Vasilopita New Years Day Cake
Vasilopita is a traditional Greek cake prepared and enjoyed to celebrate the New Year. This cake is moist and aromatic with flavours of orange and cinnamon and hidden inside the cake is a coin. It is thought that the family member who is fortunate enough to receive the coin in their slice is said to have good luck for the rest of the year.
There are many variations to a Vasilopita recipe. Some are bread-like, whilst others are sweet and similar to cake. This gluten-free Vasilopita is more like cake than bread. It was put together with the help of my sister-in-law's original recipe. It is perfectly crumbly, well balanced, creamy and aromatic as orange zest, cinnamon and nutmeg are added.
The History of St. Basil and about the Vasilopita Tradition
During the 4th Century, at a time of terrible famine, the emperor levied an excessive tax upon the people of Caesarea. The tax was such a heavy burden upon the already impoverished people that to avoid debtors' prison each family had to relinquish its few remaining coins and pieces of jewelry. Learning of this injustice, St. Basil the Great, the archbishop of Caesarea, took up his bishop's staff and the book of the Holy Gospels and came to his people's defense by fearlessly calling the emperor to repentance. And the emperor did repent! He canceled the tax and instructed his tax collectors to turn over to St. Basil all of the chests containing the coins and jewelry which had been paid as taxes by the people of Caesarea.
But now St. Basil was faced with the daunting and impossible task of returning these thousands of coins and pieces of jewelry to their rightful owners. After praying, St. Basil had all the treasures baked into one huge loaf. He then called all the townspeople to prayer, and, after the Divine Liturgy, he blessed and cut the loaf, giving a piece to each person.
Miraculously, each owner received in his piece of Vasilopita his own valuables. They all joyfully returned home, giving thanks to God who had delivered them from abject poverty and to their good and holy bishop St. Basil the Great! In remembrance of that miracle wrought by God as a result of St. Basil's love and defense of his people, Orthodox Christians have observed the tradition of the Vasilopita each year on the 1st of January.
Now before we get to the recipe, here are a few helpful tips for you, and be sure to watch my video below to see how easy it is to make!
VASILOPITA INGREDIENTS :
Gluten-Free Self Raising Flour is used in this recipe. It keeps the Vasilopita moist and fluffy. Make sure you sift the flour before adding it to the mixture as this helps promote consistency in the baking results.
Almond Flour is used in this recipe as it adds a very mild sweetness (to make up for the reduced sugar) plus it adds richness to the texture and flavour.
Butter and LIGHT Olive Oil. Both of these fats are added to my Vasilopita. Light olive oil is used as it is milder in flavour than olive oil plus it tends to bake up loftier with a more even crumb and stay moist and tender for longer than cakes made with just butter. Butter is added as it allows for steam and carbon dioxide to be trapped in the batter as it bakes, which causes the cake to rise. The butter also helps to create a light and tender texture in the cake batter.
Mahlepi powder is made from the inner kernels of fruit pits from a native Persian cherry tree. Once the stone is cracked to release the kernel, it is ground into a white, sandy-coloured powder used in baked goods, particularly in Middle-Eastern and Greek cooking.
Freshly squeezed Orange Juice and Zest gives the Vasilopita citrus and a slightly tangy flavour. The zest especially packs a punch of fresh flavour and balances well with the added spices.
Why do I need to cream the butter and sugar? In creaming the butter and sugar together, you are using the sugar to aerate the butter. The more aerated the batter, the lighter in texture the cake will be and the finer the crumb.
Why should I gradually add the ingredients into the mixer rather than all at once? Mixing this way guarantees a smooth batter that doesn't separate, thus making for a light and delicate baked cake.
Why is the oven temperature so low and the cake takes so long to cook? Baking at a lower temperature slows the spring in the cake, which prevents a dome from forming on your cake. You should end up with a flat-ish and evenly baked cake.
And now it’s time to start cooking! As always, if you make any of my recipes, I would love to hear your feedback. Don’t forget to save it on your Pinterest board as well! I have a board named CreateCookShare that you can follow and save. Can’t wait to hear from you.
Be Well, Margaret x
GLUTEN FREE VASILOPITA
Springform pan 26cm in diameter
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
350g self-raising flour, gluten-free, sifted
200g almond flour
250g butter, at room temperature
200ml light olive oil
200ml freshly squeezed orange juice
100g caster sugar
100g brown sugar
6 eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup orange zest
2 teaspoons Mahlepi
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup flaked almonds
Optional for decorating:
Slices of orange
1. Preheat oven to 160C fan force. Lightly grease and line a 26cm springform pan or round baking dish.
2. Beat the butter, caster sugar and brown sugar with an electric mixer until butter is lighter in colour (approx. 3-4 minutes). Scrape down the sides every minute to combine well.
3. Whilst the electric mixer is on, add one egg at a time and beat until combined well. Next add in the mahlepi, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking powder and orange zest.
4. Add half the flour, almond flour, light olive oil and orange juice and continue beating until well combined. Then add the remaining second half of the ingredients and continue beating until well combined and creamy (approx. 2-3 minutes).
5. Pour the cake mixture into the baking dish and garnish with almond flakes around the outer circle of the cake. (Optional to insert a coin wrapped in baking paper and foil at this stage or after it is baked). Place cake into the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
6. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Check if the cake is cooked by inserting a toothpick in the centre, and if it comes out clean it is ready. If the cake browns too quickly, place a piece of baking paper over the top during the final 15 minutes.
7. Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 15 minutes before removing from pan. Allow to completely cool on a rack after removing.
8. At this point you can insert a coin (wrapped in baking paper and foil) into the bottom of the cake (if you did not do so before the baking process). Place onto a cake plate and sprinkle with icing sugar. Optional to decorate with flowers, Greek basil leaves and orange slices (as seen in photo).