Vasilopita is a New Year’s Day bread or cake in Greece that contains a hidden coin or trinket which gives good luck to the receiver. It is baked and shared each year on January 1st and observed in honor of our St. Basil the Great, archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia (Modern Turkey) hence its name “Vasilopita” meaning “Basil’s Bread.”


Unsalted butter 1cup (2 sticks)

Sugar 1cup

Eggs 3 extra-large

Zest of one orange

Orange juice 1/2cup

Milk 1/2 cup

Mahleb 1/2 teaspoon crushed/powdered

Gum mastic 2 teaspoons crushed/powdered

Dry yeast 1tbs

Flour 4-5 cups

Egg 1 for eggwash

Sesame seeds

Almond flakes

A clean coin wrapped in foil


  1. Boil half of the mahleb in 1/3cups water and let cool it to lukewarm
  2. Grind with a pestle and mortar 1tbs mastic with 1tbs sugar (if you don’t grind with sugar the mastic will stick together to a gum).
  3. Mix in the lukewarm mahleb water the dry yeast with 1tbs sugar to activate the yeast
  4. As soon as the yeast activates, add the milk, orange juice and zest, the eggs, melted butter, sugar, mastic and the rest of the mahleb. mix well
  5. Sift the flour and gradually add it to the wet mixture to make dough.
  6. Knead the dough for 5 minutes and shape it to a ball, place it in a buttered bowl, cover and let it rise double in size.
  7. When dough is doubled you stretch the sides, fold and knead again on floured surface. Add the coin and place it in a well buttered baking pan, cover and let rise again. 
  8. Whisk 1 egg with 2tbs water and egg-wash the surface of the cake. Garnish with almonds and sesame. Bake in 160C (320F) for 50 minutes

Recipe Chef Tony Kavalieros approved as traditional by Mary Panagakou

Photo Tony Kavalieros

Watch the video here

Read about the History and Tradition for Vasilopita here