I have great news! I have secured good luck for 2009. January 1st was my husband’s ‘Name Day.’ In Greece, everyone celebrates the “Name Day” of the saint that bears the same name. According to the Orthodox Church, every day of the year has been dedicated to the memory of a Saint or a martyr from the Holy Bible and Holy Tradition. In Greece, a person’s name day is even more important than their own birthday and is celebrated with attention from friends and relatives and often gifts.

My husband Vasili’s Name Day lands on the first day of the year and has a historical tradition. It commenced in the fourth century, when Saint Vasili the Great, who was a bishop, wanted to distribute money to the poor in his Diocese. He commissioned some women to bake sweetened bread, in which he arranged to place gold coins. Thus the families in cutting the bread to nourish themselves, were pleasantly surprised to find the coins. I read that the sweetness in the cake symbolizes the hope that the New Year will be filled with the sweetness of life, liberty, health, and happiness for all who participate in the Vasilopita Observance.

Below is a recipe for a traditional Vasilopita cake. One coin is dropped in the batter of a round pan. The person who finds the treasure in his or her slice of cake is said to be blessed and will receive good luck for the coming year. I squealed when my fork found the coin in this light, simple but delicious yellow cake.

Vasilopita – Greek New Year’s Cake
Serves 15-20 people.

4 cups flour, sifted
6 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
Grated lemon rind from 1 lemon
Confectioners Sugar
Silver or gold coin (soak in water and soap to clean. $1 coins are fun!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, baking powder and salt. Cream butter, add sugar gradually; beat together until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in alternately until just smooth, flour mixture and milk. Add grated lemon rind from one whole lemon (2-3 teaspoons).

Grease a 12-inch round baking pan and line bottom with parchment paper. You can use a rectangle if you don’t have the large round pan. Put batter into the prepared pan. Drop in a silver or gold coin and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan. Then, sift confectioner’s sugar over the top. Cut out of pan to serve.

* You can halve this recipe in half and use a 9 inch round pan

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15 Responses to “Vasilopita – Greek New Year’s Cake”

  1. Kath Says:

    Boy this looks good!! I don’t have a 12″ round baking pan. Do you think it could be divided into 2 8″ or 9″ rounds? That way we could also double our chances of securing good luck for 2009. I love your blog Caroline and have spent lots of time reading older posts just to catch up. I check it daily and look forward to your new posts.

  2. Kath Says:

    Guess I should have read your whole post and I could have answered my own question…. What was I thinking?

  3. Cakespy Says:

    This is a new cake to me–thank you for introducing me to it!

  4. Choosy Beggar Tina Says:

    The tradition of putting money in cake has always frightened me – mostly because I’m afraid of breaking a tooth :)

  5. sponge cake bob Says:

    I’ve heard of this before. Is it only in Greek culture?

  6. Hydroponics Supplies Says:

    I had a great time reading around your post as I read it extensively. Thanks for writing about this!

  7. 8 Strange New Year's Celebrations Says:

    [...] Vasilopita [...]

  8. Candie Says:

    i love this recipe!!!!!!

  9. Dina Triantafillopoulos Says:

    I just made this and it looks like it is going to be my go to recipe!!I’ve been looking for a good recipe that isn’t like a traditional bread-like vasilopita. I like the fact that it’s a cake. Thanks and have a Happy New Year.

  10. Sia Says:


    This is a great blog and i love this post about the Greek New Years Cake!

    I have copied your picture of the vasiliopita cake and used it in my blog. I hope that it is ok with you. If not then please let me know and i will remove it quickly. The picture is linked to your blog and as i would love to encourage my readers to read this post also.

    My recent blog post has been about Vasiliopia, the New Years Cake but i normal write about Greek Weddings.

    All the best with you recipies.


  11. Vaselopita – Greek New Years Day Bread « Greek Weddings and Traditions Says:

    [...] image of a the Vaselopita with the coin is from which is a fantastic food blog including many wonderful Greek [...]

  12. Hannah Says:

    Made this the first time tonight and I can’t wait for New Years! We have decided to eat it New Years Eve and I can’t wait to see who gets the gold coin!!

  13. anita Says:

    I made your vasilopita yesterday and brought it to a party at my brother’s house. Because we were a large crowd I made 1 1/2 the amounts and it turned out great. Very moist and flavorful. I added a bit of vanilla and a splash of brandy in place of some of the milk. I’m keeping this one. Great recipe. Thanks.

  14. nixon Says:

    i luv u

  15. Angela Says:

    Cheryl you are an amazing cook and baker. Can’t wait to make your cake recipe this weekend. We traditionally make the Peta bread. Xronia Polla.

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