Vegan Vasilopita – A Sweet Recipe With Links to Greek Myth And Ancient Meat-Free Festivals
This vegan Vasilopita pastry recipe is the veganized version of a Byzantine Greek recipe baked during the meat-free Kronia harvest festival, when animal sacrifice was not allowed.
Readers may not be familiar with Vasilopita, a Greek lucky cake served on New Year’s Eve. The cake contains a hidden gold or silver coin which is slipped into the dough before baking. The person who is fortunate enough to receive the slice containing the coin is believed to attract good luck throughout the year. Family and friends join in the cutting of the Vasilopita in early January every year.
Vegan Vasilopita has a compound of intriguing flavours, beginning with the mellow and earthy flavour of grape molasses then bringing in the piney taste of juniper berries with their delicate citrus overtones.
How is the Greek custom of Vasilopita linked to Kronos, the primordial deity of time and karma?
The most enthralling element of the Greek custom of Vasilopita for the New Year is that this amaranthine recipe has endured for centuries in Greece. This cake has links to the mythical Golden Age, a period of peace and prosperity when people enjoyed a life of Elysian ease.
During the Golden Age, according to Greek mythology and Greek legends, Astraea, the celestial virgin goddess of justice, lived among the Golden Race of humanity ruled by the Titan Kronos, a primordial deity of karma and time. In reminiscence of the Golden Age, the Greeks celebrated the Kronia, a festival held in honour of Kronos to celebrate the harvest. Kronia was an outdoor festival, so people dressed informally.
Kronia was a pastoral and agricultural festival with rustic style and a celebration of the crops and harvest with an ecocentric approach to religious blessing. During this festival there was no animal sacrifice and people ate fruits, bread and pastries. People engaged in games of chance and tested their luck. But it was during the millennium of Byzantine Greece that this sweet pastry received its contemporary name, as it was named after Saint Basil the Great, the bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia.
Throughout history, Vasilopita’s recipe has evolved; a heightened awareness of environmental abuse has led to a rise in vegan and plant-based eating. This Vasilopita recipe is the veganized version of the Byzantine Greek recipe.
Vegan Vasilopita Ingredients
For the Vasilopita
- 2 cups of white flour T55
- 1 teaspoon of dry yeast
- ¼ cup of lukewarm water
- ½ cup of grape molasses
- 1 tablespoon of ground juniper berries
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- ⅓ cup of Greek extra virgin olive oil
For the glaze
- 1 + ½ cups of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of almond milk
How to make Vegan Vasilopita
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Passive Time: 3.5 hours
For the Vasilopita:
In a medium bowl mix ½ cup of flour with the yeast and water, using a rubber spatula, until the texture is smooth. Place plastic wrap over the bowl. Leave the sourdough starter to ferment and double in size at warm room temperature for 30′.
In a large bowl combine the remaining flour with the grape molasses, juniper berries and salt.
Gradually pour the olive oil into the large bowl while mixing it thoroughly with the other ingredients for about 15′ until the dough is smooth. Place plastic wrap over the bowl and let the dough rest at warm room temperature until the sourdough starter is ready.
Mix the sourdough starter with the dough using a rubber spatula. Place plastic wrap over the bowl and let the dough double in size at warm room temperature for about 3 hours.
Using pastry brush grease a 22cm round cake tin with some olive oil. Place the dough very gently into the cake tin.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F). You will notice that the dough begins to rise again.
Bake the cake for 40′. Once the cake is fully cooked, take it out of the oven and let it cool.
For the glaze:
Add the ingredients into a bowl and using a whisk blend them thoroughly for about 5′.
Drizzle half of the glaze over the cake. Set the remaining glaze aside. Refrigerate the cake for 10′.
Remove the cake from the fridge and drizzle the remaining glaze over the cake.
A retro decoration idea to try:
For a retro decoration, glaze the cake with ½ cup of grape molasses and garnish with nuts, such as ground walnuts, ground almonds or almond flakes, chopped pistachios. I like to follow vintage cake decorating trends, as my photos will testify!