A delicious Vasilopita recipe (Greek new year cake), infused with the aromas and blends of oranges and garnished with a thick and glossy vanilla scented sugar glaze!
This is my family’s Vasilopita recipe with which we welcome the New Year together with friends and loved ones for over 30 years. So read on to discover how to make my traditional Greek New Years cake to perfection with my tips and tricks, step by step photos, my tips on how to decorate it, how to store it and of course the recipe!
The tradition of Vasilopita cake (Greek new years cake)
Vasilopita is the traditional Greek cake or bread served at midnight on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the life of Saint Basil. After baking the Vasilopita cake, a coin is inserted through the base. When cut, the person who finds the coin is said to be granted luck for the rest of the year!
Vasilopita can be made of a variety of doughs, depending on the region, with almost every family having their own unique recipe. There are two main variations of Vasilopita – the cake version, which is this recipe here and the tsoureki dough version, which is the same as an easter Tsoureki and my Tsoureki in a bread machine but rather shaped in a tin!
In most Greek households, the cake is served right after midnight on New Year’s Day, while some also serve it later in the day after the traditional New Year meal and together with some Melomakarona and kourabiedes!
Finally, Vasilopita is often traditionally cut and served in businesses and associations, usually during the first week of the year as a token to welcome the new year with health and prosperity. And of course, the member or employee that finds the coin is given money or a special gift!
What you’ll need to make Vasilopita cake the traditional way
As my Vasilopita recipe resembles a cake, you’ll notice a lot of the ingredients are things that you’ll already have in your cupboard. The cake basics of butter, sugar and eggs together with self-raising flour and vanilla are all there!
However there are two secret ingredients to my Vasilopita recipe: Oranges and Greek Yoghurt! The flavour of my Greek new Year cake comes from the oranges and you’ll want both orange juice and zest to give it that tangy, citrus flavour that will amaze you.
I also add traditional Greek Yoghurt which adds texture to the cake, making it soft, delicate and fluffy, in the same way as you’ll often see in muffin recipes and of course my traditional greek yoghurt cake soaked in syrup!
Finally, I love decorating my traditional Greek Vasilopita with a simple icing sugar glaze made with just three ingredients – icing sugar, either water or milk and a little vanilla extract for some extra flavour.
Traditional Greek New Year’s Cake key preparation steps
Making this traditional Greek New Year’s cake is similar to lots of other cake recipes with just that one special step around the good luck coin. You can break it down into four main steps:
- Prepare the cake dough
- Bake the cake
- Add the New Year coin
- Finish with the glaze and decorate
Vasilopita recipe – How to make the perfect Greek New Year’s cake dough!
To make your vasilopita cake dough to perfection you need to make sure your butter-sugar mixture is fluffy and creamy, your egg whites beaten to meringues and the mixtures combined slowly and thoroughly.
Preparing your Butter-sugar mixture: Before you start preparing your Vasilopita cake recipe, make sure that your butter is at room temperature. This will allow it to fully “break up” when creaming it with the sugar.
It is also very important to mix the butter and sugar thoroughly until the butter-sugar mixture is really fluffy and creamy, almost like whipped cream, and at least until the sugar has fully dissolved. Give this step some extra time and the result will definitely reward you.
Adding your egg yolks to the butter-sugar mixture: To avoid the egg-y smell, which can ruin the flavour of your vasilopita, add the egg yolks to your butter-sugar mixture one at a time. Allow each one to be absorbed into the mixture before adding the next one. This will make sure that the eggs emulsify with the butter instead of simply mixing with each other and not incorporating with it!
Preparing your meringues: I’ve tried many vasilopita recipes where the eggs were added whole to the cake mixture. However, I found that this results in a denser vasilopita dough as there is little “air” in the dough.
So, in my recipe the egg whites are beaten into meringues, until they form soft peaks like the picture above, and then combined with the rest of the cake mix. This is my little secret to a more fluffy and airy vasilopita!
Combining your mixtures: Once you are done making your butter-sugar-egg yolk mixture, mix in your orange juice, vanilla, zest and yoghurt. To keep your Vasilopita fluffy, try to knock out as little of the air contained in the meringues as possible!
So, use a marise spatula to incorporate (fold) the flour and meringue in the cake mix. Just add 1/3rd of the flour and meringue, fold with light circular movements and repeat until done. Make sure you fold with gentle motions, trying not to overwork the dough!
Baking your Vasilopita Cake and adding the coin
There are a couple of things to note when baking your Vasilopita cake. Firstly, it is very important that you do not open the oven under any circumstance before 30 minutes of baking have gone by. If you do, it will cause your Vasilopita to deflate and turn flat.
After the full cooking time has elapsed, use a wooden skewer or a toothpick to check if your Vasilopita is done baking. If the toothpick comes out clean it is ready to go!
Finally, before decorating your cake, don’t forget to add the Vasilopita coin! Grab some aluminium foil, wrap your coin tightly all around and insert it on the top of the cake. Then proceed to flip the cake over so the flat surface is pointing up and no-one can guess where the coin is placed! As a plus, the flat surface will make your decorating a breeze!
How to decorate your Vasilopita (Greek New Years cake)
Decorating your New years cake is a really fun activity and you can get your little helpers to give you a hand while enjoying some family time together!
Once the Vasilopita is cooked let it cool down completely. If you add your decorations before the cake is cool, they will melt and run off the cake and of course won’t look as nice!
Personally I love to decorate my Vasilopita with a sugar glaze. I make it with some icing sugar, water and a bit of vanilla, but your imagination is the limit! If you do decorate your Vasilopita with sugar glaze just mix up the glaze with a spatula until it is smooth and glossy.
If the glaze feels too solid add some more water in. If it is too runny just add a bit more icing sugar. The idea is to have a wood-glue-like consistency so it doesn’t run off the cake but also is soft and smooth to eat. Once done, pour it onto the cake and spread evenly with your spatula.
While I love decorating my cake with glaze it isn’t the only option! You can sprinkle some sifted icing sugar on top or even use stencils to create patterns or shapes! You could also decorate it with some melted chocolate, with chocolate sprinkles, nuts or whatever decoration you have in hand and you fancy!
Finally, it is customary that the year number is written on top of the cake. Keep it simple and use a toothpick carve out the number in your glaze or get creative and use some chocolate drops or some M&M’s to make your year shape!
How long will the cake keep?
If you store vasilopita in an airtight container, it will keep for about a week. You can extend its shelf life by popping it in the fridge, where it will last for about 2 weeks.
If you want it to keep for longer, portion out your vasilopita in slices and store them in an airtight container in the freezer! They will keep for a good 2-3 months, which is excellent if you fancy some great cake with some coffee during the week!
Finally, to discover more Greek Christmas traditions and customs to celebrate with your loved ones have a look at my article on Greek Christmas traditions and customs.Print
A delicious vasilopita recipe (Greek New Years cake) infused with the aromas of oranges and garnished with a thick and glossy vanilla glaze! Vasilopita is a traditional Greek cake served at midnight on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the life of Saint Basil. After baking the cake, a coin is inserted through the base and when cut the person who finds the coin is said to be granted luck for the rest of the year!
For the cake
- 375g butter (13oz)
- 600g sugar (21oz, 3 cups)
- 6 eggs (divided into yolks and whites)
- a pinch of salt
- zest of 2 oranges
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 200g yogurt, strained (7oz)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 750g self-rising flour, sifted (26.5oz)
For the glaze
- 450g icing sugar (15.8oz, 3 cups)
- 5 tbsps hot water or milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- To prepare this vasilopita recipe, start by dividing the eggs into yolks and whites. Place the egg whites in the your mixer bowl and add a pinch of salt. Make sure your egg whites, bowl and whisk attachments are clean and free of any water. Whisk the egg whites until the mixture is very thick and glossy and a long trailing peak forms when the whisk is lifted (meringues). Place the mixture in a bowl and set aside.
- Clean out your mixer bowl and add the butter and sugar. Using the paddle hook or the creaming attachments whisk for about 20 minutes, until the butter is creamy and fluffy like whipped cream. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, whilst mixing, allowing time for each one to be absorbed, before adding the next. Pour in the orange juice, the vanilla extract, the orange zest, the yogurt and mix to combine.
- Remove the bowl from your mixer and add 1/3rd of the sifted flour and blend with a spatula. Add 1/3rd of the meringues and blend with light circular movements from the bottom up. Repeat with the rest of the flour and meringue, adding 1/3rd of the flour, mix, add 1/3rd meringue until all your ingredients are combined.
- To bake the vasilopita, preheat the oven to 200C / 390F using both top and bottom heating elements. Alternatively set to 180C/356F fan.
- It’s now time to prepare your baking tin. Select a non stick cake tin approx. 30-35cm in diameter (12-14 inch). Butter your vasilopita tin and dust with some flour. Alternatively, line with some parchment paper. Pour in your vasilopita mixture and spread it evenly with your spatula.
- Place the cake tin in the preheated oven, on the lower third rack, turn the heat down to 175C / 350F or 160C/320F fan and bake for approximately 60 minutes, until nicely coloured and cooked through. Make sure you don’t open the oven in the first 30 minutes of baking as your Vasilopita will collapse! Stick a wooden skewer or toothpick in the middle of the cake to check if your cake is ready. If it comes out clean, then your vasilopita cake is done!
- Let your vasilopita cake cool down completely and invert the pan on a plate. If its not cold it may break! Using a second plate, invert again so the top of the cake is on top. Wrap a coin with aluminium foil and stick it in the cake. Invert the vasilopita on a serving platter with the bottom of the cake facing upwards. Having a completely flat surface will make your glaze go on so much easier and will be nice and flat.
- Prepare the glaze for your Greek new year’s cake. In a large bowl add all the ingredients and blend with a spatula until the glaze is smooth and glossy. If needed, add a little bit more hot water. The glaze should have a glue like consistency but be perfectly smooth when blending with the spatula. Top the vasilopita with the glaze and even out with a flat spatula. Don’t forget to carve the number of the year on top of the glaze or use some toasted almonds to shape it! Enjoy!
- Serving Size: 1 piece
- Calories: 616kcal
- Sugar: 60.9g
- Sodium: 180.8mg
- Fat: 21.9g
- Saturated Fat: 12.8g
- Unsaturated Fat: 7.8g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 97.3g
- Fiber: 1.3g
- Protein: 8.6g
- Cholesterol: 121.8mg
Keywords: Vasilopita, Greek New Year's cake recipe, Saint Basil's cake, Vasilopita coin
Recipe image gallery:
Oh and you can always read this delicious recipe in Greek here Συνταγή για Βασιλόπιτα κέικ.15.8