Bake

Brandy-Orange New Year's Cake (Vasilopita)

November 29, 2021
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Author Notes

The brandy, orange, and lemon combine to form a light and springy cake packed with flavor. It's a not a heavy cake, as just a small amount of brandy is added. Traditionally, this cake is served on New Year's Day. A coin is hidden inside just before it's placed in the oven, and whoever cuts the piece of cake with the coin inside is said to have "luck" for the year—it results in people wanting large pieces! —[email protected]

Test Kitchen Notes

To celebrate the start of a brand-new year, you should give this vasilopita recipe a try. Similar to the tradition of a King Cake in New Orleans, the person who finds the hidden coin or trinket will have a lot of luck in the coming year. Even the baker spins the cake around so they don't know where it is either before serving. With orange zest, lemon zest, brandy, orange juice, and lots of eggs, this versatile Greek cake should be sliced and served at midnight. After the excitement ebbs after finding the coin, the cake is also delicious in the morning with a cup of coffee or tea.

This easy recipe doesn't require any proofing, and all you need is one bowl and one pan. It will take a few minutes to cream the butter and sugar to get the right color, but other than that, the rest of the recipe is pretty straightforward and you'll have a lot of fun hiding where the coin is going to be. After about an hour in the oven, the cake is ready to go to star as the centerpiece of your New Year's Eve dessert table. A finishing touch of icing sugar or coconut flakes helps with both the sweetness and the final presentation. You'll find many variations of vasilopita recipes from family to family, so you can use this one as a starting point and experiment from there. We can't wait to hear what you come up with and how you ring in your new year! —The Editors

  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • makes 30 pieces
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • Coconut flakes & icing sugar, for serving (optional)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan, then line the bottom with parchment.
  2. Using an electric mixer on high speed, in a large bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar for about 10 minutes, until very pale yellow in color.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating into the mixture before adding the next. Add the brandy and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add the orange zest and lemon zest and continue to mix until combined. Don’t worry if your batter begins to curdle at this stage.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir the flour and baking powder to combine. Alternating with small amounts of the flour mixture and orange juice, slowly add to the batter and beat to incorporate, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. If adding a coin, tightly wrap the coin in plastic wrap and drop it into the batter. Ensure the top of the batter is smooth so it isn't obvious where the coin has been dropped. I sometimes make the "edges" higher than the center of the cake (so it almost dips in the center) with a spatula so it cooks better, but don't overmix the batter when you do this.
  6. Bake for 60 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and transfer to a wire rack to let cool completely.
  7. Dust with the icing sugar and/or coconut flakes on top before serving, if using.
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