The story of the Greek Orthodox custom of the vasilopita with the lucky coin inside begins in Asia Minor, and more specifically in the city of Caesarea in Cappadocia, more than 1,600 years ago. Here’s a recipe for Vasilopita as well as the history behind the tradition.
St. Basil the Great was born in Caesarea of Cappadocia in 330. He was one of ten children of St. Basil the Elder and St. Emmelia. Several of his brothers and sisters are also honored among the saints.
Basil was one of the giants of the early Christian Church. He was learned, accomplished in statesmanship, a man of great personal holiness, and one of the great orators of Christianity. His feast day is January 1st.
When a tyrant took power over Caesarea, he demanded that all citizens of the city offer their gold and riches to him. Basil, the Bishop, did not know what to do, as the city was poor.
Despite this, all of the residents offered what they could to save their city, and Basil prayed for the future of Caesarea.
Miraculously, the army of Philopater Mercurius (Saint Mercurius) was one of angels that came out of the chest and defeated the tyrant and his troops.
Basil wanted to redistribute the wealth in a fair way, so he kneaded buns and placed pieces of gold in each one. When they were ready, Basil the Great distributed the bread to all inhabitants of the city of Caesarea.
In the beginning, everyone was surprised, but then they were even more surprised when every family that cut the buns found pieces of gold inside.
Since that time, the vasilopita has become a Christian tradition. On the first day of the New Year on Saint Basil’s Day, the faithful cut the bread hoping to find the coin that is said to bring them blessings throughout the new year.
Here’s a traditional recipe to make the favorite New Year’s Greek cake aka vasilopita.
14oz/400gr ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
3FL OZ/90 ml MILK
¼ TEASPOON VANILLA
¼ BAKING POWDER
1/2 TEASPOON ORANGE ZEST
Lucky charm (usually a foil-wrapped coin)
- Add in the mixer the butter and sugar and mix for two minutes
- As you are continuing mixing add 4 eggs, milk, baking powder, vanilla, orange zest and mix until absorbed
- Add the flour and mix for three minutes
- Place the cake mix in an oiled-up baking pan
- Take a coing and wrap it in foil, place in the cake mix
- Bake at preheated oven 320°F/160°C for 50 minutes
- Add powdered sugar and design the year
Prepare a gift for the person who will find the winning piece with the lucky coin (flouri), it is said they will have luck for the whole new year. There are many different variations of the Vasilopita recipe, here’s another one.
Also read the fascinating legend behind the origins of Vasilopita and watch the video:
Enjoy and Happy New year!!!
The Nostimo Team