You would think I should start the year with a post about the traditional cake Cyprus bakes to welcome the new year, but since it takes all the glory on the very first day of the year I thought now is as good as a time to post about it.
This cake is called “Vasilopitta”, and it is traditionally baked in Cyprus to celebrate the coming of the new year. Each family bakes one and hides inside a coin, which is revealed to a member of the family moments after the clock strikes 00:00 on the last day of each year, as we welcome the first day of the new year. The pieces are cut and offered in order, from the eldest person of the family to the youngest. It is also accustomed for the first pieces of the cake to be cut and spared for our religious symbols. The excitement builds up for the lucky person who will find the coin, adding an extra level of thrill on top of having a piece of cake. Finding the coin essentially means a sign of fortune for the receiver in the year that enters.
Traditionally Vasilopitta is baked in a round pan and is usually decorated with icing sugar or frosting. Typically there will be a writing on the cake of a new year’s message or of the actual year to come. I, however being a little bit alternative, baked it differently this year. The picture above shows a plain Vasilopitta as one would normally look but in a bundt shape. Every year, my grandmother is the one to bake it and hide the coin in so I decided to spice it up and develop my own recipe for years to come. Despite the fact that I will be baking it the traditional way, this year I am sharing the alternative way with you.
To make it a bit more luscious I topped the cake with dark chocolate ganache. I did this because I wanted to make it more vibrant and to invite those that don’t fancy a traditional Vasilopitta to go ahead and eat mine. Chocolate always attracts people.
The cake is baked usually with orange juice or milk and the zest of either oranges or lemons. This particular one is baked with the juice and zest of one orange. I can’t even begin to describe the aroma of it while baking. I finished the cake by sprinkling on some icing sugar to make it festive and keep some of the original elements of the traditional cake. I did later write the year with whipped cream but this is how the finished cake looked before we cut into it.
I am confident you will love this recipe because it is adapted from experts of the Cook’s Illustrated magazine of which I own a baking bible called Cook’s Illustrated baking book, highly recommended, and a recipe from an aunt of mine who is an expert in baking and whom I constantly steal recipes from. Mixing and matching the recipes and my baking intuition gave me a wonderful cake which made even the people who never eat Vasiloppita, go for it.
The crust of the cake was slightly crunchy, the centre of the cake was not very crumbly yet soft and the flavour of the cake in addition to the chocolate ganache was just superb. My little sister who never eats a cake unless it’s smothered in chocolate and even then she will consider it, was all over this cake to my surprise. So was my mum’s sister who definitely does not eat things not overly chocolatey, and normally dislikes Vasilopitta.
I also got comments from other aunts and my grandma stating it was a lovely cake and they asked me (the third generation) to give them the recipe. Talk about pride there. Don’t take my word for it though, bake this and tell me if you think their excitement was just.
In case you are wondering who found the coin this year!
Those are my hands right there 🙂 So I’ll take this as a sign that this year is gonna be quite good for me.
- 250 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup ground almonds
- zest and juice of one orange
- 100 grams dark chocolate
- 50 ml whipping cream or double cream
- Preheat your oven at 180 degrees Celsius, and prepare a bundt pan by oiling and flouring it.
- Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl, add in the ground almonds and set aside.
- Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until the mixture is creamy and light.
- Add the vanilla in the eggs and beat the eggs in the cake batter one at a time.
- In three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture add the flour mixture and juice in the cake batter and beat just enough to blend in.
- Add the orange zest and beat to distribute evenly in the batter.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 55 minutes to 1 hour until the cake is springy and a toothpick inserted the centre of the cake comes out clean or with a few crumbs.
- Let the cake cool completely before turning on a serving plate.
- Make the ganache by heating the cream on the stove until it starts to boil and pouring on top of the chocolate after chopping into pieces and placing in a heatproof bowl.
- Let the mixture stand for a minute and then stir to allow the chocolate to melt.
- Pour the ganache on top of the cake and let it set before cutting and seving.
- If you like toss some icing sugar on the cake to finish it.
If the chocolate doesn't melt after you poor the hot cream on, put it in the microwave for 20 seconds and stir again. Repeat if necessary until the chocolate has melted.