The Vasilopita is named after Bishop St. Basil the Great, who became legendary for defending his people when the Emperor levied a tax on the already poor and hungry people of Caesarea. By God’s grace, St. Basil the Great got the emperor to repent and cancel the tax, but was faced with the daunting task of returning all the good people’s belongings. He decided to bake a large pita (bread) with all the valuables, and then called all the townspeople to prayer. Then he sliced the bread and gave each person a piece. Miraculously, each person received his own valuables inside his piece of Vasilopita! [photo via honestcooking]
And today, Orthodox Christians celebrate the tradition of the Vasilopita on January 1.The Vasilopita is baked with a coin inside. It is shared among family members and anyone who happens to be visiting when the bread is ready to eat. The person who receives the coin in their slice of Vasilopita is said to be blessed with wealth and wellness for the upcoming year. This recipe from HonestCooking is a classic version of the Vasilopita that’s pretty easy–but don’t let anyone actually eat a coin.
2 cups sugar
8 oz butter
3 cup plain flour, sieved
4 leveled teaspoons baking powder
1 cup almonds, ground to Powder
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup brandy (or cognac)
2 oranges (grated zest)
1 cup milk
Sieve the flour and baking powder together in a bowl. Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, so that each egg is fully incorporated before you add the next. Add the vanilla, grated zest and brandy. Then add the almonds. Finally add the flour and the milk, a little at a time. Grease with butter and line with greaseproof paper a 12 inch baking tin. Empty the mixture in. Add the traditional coin. Bake at 340 F, in a well preheated oven, for approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes. Garnish with sieved confectioner’s sugar.