Vasilopita is a sweet pie prepared in many different ways in the various regions of Greece. The name comes from Saint Basil (Vasilis) who’s memory is celebrated on January 1st . Saint Basil is the Greek version of Santa Clauss as they share the sane red outfit and bring presents to children. Saint Basil comes through the chimney of your house on New Years Eve. According to the tradition Saint Basil comes from Caesarea of Cappadocia.
In Athens the vasilopita is a round yeast type cake with essence of mahleb and it is called ” Politiki Vasilopita” (from Poli or Constantinople which is today Istanbul) . However there is a very popular version of Vasilopita made like a cake. In Northern Greece Vasilopita is a savory pita made with greens and herbs in fyllo dough.
In the dough of the Vasilopita the custom requires to put a coin. In the old times that coin was a golden one.
As the year changes the head of the family makes a cross with a knife on the top of the vasilopita and cuts pieces naming and distributing them to the members of the family. There is a hierarchy in this ritual. The first piece goes to Christ, the second to the house, the third to the father and then the mother, the grandparents , the children of the family in descending age order, and then all the members of the family or any person present in the celebration that day.
The winner of the coin is the lucky person. If the coin goes to Christ it means that there will be protection of the whole family and if it goes to the house, it is also a blessing for the entire household.
I have a very old recipe from my grandmother’s time of a Vasilopita in a cake version and I will share it with you.
320 gr.. unsalted butter
500 gr. sugar
6 eggs separated
600 gr. flour
the juice of 2 oranges
grated peel from 1 orange
1 teaspoon baking soda
120 gr. cognac
First beat the butter adding slowly the sugar to a fluffy mix.
Separate the eggs and beat the egg whites separately into a thick meringue.
To the butter mix add slowly the egg yolks, and the orange juice.
Then add flour mixed with the baking soda, and at the end the grated orange peel.
Bake in a round spring form pan layered with parchment paper at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 min- 1 hour until the cake is done. Check by inserting a clean sharp knife. The cake is done when the knife comes out clean. When the cake is cold dust the surface with powdered sugar and decorate the top to celebrate the new year.
To all a happy and prosperous 2013!