Vasilopita is a New Year’s Cake, which can be either a cake or, as is tradition where I come from, a meat pie (Kreatopita or Kotopita).
A coin is discreetly placed in the pie, and, as per an old Byzantine custom,⠀
we slice the Vasilopita. The person who finds the coin hidden in his or her slice gets good luck for the year.⠀
On New Year’s Day, we would decorate the table and my father would sit in the middle. It was his job to turn the pie three times: once for the Virgin Mary, once for Christ and once for the house.
Following this, he slices a piece for everyone in the family, starting with the eldest. We would all then stab our piece to find the coin before devouring the amazing pie that Mum had made.
This is my recipe for Vasilopita (The cake of Agios Vasilis – the Greek name for Santa Claus):
4 cups of self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp vanilla powder
1 cup of sunflower or grapeseed oil
1 cup of warm milk
1 cup of orange juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp each of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg
2 cups of caster sugar
Beat the oil and the sugar using the paddle-wheel attachment of an electric mixer.
Add the vanilla powder and beat eggs until the mixture is creamy and fluffy.
Quickly stir the baking soda into the cup of orange juice; it will bubble away. Pour it into the mixture and continue to beat at a low speed. Add the spices while still beating, then add the warm milk and fold in the flour.
Take a one-dollar coin and wrap it in foil.
Butter a large (40cm) baking disk or two small cake pans.
Pour the cake mixture into the baking dish. Insert the coin in a spot close to the edge.