A traditional Greek orange and almond cake to see in the new year
Marianna Kolokotroni, owner of Oliveology, has kindly shared her mum’s recipe for vasilopita, or ‘St Basil’s pie’. Her mum, Kalliope, is from a small village on the west coast of the Peloponnese in Greece. This is how they make vasilopita in her village. It can vary a lot from region to region, but there it is a “simple, humble cake” with a lovely citrusy aroma from the zest and juice of several oranges.
Marianna loves this new year tradition because of the “symbolism and concept behind it. It’s about bringing the family together and sharing” on an important “day of reflection and gratitude”. The original recipe is for a “massive cake” since it must feed a huge extended family, both absent and at home, so I have reduced the ingredients to make a cake that fits in a standard cake tin.
200g caster sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
Zest and juice (185ml) of 2 oranges
Icing sugar, for dusting
Toasted flaked almonds, to decorate
1 x 23cm round cake tin
Preheat the oven to 180C (170C fan-forced). Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In two bowls, separate the egg yolks and whites. Slowly incorporate the yolks into the butter and sugar mixture, beating after each one. Beat until very fluffy and creamy (at least 10 minutes).
In a separate bowl, sieve the flour and baking powder. Add the baking soda into the orange juice so it fizzes. Fold a little into the creamed butter mixture. Then add a little of the sifted flour and baking powder and gently fold into the mixture. Repeat until you have incorporated everything into the mixture. Gently fold in the orange zest.
In a clean and dry mixing bowl (no traces of oil or water) whisk the egg whites into firm peaks. Finally, very gently fold the egg whites into the mixture. Pour into a greased 23cm round cake tin. Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Don’t open the oven before 30 minutes, as it may cause the cake to deflate.
Leave the cake to cool a bit in the tin before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar and use the flaked almonds to write the new year (i.e. 2018).