Greek New Year's Cake, Vasilopita
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!
- 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
- 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.
- Put the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and set aside.
- 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.
- Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and 300g of icing sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, vanilla extract and orange peel zest.
- Add the egg yolks one at a time, allowing each one to be fully incorporated.
- 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.
- Turn the mixer to a low setting and start adding the flour, milk and cognac in turns.
- When everything has been incoporated you can add the nuts.
- Finally, gently fold in the beaten egg whites.
- Pour the cake batter in the prepared tin.
- Now is the time to insert the “lucky” coin. Don’t push it too deep. Gently make sure it’s dipped in the batter.
- 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.
- Leavt the cake on a rack to cool down completely before dusting with icing sugar.