The Vasilopita is a Greek New Year's Bread/Cake. It is made in honor of a beautiful act of charity by St. Basil to the poor and needy of his flock. In order to insure that the needy would have money for life's necessities, and knowing that the needy were also proud people, St. Basil had the ladies of his church bake sweet bread with coins baked into them. In this way he could give them money without demeaning them at all.
It is therefore traditional to bake a coin into the Vasilopita (also called St. Basil's Bread). The one who receives the coin is considered to be especially blessed for the year.
Over the years the recipe for Vasilopita has gone in many different directions. The following is a simple recipe that bakes up into more of a cake than bread. So gather your family and celebrate the New Year in Greek style. (This recipe requires a 10 x 4 inch tube pan.)
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). In a large bowl, blend together the butter or margarine and the sugar. Separate 3 of the eggs; add the yolks and the 2 remaining whole eggs to the butter mixture. Stir in the vanilla and water. In another bowl, sift together the baking powder and flour. Add these dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Whip 3 egg whites until they are foamy. Add 1 tablespoon sugar. Continue to whip the whites until they are stiff, but not dry. Fold whipped whites into batter. Pour the batter into a greased 10 x 4 inch tube pan. Wrap a large coin in foil, and place the coin in the batter. Press the coin down; it should be completely hidden. Sprinkle the nuts and seeds on top of the batter. Bake the cake for about 70 minutes, or until done. Cool on a wire rack.
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