In every Greek home and within each family a tradition is celebrated during New Years Eve, just after midnight. With all that are present we cut the Vasilopita; the Greek New Years Cake!
The recipe for the Vasilopita differs from place to place. Sometimes it is prepared with butter, milk and eggs, based on a recipe from Constantinople. In Northern Greece in Macedonia the New Years Cake is salty and made with cheese and filo dough. Sometimes the Vasilopita is made simply with orange and nuts, such as my recipe of today, which actually is my grandmothers!
A hidden coin
What all Vasilopita have in common, is that they have a coin hidden inside somewhere, that can not be seen from the outside! It is exactly this that makes the cake a Vasilopita (The cake of Ai Vasilis – the Greek name for Santa Claus). We prepare this cake on the last day of the year and decorate it with almonds, sugar or dough stripes, depending on the family tradition. More often than not, it has the numbers of the new year on top of it.
Blessing the Vasilopita
At precisely 12.00 o’clock at midnight, with the turn of the year, we turn off the lights. After a minute we turn it back on and wish everyone a Happy New Year and Many years in good health. The mother of the family brings in the Vasilopita and puts it on the table. The father of the family blesses the New Years Cake by making 3 times a cross with a knife on top of it. After that he starts cutting the cake into triangular pieces for each member of the family or group of friends and relatives that have gathered.
The first piece is dedicated to the house, the family or to Christ. The successive pieces are then for the father who is cutting the cake, the next for the mother who made the cake, and so all other members of family and friends get a turn. The last piece is dedicated to the poor without forgetting any other family persons who for various reasons are not able to attend. We sometimes even cut pieces for subjects that are important for the family. So my father would not only cut a piece for our family restaurant, but also for the tractor he used in his quarry or for his fishing boat to catch lots of fish.
Finding the coin
The new year will be very successful for the person that finds the coin in the piece of the Vasilopita. He, she or it will be healthy, lucky and have lots of success the whole year through. In Greece this is still a vibrant and very important tradition, whose roots go way back in history. If you like to enjoy this tradition, bake along with us and have a happy healthy New Year!
Squeeze the juice of an orange in a bowl and add the raisins to soften them. They will get a lovely orange flavor!
For the New Years Cake we like to use Metaxa, a very special kind of brandy. This Greek cognac is an old brand from 1888.
Make the mixture and put it in a round baking dish which is buttered and floured.
Then, with no one looking, put in the coin somewhere at the side. Do not put the coin in the middle as chances are that in that case more people will get the coin;-).
Bake for more or less 45-50 minutes. When you take the cake out of the oven let it cool down a little. Put the Vasilopita on a nice plate and decorate it with icing sugar. Get some delicious pomegranates and ‘write’ the year on top of the cake!
We at Odyssey wish you lots of fun with this Greek tradition. Don’t forget to bless the Vasilopita and dedicate the pieces to everything and everyone that you love. We hope you will be the one to find the coin!
A very happy New Year to all of you!!!