Vasilopita: New Year’s Cake
Light, with a hint of citrus!
Baking a vasilopita is a fun New Year’s tradition in our household. It’s particularly entertaining since there is a coin hidden inside the cake, and whoever receives the piece with the coin is considered blessed and gets good luck for the year!
Most recipes for vasilopita are either too rich and heavy, or too bland. This recipe, however, strikes the perfect balance as it results in a deliciously light and fluffy cake, with just enough citrus flavoring to be tasty but not overpowering.
This recipe has been in my family for generations, and was transcribed into English by my yiayia (Greek for grandmother). Yiayia, this post is for you. May your memory be eternal!
- 1 stick of butter or margarine
- 6 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups of sugar
- I prefer Baking Truvia, but regular white sugar works too
- 3 1/2 cups of flour
- 2 1/4 cups of orange juice
- With pulp or without pulp both work
- 2 lemons
- 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
- Optional: 2 small coins (such as quarters), each wrapped in aluminum foil
Here is a link to the Baking Truvia I use:
This recipe makes enough for two round 9 inch cake pans. I use these from Anolon:
An electric mixer will also come in handy. I use one from Hamilton Beach:
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Step 2: Melt the stick of butter or margarine
Place the stick of butter or margarine in a small bowl and place it in the microwave for one minute (or until it is fully melted). Then add it to a mixing bowl. This will make blending it in with the other ingredients far easier.
Step 3: Add the eggs, sugar, and 2 cups of flour, then mix
Add to the mixing bowl (that has the melted stick of butter or margarine) the following ingredients: 6 eggs, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, and 2 cups of flour. Note that I break up adding the flour to the mixing bowl in two steps, as adding it all here can make it very difficult to stir. Mix the batter until fully blended and looks like this:
Step 4: Add the remaining flour and orange juice, then mix
Add to the mixing bowl the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour and 2 1/4 cups of orange juice. Mix again until fully blended. Don’t worry if the batter seems a bit watery – it will bake perfectly! The batter should look like this:
Step 5: Create the lemon volcano!
Please note that this step, while fun, is actually quite crucial and if not done correctly then the vasilopita will not come out right!
Cut the two lemons and squeeze the juice into one bowl. In a separate bowl, add the 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda.
Hold the bowl with baking soda over the mixing bowl (do not pour in yet!), and add the lemon juice to the bowl with baking soda, then quickly stir. This will result in a rapid reaction that produces a foam – keep stirring and allow the resulting foam to fall into the mixing bowl (as shown in the picture below). Once all of the foam has fallen into the mixing bowl (should only take a few seconds), immediately mix until fully blended with the other ingredients.
As a fun aside, I always use this step to try to explain some fun chemistry to my children! The acid from the lemon juice reacts to the base from the baking soda to create a classic acid-base reaction.
Step 6: Pour the batter into the two cake pans
Step 7: Bake for 35-40 minutes
Use a fork or knife to make sure the batter is fully cooked (it should have the light and fluffy texture of a cake, and not the creamy texture of a custard). The vasilopita should come out golden brown:
Note that if you are hiding a coin in the vasilopita, the ideal time to add the coin into the cake pan is after it has been in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. Any earlier, and it will simply fall to the bottom; any later, and it won’t be able to sit in the middle and get concealed by the rising cake!
Step 8: Garnish and serve!
Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries pair particularly well with the citrus hint from this recipe:
Since it is a New Year’s cake, we often write the year on the vasilopita with fruit!
Enjoy, and Happy New Year!
Did you try this recipe? How did it turn out? Let me know in the comments below!
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