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Greek New Year's Cake, Vasilopita

A recipe by

Vasilopita is baked in honour of St Basil and traditionally eaten on New Year's day. It is a dense sponge with almonds, walnuts or pistachios, flavoured with citrus fruit zest and finished off with a generous dusting of icing sugar. But what makes it really special is the secret coin inside which brings a year filled with luck for whoever discovers the hidden coin in their piece!

Ingredients

  • 500g all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • pinch of salt
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 250g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp clove
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • Zest go 1 orange
  • 120 ml of fresh orange juice
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 120 ml milk
  • 80 ml cognac or brandy
  • 200g nuts of your choice, I used pistachios but you can use hazelnuts, walnuts or almonds
  • Extra icing sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. Start by preheating the oven at 170 C or 160C in a fan assisted oven. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a round non-stick cake tin, at least 22 cm in diameter.
  2. Put the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Separate the eggs and beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Set aside, you will add them to the cake batter at the last step.
  4. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and 300g of icing sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, vanilla extract and orange peel zest.
  6. Add the egg yolks one at a time, allowing each one to be fully incorporated.
  7. Dissolve the baking soda in the orange juice in a glass, then hold it above the mixing bowl and pour straight into the cake mix. Most likely the soda will cause the orange juice to froth and spill over.
  8. Turn the mixer to a low setting and start adding the flour, milk and cognac in turns.
  9. When everything has been incoporated you can add the nuts.
  10. Finally, gently fold in the beaten egg whites.
  11. Pour the cake batter in the prepared tin.
  12. Now is the time to insert the “lucky” coin. Don’t push it too deep. Gently make sure it’s dipped in the batter.
  13. Place the tin in the preheated oven and bake for 50-60 minutes. To check if the cake is ready, insert a skewer in the middle of the cake after approx. 45 minutes. If it comes out clean then the Vasilopita is ready.
  14. Leavt the cake on a rack to cool down completely before dusting with icing sugar.
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