Vasilopita as Greek tradition dictates, is cut by families on New Year’s Day to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year. This is usually done at midnight of New Year’s Eve in Greece. A coin is hidden in the bread by slipping it into the dough before baking. At midnight, the sign of the cross is etched with a knife across the cake. A piece of cake is sliced for each member of the family and any visitors present at the time, by order of age from eldest to youngest. Slices are also cut for various symbolic people or groups, depending on local and family tradition. They may include the Lord, St. Basil and other saints or the poor, the household, etc. The variations of the recipes are countless.
But where did this custom come from?
In popular tradition, vasilopita is associated with a legend of Saint Basil. According to one story, St. Basil called on the citizens of Caesarea to raise a ransom payment to stop the siege of the city. Each member of the city gave whatever they had in gold and jewelry. When the ransom was raised, the enemy was so embarrassed by the act of collective giving that he called off the siege without collecting payment. St. Basil was then tasked with returning the unpaid ransom, but had no way to know which items belonged to which family. So he baked all of the jewelry into loaves of bread and distributed the loaves to the city, and by a miracle (some believe that the miracle took place after the Divine intervention of Saint Mercurius, along with some angels), each citizen received their exact share, as the legend goes. In some variations of the story, the sieging chieftain is replaced with an evil emperor levying a tax, or simply with St. Basil attempting to give charity to the poor without embarrassing them.
VASILOPITA / NEW YEARS CAKE
*1cup butter, softened to room temperature
*2 cups granulated sugar
*5 large eggs
*2 tablespoons water
*2 teaspoons vanilla extract
*3 cups all-purpose flour
*1 teaspoon ground mahlep
*1 teaspoon baking powder
*1/2 cup slivered almonds
*2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Make sure the butter is softened to room temperature. Add the butter and granulated sugar to a large bowl and beat on medium speed using an electric mixer until well combined.
Separate 3 of the eggs and add the yokes one at a time, beating on medium speed into the butter as you do. Add the two whole eggs one at a time and beat those into the mixture until well combined. Set aside the 3 egg whites.
Sift the flour, optional mahleb, and baking powder together into a large bowl. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, beating on low speed until well combined.
Add the 3 egg whites to a medium bowl and whip vigorously using a whisk until they’re foamy. Fold the egg whites into the batter using a rubber spatula.
Spray a 10 x 4 tube pan with cooking spray and pour the batter into the pan. Add the coin to the batter and distribute batter evenly into the pan using a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the almonds and sesame seeds onto the top of the batter.
Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for approximately 70 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Happy New Year💫
Source: Greek Reporter
Recipe adapted from Greek Boston