Vasilopita Portokali: A Greek Traditional New Year's Day Cake with Orange recipe

 What is vasilopita cake? Vasilopita is the traditional cake that is baked for New Year’s Day, which is also Saint Basil’s Day. This traditional New Year’s Day cake contains a hidden coin that Greeks slip into the dough before baking. The person who gets the lucky coin into the slice will be fortunate with luck for the year to come. In Greece, we gather we our families, and usually, the father cuts the vasilopita at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Traditionally, we serve the slices from the older to the youngest.

There are several ways to make a vasilopita. This vasilopita recipe requires the following ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, salt, orange zest, orange juice, Greek yogurt, vanilla extract, self-rising flour, icing sugar, milk, and vanilla extract.

Where did the tradition of vasilopita come from? The origin of this cake goes back to the legend of St. Basil. When he was the Bishop of Caesarea, he had to raise a ransom payment from the citizens of Caesarea to stop the siege of the city. As a result, each citizen gave whatever they had in gold and jewelry. However, when St. Basil raised the ransom, the enemy was so embarrassed by this act that they called off the siege without collecting payment. St. Basil had to return the unpaid ransom. However, as he didn’t remember which items belonged to which family, he baked all the jewelry into loaves of bread and distributed the loaves to the city, and by a miracle, each citizen received their exact share. For this reason, in Greece, it is St. Basil who brings his gifts to the kids in contrast to the rest of the western world, where kids expect St. Nicholas to deliver them presents on Christmas.

This authentic vasilopita portokali (with orange) takes 30 minutes to prepare and 60 minutes to bake. It serves 6 to 8 persons depending on the size of the pieces. You can top with just icing sugar (powdered sugar). To check if it is ready, poke in the middle of the cake a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready.

Vasilopita Portokali

Vasilopita Portokali - Ingredients

  • 200g butter, room temperature
  • 175g sugar
  • 3 eggs (separated yolks from whites)
  • Pinch of salt
  • The zest from 1 orange
  • 125ml orange juice
  • 100g Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 375g self-rising flour, sifted
  • A clean coin, covered in aluminum foil

For the icing: 

  • 300g icing sugar
  •  2 tbsp. milk
  •  1 tsp. vanilla extract

Vasilopita Portokali - How to make

  1. Start this vasilopita recipe by separating the egg yolks from the whites. 
  2. Take an electric mixer to whisk the eggs, add a pinch of salt, and mix until it becomes fluffy and stiff.
  3. In a separate bowl mix the butter with the icing sugar, until creamy. 
  4. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and continue to mix until well blended. 
  5. Pour the orange juice in small doses, the yogurt, and the vanilla extract. Finally, add the flour and mix until becomes a compact cream.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180 °C.
  7. With a plastic spatula start folding in the fluffed egg whites. 
  8. Use slow circular movement so the cream remains frothy and stiff. 
  9. Wrap a coin with aluminum foil. 
  10. Take a round non-stick and place the coin.  
  11. Transfer the mixture into a round non-stick baking tin and place it in the oven. 
  12. Bake the vasilopita for 50-60 minutes, until nicely colored and cooked through. 
  13. Let the vasilopita cool for 10 minutes and invert the pan on a plate.
  14. For the icing, add the ingredients and mix with a spoon until the sugar dissolves and becomes creamy and glossy.
  15. Pour it on top of the vasilopita and spread it evenly with a knife. 
  16. Store the vasilopita in a cool dry place until serving.
I hope you like this vasilopita portokali recipe. Happy New Year!