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Vasilopita - Greek New Year's Cake recipe

Vasilopita - Greek New Year's Cake recipe

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  • Recipes
  • Dish type
  • Cake

Traditional Greek New Year's bread. The person who receives the coin inside gets good luck for 1 year!

113 people made this

IngredientsServes: 12

  • 250g butter
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 350g plain flour
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 250ml warm milk (45 degrees C)
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons flaked almonds
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar

MethodPrep:30min ›Cook:1hr ›Ready in:1hr30min

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C / Gas mark 4. 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 the mixture is mealy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Combine the baking powder and milk, add to the egg mixture, mix well. Then combine the lemon juice and bicarb, stir into the batter. Pour into the prepared cake tin.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven. 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. Gently cut a small hole in the cake and place a coin in the hole. Try to cover the hole with sugar. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes before inverting onto a plate.
  4. Serve cake warm. Each person in the family gets a slice starting with the youngest. The person who gets the coin in his or her piece gets good luck for the whole year!


Wrap the coin in aluminium foil before sliding it into the cake.

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Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(71)

Reviews in English (63)

Very easy to make and the cake was delicious. Intend to make it again on New Year's Day 2015-28 Dec 2014

I followed the recipe but it is too runny. It won't set. Oh dear-31 Dec 2016

Great recipe - light and spongy! I put the coin in before baking and it worked perfectly! Will definitely be making it again next year.-02 Jan 2015

St. Basil's Cake

On New Year’s Day, a happy custom observed in almost every household in the country is about a sweet-tasting lucky treat: Vasilopita (meaning St. Basil’s Cake). Across Greece, recipes are quite a few they all have one basic ingredient though: the much sought-after flouri [lucky coin]! Here’s the story behind this centuries-old tradition!

Variations & recipes

Looking for the origin of the Vasilopita custom, we’ll take you on a trip back to the Greek antiquity period. Ancient Greeks would offer bread and honey-kneaded sweets to honour the gods during the major harvest festivals. Today the New Year’s Day Cake/Pie custom is kept everywhere in Greece, and the variety of recipes used is connected to the culinary tradition of each area: sweet bread, cake or tsoureki phyllo dough sheet sweet or savoury pies made in Macedonia and Epirus, as these two areas are well-known for their traditional pie-making. In Athens, the most popular recipe for the New Year’s Day Cake is the one called Politiki Vasilopita and the main ingredients are flour, eggs, sugar and milk: it comes in all shapes and types but usually it is a sweet puffy cake.

Here’s a hint about the variety of vasilopita ingredients used across the country: On Zante Island, bread is kneaded with sourdough, almonds and spices on Crete it is kneaded with tsikoudia (or raki – a local strong spirit) and powdered mastic drops in the north of Greece, locals prepare a pie made with sesame or a sweet pumpkin pie on Lesvos Island it is made with myzithra cheese in Epirus Region pies are filled with meat (lamb or pork), feta cheese and plenty of spearmint.

There are also differences in the way they are decorated or sized, although some decorations are used on most Vasilopitas: the number of the New Year is written with blanched almonds or with sugar (on a sweet cake) a round shape and flouri, a coin which may sometimes be a gold or a silver one, placed in the dough before or after it is baked.
Try: Vasilopita with citrus fruit

The gold coin custom

According to tradition, when St. Basil was bishop of Caesarea, in Cappadocia (modern day Central Anatolia), the then Prefect of Cappadocia visited the town to collect taxes. The scared Caesareans, following the advice of their prelate, gathered whatever precious items they possessed and went out to greet the prefect. Saint Basil managed to persuade him not to deprive the locals of their valuables. Then, a new problem arose: how to return the precious items to their rightful owners! St. Basil asked the locals to prepare small pies and then he placed one piece inside each pie. By miracle, each one got back the item they owned!

The star of the day

The table on New Year’s Day is laid with an assortment of delicious-looking dishes and traditional sweets with honey such as mouthwatering melomakarona, fried pancakes, loukoumades and diples, yet the star of the day is none other than vasilopita!

The cake (or pie) is a symbol of good luck for the new year and everyone gathers around the table in happy anticipation of the cutting process, as, according to popular belief, the person who finds the lucky coin (flouri) will have good fortune all year long!! It is customary for the householder to make the sign of the cross on the cake with a knife and then start cutting the pieces and naming the owner of each piece: the first piece is for Christ, the second is for Virgin Mary, the third is for St. Basil, the fourth is for the house, (some people also cut a piece for the poor), and the following pieces are given to family members by order of age. In villages, the livestock, the family field, the fishing boat or the mill all get their own piece of the cake.

How to Cut a Vasilopita

On New Year’s Eve when the clock strikes 12, after everyone wishes each other a new year it is time for cutting the vasilopita. Traditionally there is a religious aspect, so the host of the house is the one who cuts the cake. The first piece is for Christ, the second for the virgin Mary, the third for the house and then follows a piece for the hosts, following by the oldest relatives and moving to the youngest. If a family member is away on a trip they are also included. We also included our pets.

If you are celebrating New Years’ s with friends and you are cutting a vasilopita, they all should get pieces. Anyone who is present at the gathering should get a piece.

Vasilopita is not only cut in families, but also businesses, clubs, associations and ministries. All have vasilopites that they cut during the first few weeks of the year. The concept of the coin applies to all the employees and members and is attached to a larger gift such as a television.

Vassilopita, Greek New Year’s Cake Recipe

Vasilopita is the traditional Greek New Year’s cake served at midnight on New Year’s Eve. This cake is infused with the aromas of orange, butter, and mastic!

After baking the vasilopita, a coin is inserted through the base and when served in slices, the person who finds the coin is said to be granted luck for the rest of the year!

Vasilopita is made with different kinds of dough, such as cake and tsoureki (sweet bread). This is my favorite recipe for Greek New Year’s cake, as my mother passed it on to me. It is a very special cake, infused with the wonderful aromas of orange and mastic.

In this vasilopita recipe, we beat the egg whites into meringue, and this is the secret to fluffy and velvet vasilopita batter. All ingredients should be at room temperature, and (can’t point this out enough) always sift the flour when baking a cake.

You can always see the recipe in video (in Greek) here, and of course, in English, right below the recipe. Happy baking and my best wishes for 2019!


Vasilopita is a traditional Greek cake that is eaten as a family for Saint Basil’s Day (January 1). It is also called “New Year’s Day Cake”.

It is customary to hide a coin or a bean inside the cake before baking. This coin is supposed to bring good luck to the person who finds it. Vasilopita takes the form of a bread or a cake, depending on the region in which it is made.

What is vasilopita?

Vasilopita (Greek: Βασιλόπιτα) is a traditional cake that is eaten for New Year in Greece and the Balkans. The cake contains a hidden coin or piece of jewelry that is supposed to bring good luck to whoever finds it in their slice of the cake.

There are several recipes for vasilopita. Depending on the region in Greece, this cake comes in the form of a cake or bread. The tradition of a coin hidden in the cake continues to this day.

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Vasilopita is rich in flavor, due to the presence of orange peel and typical ingredients such as mahleb and mastic. It is a very fragrant white cake similar to Savoy or pound cake, and which has the quality of having a fairly dense texture.

This cake and associated traditions are also found in the Balkan region, particularly in Ukraine, Serbia, Albania and Bulgaria. It’s also known as Chronópita (Χρονόπιτα), which literally means “New Year’s pie”.

What is the origin of vasilopita?

Etymologically, the term pita (πίτα) refers to the word “tart” or “cake”. The name βασιλόπιτα also comes from βασιλεύς which means “king”.

There are several legends surrounding the tradition of vasilopita. But all the legends often associate the vasilopita with the feast of Saint Basil, on January 1st.

As the city of Caesarea was under siege, Saint Basil of Caesarea (329 – 379), Archbishop of Cappadocia, called on the citizens to gather their most precious effects and possessions to end the enemy attack led by the Roman legions.

Each citizen gave all he could in gold, precious stones and jewelry. Faced with such an act of collective donation, the Roman enemy was so astonished, that the siege of the city was called off without even receiving payment.

The party was there. Saint Basil then set out to return the valuables donated but did not know who each object belonged to. He then prepared several loaves of bread in which he buried all the wealth given by the citizens.

Then he randomly distributed each loaf of bread across town. According to legend, each citizen miraculously received exactly what they gave to end the siege of the city. Since this event, peace has returned to the city of Caesarea.

What is mahleb?

Mahleb or mahalepi (μαχλέμπι) is a spice that is made from the kernel of the black cherry of the Saint Lucia wood (Prunus mahaleb). In Greece, it is found in traditional recipes such as tsoureki bread, New Year’s vasilopita, or the braid of Easter bread. It is used in small quantities because its aroma is very strong.

Traditions & rituals around vasilopita

The tradition of vasilopita brings families together for New Year’s Day. A coin is hidden in the cake before baking. On January 1 at midnight, it is customary to carve a cross with the tip of a knife on the surface of the cake.

Then a part is cut for Jesus Christ, a second part for the Virgin Mary and a third for the poor. Then, each family member is given a slice of cake, in order of age from oldest to youngest. According to some local traditions, slices of cake are reserved for symbolic members such as Saint Basil or other saints.

Vasilopita with a Twist – Greek New Year’s Cake

I hope you had a beautiful Christmas with your friends and family. I can’t believe that the New Year is t-minus a few days away! The countdown to New Year’s begins!

I have been making vasilopita (Greek New Year’s cake) for years and years but I was getting tired of the same cake each year. I wanted something exciting with a twist, of course. As I was talking with my friend in Athens a few days ago, we were talking about foods of course and 2 foods that came to mind were vasilopita and bougatsa. Bougatsa is a phyllo custard pie and you can find the recipe here. I loved the two ideas together but wasn’t sure how that would work, so I started on a little twist. I thought what if I created a chocolate center in the middle of the vasilopita? It worked and I really enjoyed this moist chocolatey vanilla marble-like cake. I hope you enjoy too!

Why Vasilopita is so special to me!

As a child, this was one of my favorite things about the holidays along with lots of food and presents! Family members would gather around the table just before the clock strikes 12 and my mother would cut each person a slice of the New Year’s cake. I remember everyone’s excitement while cutting Vasilopita. The first thing my brother and I would do was to check the bottom of our cake slice to see if we won the lucky coin! Even if we didn’t win we still got to enjoy cake late at night! The leftover Vasilopita makes an excellent breakfast with milk or coffee.

The ritual of Vasilopita is without any doubt one of the traditions I will always cherish with my family. It is fun and brings the family together! Give this recipe a try and it might become your family’s tradition as well!

Vasilopita Recipe

Kathy Tsaples

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.

New Year's Cake from Constantinople (Vasilopita Politiki)

Dissolve the yeast in a cup with a little warm water (about 1/3 cup). Pour the yeast mixture into a bowl and add 2 tablespoons of flour, so that you get a thin mush. Leave the mixture to rise until bubbles are created.

Mix in a bowl the flour with baking powder, salt and spices. Open one puddle in the center and add inside sugar, milk, eggs with the yolks slightly beaten and finally the yeast. Take the flour a little by little from around the puddle and knead a soft dough. Dip your hands in warm butter and continue kneading until the butter is finished and incorporated into the dough. Cover the dough with a wet towel and leave it in a warm place for 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours approximately to rise.

Shape the cake in the shape of your choice and place it on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Do not forget to put the coin for good luck! Leave the cake covered in a warm place to double in volume for about 30 minutes.

Brush the surface of the cake with an egg yolk beaten with a little water, sprinkle it with almonds and bake it in a preheated oven at 200° C for 20'-30' until it turns golden brown. Leave the cake to cool off.

If you bake the cake a lot earlier than the dinner, you should cover it with plastic wrap so as to prevent it from drying.

Squeeze the juice of an orange in a bowl and add the raisins to soften them. They will get a lovely orange flavor!

For the New Years Cake we like to use Metaxa , a very special kind of brandy. This Greek cognac is an old brand from 1888.

Make the mixture and put it in a round baking dish which is buttered and floured.

Then, with no one looking, put in the coin somewhere at the side. Do not put the coin in the middle as chances are that in that case more people will get the coin-).

Bake for more or less 45-50 minutes. When you take the cake out of the oven let it cool down a little. Put the Vasilopita on a nice plate and decorate it with icing sugar. Get some delicious pomegranates and ‘write’ the year on top of the cake!

We at Odyssey wish you lots of fun with this Greek tradition. Don’t forget to bless the Vasilopita and dedicate the pieces to everything and everyone that you love. We hope you will be the one to find the coin!