Vasilopita: A Tasty Tradition Bringing Good Luck to Greek New Year Celebrations


In Greece, the onset of the New Year is accompanied by the delightful tradition of slicing into a special cake called vasilopita. This unique cake, which can be either a true cake or a sweet bread, holds a surprise inside and plays a central role in New Year's celebrations.

As the clock strikes twelve and the calendar turns over, custom dictates that the head of the table makes the sign of the cross over the vasilopita. Each slice is then carefully cut while the intended recipient's name is called out. The first piece is dedicated to Jesus, the second to the Virgin Mary, and the third to the household. The subsequent slices are distributed among those present, with the first one typically going to the head of the household and the rest distributed based on age. In some families, even absent members and pets receive a piece, adding to the festive tradition.

What sets Vasilopita apart is the hidden prize within—usually a coin wrapped in foil or specifically designed for this purpose. Receiving the coin is believed to bring good luck, often accompanied by tangible gifts. The term "vasilopita" is a fusion of two Greek words: "pita," which refers to various pastries, and "Vassilis," the Greek name for St. Basil. St. Basil, whose feast day falls on January 1, is linked to the vasilopita tradition, where a coin is baked into the cake, echoing a historical event involving the saint.

St. Basil the Great
Vasilopita: A Tasty Tradition Bringing Good Luck to Greek New Year Celebrations 1

The vasilopita can take various forms, with the vanilla-orange cake and sweet bread being the most common. However, savory versions also exist, featuring ingredients like cheese, chicken, onions, tomatoes, and more. The sweet variations allow for experimentation with ingredients such as dried fruits, chocolate chips, honey, tahini, and even sesame paste. Some bready vasilopitas are crafted to be lighter and more brioche-like in texture.

In Greece, vasilopitas are widely available in the lead-up to New Year's Day and continue to be enjoyed throughout the following month. Greek bakeries, such as Victory Sweet Shop in Queens, New York, and Pan Hellenic Pastries in Chicago, are go-to spots for those seeking an authentic vasilopita. Additionally, church-affiliated organizations, like the St. Irene Philoptochos Society in New Jersey, often source their cakes from reputable monasteries.

Ordering Vasilopita online is a convenient option for those not close to Greek-run establishments. Retailers like Athos Foods in Pennsylvania and Liberty Greek Pastries in New Jersey offer this festive treat to ensure that the vasilopita tradition continues, bringing luck and joy to celebrants near and far.

If you are looking to buy Vasilopita in Australia, here are some options:

Olympian Foods: Olympian Foods is an online store that sells Greek food products, including Vasilopita. You can purchase Vasilopita from their website.
Anastasia’s Kouzina: Anastasia’s Kouzina is a wholesale supplier of Greek biscuits and sweets in Sydney. They offer Vasilopita infused with the aromas and blends of oranges, brandy, walnuts, and spices.

Athena Cake Shop sells then in Marricvile, NSW.

Nikos Cakes in Melbourne.

Vanilla, who is also in Melbourne

Here is a recipe for Vasilopita that you can try at home:

- 250g butter
- 2 cups (440g) white sugar
- 3 cups (375g) plain flour
- 6 eggs
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup (250ml) warm milk
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds
- 2 tablespoons white sugar

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Generously grease a 25cm round cake tin.
2. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light. Stir in the flour and mix until combined-it may be a little dry and crumbly.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
4. Combine the baking powder and milk, add to the egg mixture, mix well.
5. Then combine the lemon juice and baking soda, stir into the batter.
6. Pour into the prepared cake tin.
7. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven.
8. Remove and sprinkle the nuts and sugar over the cake, then return it to the oven for 20 to 30 additional minutes, until cake springs back to the touch.
9. Gently cut a small slit in the cake with a knife and place a coin in it. Try to cover the slit up.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes before inverting onto a plate.

Enjoy your Vasilopita and have a happy New Year! 🎉🎊🎉🎊

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