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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 hidden inside which brings a year filled with luck for whoever finds the coin in their peice of cake!

Ingredients

  • 500 gr all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • a pinch of salt
  • 300 gr icing sugar
  • 250 gr unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp clove
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 orange for its peel
  • 120 ml of fresh orange juice
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 120 ml milk
  • 80 ml cognac or brandy
  • 200 gr of 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 with the baking powder into a mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Separate the eggs and beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt into a meringue. Set aside, you will add the meringue to the cake batter at the last step.
  4. In 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. Then start adding the egg yolks one by one, 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. Lower the power of your mixer and start adding the flour, milk and cognac in turns. When everything has been incoporated you can add the nuts.
  5. Last step will be to gently fold in the meringue.
  6. 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.
  7. Place the tin in the preheated oven and bake for 50-60 minutes. To check if the cake is ready, stick a wooden skewer in the middle of the cake after approx. 45 minutes. If it comes out clean then the Vasilopita is ready.
  8. Once out of the oven, rest the cake on a rack and let it cool down completely before decorating with icing sugar. It is important to wait until the cake has completely cooled down first otherwise the icing sugar will become wet and turn yellow.
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