Vasilopita - Traditional Greek New Year's Cake

Posted on 30 December, 2016 by odyseaadmin There have been 0 comments

Vasilopita, a sweet start to the New Year

Vasilopita

So what’s New Year’s like in Greece? It’s party time of course. By and large, New Year’s Eve (and the following day!) is a greater celebration than Christmas, with all the anticipation for the arrival of the New Year. There are special customs and traditions to mark the first day of the year: some old and some new. And of course there is cake! A very special cake to kick off the New Year, called Vasilopita (King’s Cake).

Vasilopita

There is a great feast prepared for New Year’s Eve. It’s the time when St Basil (the Greek equivalent of Santa) travels up and down the country visiting homes to bring good tidings and offer his blessings for the New Year. According to tradition, a seat at the table is kept free for him so he can join in the celebration and get a little rest from his travels. Then, when the clock strikes midnight, fireworks go off heralding the coming of the New Year (and scaring the evil spirits away!). Some will head out early to join the crowds in open space celebrations and music festivals; but most of us will stay in and at midnight, when dinner will be over, it’s time for the presents to come out under the Christmas tree. And it’s time to cut the cake!

Vasilopita

Vasilopita is baked in honour of St Basil. Every family has it's own recipe; some are plain and more bread like, similar to a tsoureki while others are very much a cake.  The Vasilopita pictured is by Eugenia Makrogianeli and you can find her recipe in our recipe section; it's a dense sponge with almonds, walnuts or pistachios, flavoured with citrus fruit zest and finished off with a generous dusting of icing sugar (let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!). But what makes it really special, is the secret coin hidden inside. Just before the cake goes into the oven, you gently push a coin in the batter, usually wrapped in foil. As the cake rises, the coin disappears in the sponge, so no one will really know where it is. Now comes the fun part: The eldest member of the family will cut the cake and share pieces around. The first pieces are dedicated to baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saint Basil of course; the next piece, in a symbolic gesture, goes to the poor and finally one for the host’s home. From thereon slices are cut and given to the members of the family -from the eldest to youngest- and all the guests, again in an age order. Now here is when things get exciting: who will get the hidden coin? The lucky one to get it will enjoy good luck throughout the year.

Vasilopita


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