4, 2009 at 11:06 pm

Looks great! Such a fun tradition, I would get such a kick out of getting the coin in my slice! :)


ash January 4, 2009 at 11:25 pm

this cake looks great!!


Tamara January 20, 2010 at 11:57 am

Thanks Elly. I didn’t have my mother in law’s recipe with me this year at New Years and since my son is Ilios (Vasilios) I needed a cake. Found your recipe online and it was awesome. Thanks for sharing, I now have a new Vasilopita recipe!


elly January 20, 2010 at 12:29 pm

So glad you liked it Tamara. Happy New Year!


Banne Crisanti December 24, 2010 at 5:21 am

this year I tryed something a little different. I made mini muffins out of Duncan hines apple cinnamin ready mix with a granola crunch topping. This way I was able to hide the coin and let them pick their own muffin.. You cannot cheat this way and you can use any type of mix you like. tremendous success !!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Banne Crisanti December 24, 2010 at 5:23 am

love reading your comments


Soulla Panayides December 21, 2011 at 9:21 am

Hi There

I have come across your recipe and I will give it ago. Please can you let me know what do you mean by one stick of butter.


elly December 21, 2011 at 9:39 am

Hi Soulla. In the States, 1 stick of butter is equal to 1/2 cup or 4 oz. Hope this helps. I fixed the recipe so it’s a little clearer.


Mia December 29, 2011 at 11:28 am

I am trying my very first Vasilopita this year. I hope mine turns out as good as your!


Anna Marie December 31, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Hiya, my first vasilopita this year also, followed your recipe and it was gorgeous, thanks! Happy 2012 to you all xxx


elly December 31, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Glad it worked out for you, Anna. Happy new year!


Mina January 1, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Was looking for a new recipe to replace the usual bread Vasilopita. Made it yesterday for New Years. This was absolutely fantastic and everyone loved it!! We all usually just take a bite of our piece “gia to kalo” well everyone ate every bit of it. Thanks so much for sharing this great Vasilopita recipe!! Happy New Year!!


elly January 1, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Happy new year, Mina. So glad you enjoyed the vasilopita.


Tara December 25, 2014 at 6:59 pm

This was perfect! Not too sweet and I love the orange flavor. So delicious!


elly December 25, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Glad to hear that, Tara! Happy new year!


Kathy Wegner January 2, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Perfect vasilopita recipe! If you look up 100 vasilopita recipes, you will get 100 different variations! This was great and I also ended up with the coin this year!


elly January 2, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Glad you liked the vasilopita, and congratulations on getting the coin, Kathy! My youngest son got it this year (21 months) so he has no idea, hah.


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