Vasilopita, aka St. Basil's Cake Credit: Restaurante Kalalde / Flickr Creative Commons

For many Pennsylvania families, New Year’s Day means chowing down on pork and sauerkraut.But pork and sauerkraut isn’t the only way to attract fortune. Cultures around the world each have their own lucky New Year’s dishes.

Quite a few of these are represented in Philly, including this dish enjoyed by people on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Chef Konstantinos Pitsillides of Kanella provided the following recipe.


by Konstantinos Pitsillides

½ tsp mastic crystals (if not found use 1 tsp vanilla extract)
2 c / 400 g sugar, plus a pinch
5 large eggs, separated
1 tbsp strained lemon juice
1 c / 225 g unsalted butter, softened
¾ c / 180 ml milk
2 tbsp brandy or cognac
grated zest and strained juice of 1 orange
1½ c / 150 g ground blanched almonds
2 oz / 50 g of chopped dark chocolate
1 lb, 2 oz / 500 g self-raising flour

Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C / gas mark 4.

Grease and flour a 12 in / 30.5 cm round springform pan.

With a mortar and pestle, pound mastic with a pinch of sugar and set aside.

In a bowl with an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, whisk the egg whites at medium speed until foamy. Add 1½ c / 300 g sugar and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium high and whisk until a stiff meringue forms. Remove from mixer and set aside.

In a clean large bowl, use the electric mixer with a paddle attachment to whip together the butter and remaining 100 g / ½ c sugar at medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 5–7 min. Add egg yolks one at a time, whisking after each addition. Whisk in the milk brandy and orange juice. Stir in the orange zest, almonds, pounded mastic and chocolate.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the meringue and flour into the egg yolk liquid mixture, a little at a time, alternating between them.

Pour the batter into prepared baking tin. Bake for about an hour, or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and invert onto a wire rack to cool.

If making the cake for New Year’s, wrap a small coin in aluminium foil and insert into the bottom of cooled cake. Turn cake right side up and sift confectioners sugar over the surface.

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the membership program. She is a former food...