Vasilopita cupcakes

A little unconventional, but these vasilopita cupcakes are the perfect option sometimes! On New Years Day a vasilopita is traditionally served to honour St. Basil. The vasilopita contains a coin, and the person who gets a coin in their piece is said to have good luck for the coming year. I made vasilopita cupcakes which are just as delicious as my vasilopita cake recipe.

Vasilopita cupcakes

Vasilopita is a traditional recipe made for the New Year in order to commemorate St. Basil. Traditionally it is most commonly served as a cake, or as a bread. In certain regions of Greece, the vasilopita is actually a savoury pita made of meat or chicken. In my family, vasilopita is usually an orange flavoured cake which is perfectly sweet and has the most delightful texture. I have taken our popular family recipe and converted it to make cupcakes. This is a wonderful option when you will not be gathering with enough people to warrant baking an entire cake.

Why this recipes works

Just like my vasilopita cake, these cupcakes are so easy to make. The flavour is wonderful and the texture is just how you would want it to be; moist and soft.

The other reason that this recipe works is that it is cupcakes! As you will read later on, the tradition of vasilopita requires that everyone present gets a piece, because in there is a coin that needs to be found. The winner is said to have good luck for the coming year. Sometimes there are only a few people gathering on New Years Day; too few for an entire cake. By making vasilopita cupcakes, you can be sure that someone will find the coin, and an appropriate serving size of vasilopita!

Key ingredients

All purpose flour – Regular or plain flour, this is the base for your cake batter. Because the recipe calls for 3 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour, you sift your flour first and then measure out 3 1/2 cups.

Sugar – White sugar is used to sweeten the vasilopita.

Baking powder – In order for your vasilopita to rise you need a leavening agent, like baking powder.

Salt – Salt in sweet baked goods really brings out the flavour.

Milk – Using milk as the liquid in this cake creates a rich and delicious crumb.

Eggs – I use large eggs, and there are six of them in this recipe! Don’t cut back on the eggs – they are important to making the vasilopita as great as it is.

Butter – I use unsalted butter

Cognac or brandy – I prefer to use a Greek brandy, but any variety will do. It has a subtle orange flavour that fits well with this vasilopita.

Vanilla extract – For flavouring

Orange zest – Finely grate orange zest trying to only get the orange part of the peel and not the white bitter part underneath.

Almonds – Whole almonds are used to mark the vasilopita cupcakes that will be shared; one of them will contain the coin.

The coin – If you are making a traditional vasilopita, you have to insert a coin into the batter!

Icing sugar – This is technically optional, but I love to dust my cooled cake with icing sugar. It looks pretty, and tastes great.

How to make

Step 1
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2
In a large bowl combine the sifted flour, baking powder and salt. Mix together with a whisk or a fork. Set aside.

Step 3
In the bowl of an electric mixer and at medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat until well combined and smooth, approximately 3 – 4 minutes.

Step 4
To the sugar and butter add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add the orange zest, vanilla extract and cognac. Mix well.

Step 5
Slowly add one cup of the flour to the bowl of the electric mixer. Mix well. Then add the milk and the remaining flour. Mix well at low speed to prevent splattering. When the ingredients have been combined, turn the speed to medium and continue to beat for another minute or two. Your batter should be smooth and without any lumps.

Step 6
Take a silver coin (see note) and wash it well. Dry the coin and then wrap it in securely in either food grade plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Set aside.

Step 7
Line your muffin pan with cupcake liners; this recipe will make a total of 24 – 26 cupcakes so you may need to bake in batches.

Step 8
Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 of the way with the batter.

Step 9
Using a knife, make an indentation in the batter of one of your cupcakes and place your coin into the batter, ensuring that it does not poke through the top. Be sure to remember which cupcake has the coin!

Step 10
Decide on how many vasilopita cupcakes you will serve on New Year’s Day and mark these with an almond or other nut by placing it on top of the batter. Be sure that one of the cupcakes that you have marked has the coin in it.

Step 11
Bake your vasilopita cupcakes in the middle rack of your oven for between 24 – 26 minutes. Check if they are done by inserting a toothpick into the center of one of your cupcakes (an unmarked one is easiest so that you don’t accidentally hit the coin). If the toothpick comes out clean, the vasilopita cupcakes are ready. Remember, each oven is different so you may want to start checking your cupcakes after 20 minutes or so.

Step 12
Allow the vasilopita cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes in the muffin tray and then transfer them to a cake rack to cool completely. Once fully cooled you can dust those that you will be serving on New Year’s Day (those marked with the nut) with icing sugar. Any remaining vasilopita cupcakes can be wrapped securely in plastic wrap and frozen.

Step 13
Be mindful when serving the vasilopita to small children and the very elderly; the coin could be a choking hazard.

Step 14
Enjoy, and Happy New Year!!

Recipe substitutions

Omit the alcohol

If you prefer not to include alcohol in your recipe, simply substitute with orange juice.

Use any dairy milk

Although I usually use lactose free milk with 0% milk fat (because that is usually what we have at home), you can use any dairy milk, including full-fat milk and milk with lactose.

Equipment you may need:

cupcake tins

baking cooling rack

baking whisk

Baking tips and helpful hints

How to be sure that someone will find the coin

Because the recipe which follows is essentially my original vasilopita recipe, it makes a lot of cupcakes, between 24 to 26 actually. Chances are you won’t need them all. To make this idea work, all you have to do is decide how many people will be served vasilopita on January 1st, and mark the same number of cupcakes with a nut. Into one of the nut-marked cupcakes be sure to insert the coin and then, when it is time to enjoy your vasilopita, offer one of the cupcakes with a nut on top to everyone present and eat carefully (choking on the coin is the opposite of good luck).

What can I do with any extra vasilopita cupcakes?

All extra vasilopita cupcakes can be frozen for future enjoyment (unless you plan to eat them all within a few days, in which case you can keep them at room temperature). New Year’s cake can be served after January 1st as well!

The added benefit of baking your vasilopita this way is that you can do curb-side delivery of vasilopita cupcakes to family and friends that you could not see in person, for a variety of reasons. So, for example, you could keep 4 vasilopita cupcakes for your immediate family, deliver another 4 or 6 to your sister and her family, a couple to your parents, … you get the picture. Then you can all eat your vasilopita together on Zoom to see who gets the coin! How fun!

Make double batches of vasilopita cupcakes

This recipe makes a lot of cupcakes, and instead of keeping the extras as plain cupcakes (which is great), consider this idea! Perhaps you want to share the joy of the vasilopita tradition with different groups of people. On New Year’s Day you gather with your sister and her family, and your parents, and your brother, and share 12 vasilopita cupcakes that have been identified with an almond. One of them will have the coin. Maybe a few days later you want to share this tradition with some co-workers. You have marked another 8 (for example) cupcakes with a walnut, and one of these cupcakes holds a coin as well!

How the recipe for vasilopita cupcakes came to be

Vasilopita cupcakes are an unconventional New Year’s cake that was created for an unconventional year. Now, these individual portions of vasilopita are loved because they are so convenient!

Purists and traditionalists may cringe at this post for vasilopita cupcakes, and we’re prepared for the fall out. We know that there are certain things that are sacred and should not be tampered with. Like garlic in tzatziki or bechamel on pastitsio. We get it, we really do!

But let’s face it guys, 2020 had been a very unusual and unconventional year and 2021 started off that way as well. I figured that it required an unconventional New Year’s cake! In my part of the world we were in the middle of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implications were huge. Restaurants remained closed except for take-out, retail shops were closed, schools were either closed or via distance learning, and gatherings of any kind were prohibited. For those who prefer to ring in the new year in the comfort of their bed, sleeping, this was great! For many others, this sucked – big time!

Vasilopita cupcakes

I have never been a huge, glitzy New Year’s Eve party-goer. My most memorable December 31st gatherings have been with family and friends, at home. I’ve hosted murder-mystery nights, game nights, fondue nights and we’ve had so much fun over the years that we often come close to missing the actual countdown to the New Year.

New Year’s Day itself has always been special. I celebrate my Nameday on January 1st, as does one of my dear cousins. For years, everyone gathered at our Aunt’s home where the grown-ups would convene upstairs and the cousins would sprawl out all over the basement, full from the holiday gorging. We would eat, watch movies, eat, play board games, eat, play video games…and then repeat. It was during gatherings like this that our usually loving cousin relationships would be shaken during the mad dash to Thea Voula’s cheesecake. Competition for the first and largest slice was almost as great as the competition of who would get to be the car during our Monopoly marathons.

Vasilopita cupcakes

Over the years, regardless of whose home New Year’s Day was celebrated in, among all the desserts there was always a vasilopita, the Greek New Year’s cake (some families make it as a bread) with a coin baked into it. As tradition has it, the vasilopita is cut and served to everyone present and the person who finds the coin is expected to have good luck in the coming year. You can read more about the meaning and symbolism of the vasilopita, as well as our family’s tradition, here in our original vasilopita recipe post.

But as I said, 2020 was no usual year. That year, our extended family did not gather – we remained in our own little family bubbles. Still, tried to maintain much of what we typically enjoy about the day, even if it was different that year. We still ate too much, we played games (some of them through Zoom), and we made and enjoyed our vasilopita, but the 2021 vasilopita was a little different. The idea for this recipe came from a Mia Kouppa friend over on Facebook who asked how to enjoy a vasilopita when it will only serve 2 people. That question gave rise to what I think is a great solution, vasilopita cupcakes!

Although any other cake can have extra pieces easily frozen, that is not the case with vasilopita New Year’s cake. There is the coin to consider! Someone, even if it’s just one of two people, needs to find the piece with the coin; the new year depends on it! So one option is to bake vasilopita cupcakes instead of an entire cake. You may find this idea either brilliant, or sacrilegious! I hope you think it’s brilliant!

Pin this recipe if you like it!

Vasilopita cupcakes

Frequently asked question

Is it safe to bake a coin in your vasilopita?

It is! Simply wash your coin very well in hot soapy water. Then, wrap your coin in either parchment paper or food-grade plastic wrap. You can also use aluminum foil. When serving your vasilopita, watch any young children carefully – you want to be sure that they don’t get so excited by the flavour of the vasilopita that they accidently swallow the coin!

How to store

Any leftover (and coin-less) vasilopita cupcakes will stay fresh in a well covered container at room temperature for 2 – 3 days. If you would like to store them longer, wrap well and place in freezer!

If you love the idea of individualized treats and desserts, consider these recipes! They are some of our favourites!

Melomakarona cinnamon rolls The most amazing cinnamon rolls with a crushed up Greek cookie filling.

Sugar doughnuts Just like you find on the beaches of Greece!

Mini apple pies with phyllo Perfect little portions of apple pie filling encased in a crispy phyllo dough.

Melomakarona cinnamon rolls
Sugar doughnuts
Milopitakia or mini apple pies with phyllo, filo
Vasilopita cupcakes
Vasilopita cupcakes
Vasilopita cupcakes
Vasilopita cupcakes

Vasilopita cupcakes

Vasilopita cupcakes: An unconventional New Year's cake for an unconventional year
5 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Bread, Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 24 cupcakes
Calories: 242kcal
Author: miakouppa

Equipment

  • Stand mixer or hand-held mixer with paddle attachment
  • Muffin pan
  • Cupcake liners

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp grated orange zest tightly packed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp cognac or brandy
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar, for dusting on top of vasilopita cupcakes
  • almonds or other nut You need enough to identify the number of vasilopita cupcakes you will be serving on New Year's Day

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a large bowl combine the sifted flour, baking powder and salt. Mix together with a whisk or a fork. Set aside.
    3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking powder, pinch of salt
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer and at medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat until well combined and smooth, approximately 3 - 4 minutes.
    1 cup unsalted butter, softened, 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • To the sugar and butter add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add the orange zest, vanilla extract and cognac. Mix well.
    6 large eggs, 1 tbsp grated orange zest, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 tbsp cognac or brandy
  • Slowly add one cup of the flour to the bowl of the electric mixer. Mix well. Then add the milk and the remaining flour. Mix well at low speed to prevent splattering. When the ingredients have been combined, turn the speed to medium and continue to beat for another minute or two. Your batter should be smooth and without any lumps.
    1 cup milk
  • Take a silver coin (see note) and wash it well. Dry the coin and then wrap it in securely in either food grade plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Set aside.
  • Line your muffin pan with cupcake liners; this recipe will make a total of 24 - 26 cupcakes so you may need to bake in batches.
  • Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 of the way with the batter.
  • Using a knife, make an indentation in the batter of one of your cupcakes and place your coin into the batter, ensuring that it does not poke through the top. Be sure to remember which cupcake has the coin!
  • Decide on how many vasilopita cupcakes you will serve on New Year's Day and mark these with an almond or other nut by placing it on top of the batter. Be sure that one of the cupcakes that you have marked has the coin in it.
    almonds or other nut
  • Bake your vasilopita cupcakes in the middle rack of your oven for between 24 - 26 minutes. Check if they are done by inserting a toothpick into the center of one of your cupcakes (an unmarked one is easiest so that you don't accidentally hit the coin). If the toothpick comes out clean, the vasilopita cupcakes are ready. Remember, each oven is different so you may want to start checking your cupcakes after 20 minutes or so.
  • Allow the vasilopita cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes in the muffin tray and then transfer them to a cake rack to cool completely. Once fully cooled you can dust those that you will be serving on New Year's Day (those marked with the nut) with icing sugar. Any remaining vasilopita cupcakes can be wrapped securely in plastic wrap and frozen.
    1/3 cup icing sugar, for dusting on top of vasilopita cupcakes
  • Be mindful when serving the vasilopita to small children and the very elderly; the coin could be a choking hazard.
  • Enjoy, and Happy New Year!!

Notes

In measuring out your flour, sift it first and then measure it out.
We usually use a quarter as the silver coin in our vasilopita cake, and have also used it in these cupcakes.  However, you can also choose to use a nickel or a dime, which are smaller and may be easier to hide in the vasilopita cupcakes.
Extra frozen vasilopita cupcakes can be enjoyed by bringing to room temperature to thaw.

Nutrition

Calories: 242kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 64mg | Sodium: 57mg | Potassium: 55mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 327IU | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 1mg

Thanks for sharing!

14 Comments

  1. ev Xaristo – zero points for transliteration

    1. miakouppa says:

      🙂 🙂 Parakalo!

  2. This is kinda genius!

  3. Omg I shared your idea with my mom and I guest she is a purist. I was surprised by how strong her reaction was! No cupcakes for use. LOL

    1. miakouppa says:

      Ha ha ha!! We hate upsetting moms…but we knew that this idea would not sit well with some people. That’s okay. Show her our original vasilopita cake post so that she can love us again 🙂 xox Helen and Billie

    1. miakouppa says:

      Thanks Dina!! We’re so glad that you think so 🙂

  4. Kostantina says:

    Vasilopita Cupcakes…ladies…absolutely BRILLIANT IDEA!!
    A great way to include family and friends during these unsettling times.
    I wish both if you a very healthy, prosperous and delicious New Year. Much love and thanks for a tasty 2020!!

    1. miakouppa says:

      Thank you so much Konstantina 🙂 We wish you a very happy and healthy new year as well. All the best to you and your family!

  5. Thank you! We made them and they came out amazing! There are 4 of us, so 2021 in foil topped our 4 and our 8 year old found the coin! Then my 6 year old and I did door drops to family and friends with the rest today! What a wonderful idea to share during this unique time! Delicious! Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy New Year!

    1. miakouppa says:

      So happy that this idea was fun for you and your family!! Thank you for including us, in a small way, in your New Year’s celebration. Wishing you and your family a blessed 2021, with health, joy and peace. xoxo Helen & Billie

  6. I just made these for our family Christmas bake off competition and they were fabulous. I love how light they are and also portion control. Fabulous recipe and really easy to follow. I had enough for 24 cupcakes and even a 9 in cake pan afterwards. Thank you so much!

    1. miakouppa says:

      Oh yay!! That’s so great to hear Laurie. Thanks so much for letting us know and we’re happy that you enjoyed our recipe!! xoxo Helen & Billie

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