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The memories of my family’s new year’s VASILOPITA cake (celebrating Saint Basil) were it’s density and compactness, with the occasional large air bubbles appearing throughout its crumb, it’s tenderness and its moistness and the magical intermingling aromas of mastic resin, mahlab kernels, orange zests, nutmeg and cognac, and of course, the hope, that the winner of the hidden prize inside would get their new year’s wishes granted !

A “vasilopita” is a Greek as well as an Eastern European and Balkan traditional winter holiday cake, whether it’s a denser cake or a lighter & higher sweetened bread or even a flatter pie. It is what establishes the rhythm of the New Year, eaten at midnight for the bravest, or the morning after New Year’s Eve, for the more reasonable. 

It always contains one coin or a trinket to be discovered, thus granting good luck to the winner for the rest of the year. A cross is etched on the surface and then the slices are cut and attributed to each person present as well as one slice for a symbolic guest or presence.

It’s an easy cake to make but I find that the best method to use is the reverse-creaming method. What does this imply ? Doing things backwards, in fact. Instead of beating the butter with the sugar, then adding the eggs and alternating the additions of the dry ingredients with the rest of the liquid ingredients, the reverse-creaming method regroups all the dry ingredients together, including the sugar, and then combines them with the butter, and then the other liquid ingredients, such as the eggs, buttermilk, orange juice, cognac and vanilla are added at the end. This method provides a denser cake with a tighter crumb and a flatter result, with less doming.

Of course, this approach is much easier in a large food processor, allowing you to coat the dry ingredients with the fat of the butter, somewhat like making pie dough or an easier version of puff-pastry. Both methods work and I show you both options but I have a preference for the food processor method for its ease as well as more satisfying end result.

The combined flavors of the mastic resin, mahlab kernels (reminiscent of cherry and almond), the orange zest, the nutmeg as well as orange and cognac, are reminiscent of Easter bread, but still different.

The final touch is often a sprinkling of icing sugar but I prefer a thicker coating of icing sugar and milk glazing and when that’s dry, a finishing sprinkling of dry icing sugar, like a coat of freshly fallen snow.

HAPPY NEW YEAR my dears and best wishes to all … :)

new year’s «vasilopita» cake


12 slices x 90 grams each


cake batter :

  • 375 grams (3 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted after weighing
  • 8 grams (2 tsp) baking powder (double-strength)
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) fine sea salt
  • 4,5 grams (1 ½ tsp) mahlab kernels, finely ground (with 1 ½ tsp regular sugar)
  • 1,5 grams (½ tsp) mastic resin crystals, finely ground (with ½ tsp regular sugar)
  • 1 gram (½ tsp) nutmeg, grated and then ground (with ½ tsp regular sugar)
  • 200 grams (1 ½ cups) icing sugar
  • 180 grams (¾ cup) butter, softened at room temperature
  • 180 grams (¾ cup or 3-4 whole large) eggs
  • 60 grams (¼ cup) kefir or buttermilk (or use yogurt with a ¼ tsp white vinegar, mixed together and after 30 minutes of rest)
  • 60 grams (¼ cup) fresh orange juice
  • 60 ml (4 tbsp) cognac/brandy (or cognac & orange liqueur) 
  • 7,5 grams (4 tsp) orange zests (from 1 very large orange of 400 grams)
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract

glazing & icing sugar finish :

  • 135 grams (1 cup) icing sugar
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) milk
  • 2,5 ml (½ tsp) vanilla extract (artificial & transparent if possible or ½ tsp white vanilla powder)
  • 33 grams (¼ cup) icing sugar (for the final sprinkling)


  • place baking paper inside a 22 cm spring-form pan and then brush the insides with ½ tbsp melted butter and finally coat with 1½ tbsp flour on all sides and set aside
  • preheat the oven to 200°C (but you will lower the temperature later to 175°C) and place a small heatproof bowl of water on the floor of the oven to create vapor while baking (to limit cake crust cracks)
  • sift the flour and combine it with the icing sugar, ground spices, salt and baking powder and combine in a food-processor
  • add the butter to the dry mixture and pulse until the mixture seems sandy, then add each egg one by one and pulse again each time, then add the buttermilk and pulse and finally add the zests, cognac, vanilla extract and orange juice and pulse again until smooth
  • *note : if you prefer to use a mixer instead of a large food-processor, combine the sifted flour with the baking powder, ground spices, salt and baking powder and set aside and combine the cognac, orange juice and zests and vanilla extract and set aside too; beat the soft butter with the sugar until fluffy, then add one egg at a time and beat, then add the buttermilk and beat and finally add ¼ of the dry mixture and beat and ¼ of the liquid mixture and beat again and repeat 3 more times with the 3 additions of dry mixture and liquid mixture until smooth …
  • empty the mixture inside the baking pan and tap several times on the counter and smooth out the top
  • *note : traditionally, one places a washed metal coin or a ceramic trinket on the bottom of the baking pan, before pouring in the batter, to be discovered later, after the slicing and serving …
  • lower the oven temperature to 175°C, immediately before placing the cake inside the oven (DON’T FORGET !)
  • bake in the oven for 45 minutes maximum (without opening the oven door for the first 30 minutes) and rotate once after 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and let cool down for 10 minutes, then place some baking paper on top of the baked cake (still in its baking pan) and an inverted plate on top and flip over upside-down (to flatten the domed top a little and to close up or diminish any cracks on the surface) and let sit for 20-30 minutes upside-down
  • after 20-30 minutes, unsnap the spring-form pan, remove the bottom and invert the cake upright again and carefully remove the spring-form pan and place the cake on a rack to begin the glazing 
  • combine the ingredients of icing sugar glaze until smooth and thickly brush the top of the cake until well coated and apply several coats, waiting for each coat to dry before applying the next and let the glazing dry completely for at least 1 hour or when completely dry to the touch and hardened
  • when the glazing is completely dry, sprinkle the glazed cake with the remaining ¼ cup of icing sugar and reserve in a cool space
  • serve the cake at room temperature or slightly chilled, slice into as many pieces as needed and attribute each slice to each guest give every one an equal chance to be the winner of the coin or trinket.
  • *note : the cake can be covered or wrapped and refrigerated for up to 1 week …