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Greek New Year's Cake

27 December 2013 / 11:12:16  GRReporter
3135 reads

Danielle Lachana

We return today to Greece to bring in the New Year with a traditional Greek New Year's cake, or sweet bread, named ''Vasilopita''. The cake is named after the orthodox Agios Vasileos, (Saint Basil, also known as Saint Basil the Great ), Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, who is also the Greek Father Christmas who brings presents on New Year's Eve (he died on January 1st 379 AD).

 According to the story, one year Basil helped to recompense the families who had given up their jewellery, precious keepsakes and remaining coins to pay the heavy taxes to the emperor. The Saint managed to make the emperor repent but, after this success, he did not know how to redistribute the relinquished goods among their rightful owners. So, he decided to have them all baked in a large pita (pie) which he then blessed and cut giving a piece to each person who miraculously received his or her own items!

The Vasilopita is now baked every year by Greek households, with a coin, originally a gold sovereign, hidden inside, in his memory.  

Generally at midnight, the cake is etched with a knife in the sign of the cross and then cut, usually by the head of the family, in a special way, and according to tradition as follows:

The first portion is cut for the Lord Jesus Christ, the second for the Virgin Mary, the third for Saint Basil the Great, the other portions are cut for the members of the family beginning with the eldest. Portions may also be cut for the Church, the house, other Saints, the traveller, the visitor and the poor and needy

Whoever finds the coin (flouri) in his or her piece is ensured blessings, good luck and health in the coming year. Often the household will also provide the lucky person with a gift or money.

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RECIPE

 METHOD

Before starting, it is best to have all the ingredients, with the exception of the yoghurt, at room temperature. Sift the flour.

Beat the softened butter together with the sugar until quite light and creamy. (This is best done in an electric mixer). While continuing to beat, but at a lower speed, add the eggs one at a time adding one tablespoon of flour after each addition to help prevent the eggs curdling. Dissolve the baking soda in the brandy and add to the mixture together with the lemon or orange juice, lemon or orange rind and vanilla. Still mixing at a low speed, add one third of the flour followed by one third of the yoghurt, followed by half the remaining flour and half the remaining yoghurt, then the rest (i.e. in three stages). until just combined.

Grease a 30 cm round mould / cake pan with vegetable or sunflower oil. Put the mixture in the tin and bake in a preheated moderate oven at 180 C (350 F, Gas mark 4 ) for about 1½ hours. The cake is ready when a skewer or toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. The top of the cake when pressed lightly should spring back.

Leave to cool in the mould for 5 minutes then remove and leave on a baking rack to cool.

When cold, make a small slit in the underside of the cake with a knife and insert a coin wrapped in aluminium foil.

You can decorate the cake with a dusting of sifted icing sugar, and/or arrange sliced almonds to form the date of the coming year.

Wishing a Happy New Year to all GRReporter readers. Chronia Polla!

Tags: Vasilopita Greek New year's Cake. Mediterranean recipes Traditional Greek Saint Basil recipes 2014
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