Today I want to share with you my vegan recipe for the traditional vasilopita which is technically a cake but for many it is considered the most important cake of the year! New Year’s vasilopita (Saint Basil’s cake) is part of our traditions with a history that arises from the very distant past according to several folklorists. In popular tradition, vasilopita is associated with a legend of Basil of Caesarea. According to one story, Basil called on the Roman Citizens Caesarea to raise a ransom payment to stop the siege of the city. Each member of the city gave whatever they had in gold and jewelry. When the ransom was raised, the enemy was so embarrassed by the act of collective giving that he called off the siege without collecting payment. Basil was then tasked with returning the unpaid ransom, but had no way to know which items belonged to which family so he baked all of the jewellery into loaves of bread and distributed the loaves to the city, and by a miracle each citizen received their exact share.
One of the several things that makes vasilopita so special is that it contains a hidden coin (or a dry bean!) which is supposed to give good luck to the receiver. A second thing is that vasilopita is associated with Saint Basil’s day, January 1. Nowadays, on New Year’s Day families cut the vasilopita to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year. This is usually done at the midnight of New Year’s Eve. The coin is hidden in the cake by slipping it into the dough before baking. At midnight the sign of the cross is etched with a knife across the cake. A piece of cake is sliced for each member of the family and any visitors present at the time, by order of age from eldest to youngest. We always cut a piece for our dog, Petra, or any other animal that may share our house, but as dogs cannot consume sugar we eat her cake and give her a special appropriate treat instead :).
But let’s go back to our recipe! Since we are not talking about any cake but the official cake of the year, the recipe of vasilopita should be successful and delicious. Unlike common belief, it is not the use of special animal-derived ingredients the secret of its success but the use of fresh, fragrant, plant-based, natural ingredients that give an amazing flavor and taste to our cake such as the zest and juice of freshly picked, organic oranges. Nearly each year, I like to make this easy vegan vasilopita which is sooooo fluffy and amazing that no one has ever noticed that it is 100% plant-based. For my recipe I use sunflower oil -or the oil of your choice- and to add flavor, a generous amount of lemon and orange zest – both of which can of course be replaced by shredded mastic, cinnamon and cloves. A small secret to give an extra boost of taste and texture is the addition of a small amount of grated coconut to my dough.
So good luck to your vasilopita and many wishes for a compassionate and peaceful new year.
(for a 22-24 cm diameter tray)
- 1 1/2 cup plant-based milk
- 1/2 cup sunflower oil
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- the zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 cup of dry shredded coconut
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup walnuts or dried fruit finely chopped (optional)
1 / 2-1 cup coconut flour or powdered sugar
1. Put in a bowl the sugar, the milk and the oil and mix with a hand mixer for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Add the juice and zest, baking powder and soda and mix until they are fully incorporated.
2. Sift the flour and pour it into the mixture gradually, mixing continuously at low speed until fully incorporated.
3. Add the coconut and walnuts or fruits and mix lightly with a spoon or spatula.
4. Pour the mixture into a greased ana floured baking tray. Roll a coin (or a dry bean) to a baking sheet or foil and immerse it in the dough. Bake in a preheated oven at 175 ° C for about 50-55 minutes or until it is golden brown. Allow to cool, remove from the mold, sprinkle with powdered sugar or coconut flour and serve after midnight!
Note: It is advisable not to open the oven door at least for the first half an hour of baking to prevent your cake from losing its volume and fluffyness To make sure it’s properly baked inside, immerse a toothpick into the center into the center of the cake after 50 minutes of baking. If it comes out clean, then it is ready, otherwise bake it for a while -five more minutes should be enough.