Sunday, January 4, 2015

Guest Blogger Susannah Hardy #Vasilopita #recipe



Today MLK  welcomes Susannah Hardy who writes the brand new "Greek to Me" mysteries!

Susannah Hardy:  Thank you so much for hosting me, Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen authors! Can I just take a moment here to calm myself? Because I’m having a big ole fangirl moment here. If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be sharing recipes with Krista Davis, Cleo Coyle, Lucy Burdette, Avery Aames, Sheila Connolly, Peg Cochran, and Victoria Abbott, I’d have laughed myself silly.

And yet, here I am, with a culinary mystery to call my own. FETA ATTRACTION is set in a Greek restaurant in the Thousand Islands area of Northern New York State, along the St. Lawrence River. My heroine isn’t Greek (neither am I, so I hope my research is good), but she married a Greek man and manages the family restaurant. The Bonaparte House restaurant closes for the winter, so readers won’t see today’s recipe on the fictional menu, but Georgie’s mother-in-law makes this cake every year.

Vasilopita is a cake or bread, baked with a coin inside, that is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, in honor of St. Basil, for whom the dessert is named. Whoever receives the coin in his or her portion will be blessed in the coming year. I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use more blessings, so I see no reason not to make this easy, delicious cake any time.

Vasilopita (Greek New Year’s Cake)

1 cup butter, plus a couple of teaspoons for greasing cake pan
2 cups white sugar, plus an additional 1/4 cup
3 cups flour
6 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup warm milk
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ cup whole almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly wash a coin (I used a shiny, golden U.S. one-dollar coin, but you can use a quarter), and wrap with aluminum foil.

Cream 1 cup butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually mix in flour (mixture will look crumbly). Mix in eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.

Now for a little science experiment: Add baking powder to warm milk, and mix into batter. Add baking soda to lemon juice (this is fun—it will foam up), and mix this into batter as well. Mix in almond extract.

Pour batter into a 10-inch cake pan that has been liberally greased with the remaining 2 teaspoons of butter. I found that this recipe made too much batter for my cake pan, so I filled the 10-inch pan two-thirds full, then greased another, smaller pan and baked the remaining batter in that. Next time I would probably bake this in a 13” x 9” pan.

Poke the foil-wrapped coin down into the batter. Bake for 15 minutes.
While cake is baking, place almonds and remaining sugar into a small food processor and chop (or chop by hand). The almonds should not be a dust or paste, but should be a little chunky, like a streusel topping.  After cake has baked for 15 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle the sugar/almond mixture over the partially baked cake and return to oven. Bake another 15 to 20 minutes, or until cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool 20 minutes, then run a knife around the outside of the cake and it should pop right out.

Place on a pretty serving dish, almond side up, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

To serve, slice up the cake and top with whipped cream. You can never go wrong with whipped cream, right? The oldest person in the room is traditionally served first and then subsequent pieces are given out according to age, oldest to youngest. Whoever finds the coin in her/his cake is blessed.

I think this is a lovely idea, don’t you? To be entered in today's giveaway, please leave a comment with your email and describe one of your family's traditions...


Susannah Hardy thinks she has the best job in the world: making up stories and inventing recipes to go along with them. A native of northern New York, where she attended St. Lawrence University, Susannah now lives in Connecticut with her husband, teenage son, and Elvira the Wonder Cat. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.






116 comments:

  1. Thank you for this wonderful giveaway and delicious recipe! My family tradition is that we make sure we get together as much as we can and spend quality time together. areewekidding@yahoo.com

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    1. Hi, Robyn! That's the best tradition of all, spending time with family and friends.

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    2. Hi Susannah! Thank you! Have a great day!

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  2. Ours is a Danish Christmas tradition. At the end of Christmas dinner, a dessert called Ris a l'amonde is served. It is a rice pudding lightened with sweetened whipped cream and contains slivered almonds. There is also one whole skinless almond hidden in the dessert. This is served with cherries cooked and soaked with Cherry Heering, a liqueur. The person who finds the whole almond and presents it unharmed wins a mystery Christmas gift, often sweets but can be anything. We love the flavor this dessert and there is much ribbing and grand talk of who will win. A bit of fun.

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    1. That's so interesting! While I was doing my research on this cake, I found a lot of recipes from different traditions, and many of them featured something (a coin, a small stone, even a tiny doll hidden inside cakes, and the person who finds it is always blessed or considered lucky in the new year. Makes me wonder just how far back this idea goes, and it just reinforces how connected we all are no matter where our ancestors came from. Also, I'm thinking we might need that recipe--because I love cherries!

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    2. And I also love rice pudding. Win-win!

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  3. oops... forgot to add, little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

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  4. Welcome, Susannah, and thank you for your delightful recipe. My husband and I aren't Greek either, but Marc worked in a Greek cafe while he was in high school and remembers the joyous New Year's celebration. We’re both hoisting a glass of champagne for the success of your series.

    ~ Cleo

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    1. Well, Cleo, it seems you are determined to make me pass out from fangirlism before I've even finished my first cup of coffee this morning! Although I see you are already having champagne, which isn't a bad idea at all, LOL! Like Marc, I worked in a Greek restaurant when I was in college, which is where this idea germinated. There was never a dull moment. Thanks for hosting me today!

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  5. Every Saturday my family gets together. It really means a lot to me to see my family often.
    Moonbay7399@gmail.com

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  6. I envy you that, Candace. My family lives a few hundred miles away, so I only see them a few times a year. But my sisters and I chat a lot on Facebook. Mom hasn't embraced it yet, so we talk on the phone :)

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  7. My Mom makes her rum cake for special occassions.
    sgiden at verizon(dot)net

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    1. Mmmm, did someone say rum cake? Sounds delicious!

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  8. This sounds delicious, and I love the idea of a coin. I make my mother's and grandmothers' cookies for Christmas but don't really have a New Year's culinary tradition. Might as well start with this one! Congratulations on your new series - can't wait to read book one!

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    1. Thanks, Edith! I don't really have any New Year's special dishes either--but after reading about and making this cake, I also think this is a very nice tradition.

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  9. Don't enter me, but I want to wish you much success.

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    1. Thanks, Dru! I hope your 2015 is full of wishes come true!

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  10. I guess we really don't have any New Year's traditions, except to celebrate my Mom's birthday. My mother-in-law always made New Year's cookies, they are rather like doughnut balls with raisins and rolled in sugar after deep frying them. My sister-in-law still makes them. They are pretty good but have to be eaten almost immediately as they get tough.

    ElaineE246(at)msn(dot)com

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    1. My great-gram (who lived to be 102, so I knew her for a very long time) used to make old-fashioned donut balls that she'd roll in granulated or sometimes cinnamon sugar. She called them frycakes, and they were delicious, but as you said, you needed to eat them quickly before they toughened up. I'll bet it's a similar recipe to your family's--without the raisins, but I'll bet that's a yummy addition. And happy birthday to your mom!

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    2. Thank you! She is doing well, she's 83, so hopefully we have a few more good years since it is a ways to 102. I have a hard time keeping up with her some days...

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  11. I can't say that we really have one except that we do eat the traditional pork and sauerkraut on New Year's day for luck...I really have no idea where that came from...I guess google and I are going to be spending time together to find our, LOL. I love the cake recipe, I may have to do this, it sounds yummy. Congrats on your release!
    momzillasteel at gmail dot com

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    1. Thanks, Debbie! My husband is of German descent so sauerkraut and pork are staples in my house, and I make homemade spaetzle (a German noodle that is boiled, then sautéed in butter with a little nutmeg) a lot because my son loves it so much. That would go perfectly with your New Year's dinner!

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  12. We don't really have a family tradition other than obligatory black eyed peas for luck.
    dmskrug3 at hotmail dot com

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    1. Everybody needs and deserves more luck, so I am all for this tradition. What kind of seasonings do you use in your black-eyed peas? I don't think I've ever made them. We're more of a Yankee baked beans family but I would like to try them!

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  13. Not a New Years tradition, but we love going to the local Greek festival in the fall. The music, dancing and food - especially the baklava and loukoumades are to die for! Excited to read your book!
    lynnh555@gmail.com

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    1. Oh, Lynn, I love the Greek festivals! My favorite thing (other than the amazing food, of course) is the kids doing the traditional dances. Thanks, and I hope you like Feta Attraction!

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  14. Our holiday tradition is to eat out on Christmas day and then go to a movie. After we get back home, we open our presents.

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    1. Forgot email: scarletbegonia5858@gmail.com

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    2. For the first time this year, my husband and son and I went to a movie on Christmas and we came home and ate appetizers. No big Christmas dinner and honestly, we were just as happy :) Next year, maybe Chinese food so we can pretend we're in A Christmas Story! (It's smiling at me, LOL!)

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  15. Our family has quite a few traditions but not anything really big for New Year's except that I always cook a big roast pork with onion gravy with roasted vegetables to serve with it. But most other holidays all have a food related theme that we do almost every year. Food is a big thing in our family and it shows!!!!! :)I

    Our traditions are mostly to be together for each and every holiday which we never missed until this past Thanksgiving as my husband and I were not able to get to go on our family cruise this year due to my medical situation, so that was spent alone which was not a fun day, but hopefully we will be back on track soon. Thanksgiving is my husband's and my wedding anniversary so at Thanksgiving we have a lot of family special days like in 2013 when our daughter, son in law and all three grandchildren went with us to PA to celebrate our 50th anniversary.

    We also do a lot of Easter traditions which the kids love the most.

    As long as we are together with our daughter and her family and our son, that is a special day no matter when it is.

    Really looking forward to reading your book, Susannah. Love all food and beverage themed mysteries so much, and also cozies about animals and casinos and did I mention food and coffee and tea?? Love love love Cleo's Coffeehouse series and now you are hobnobbing with her, lucky Susannah. Wishing you much success. From the sounds of it, you won't have any problem with that.
    Sincerely,
    Cynthia B
    ceblain(AT)tmlponline(DOT)net

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    1. Oh my goodness, how blessed you are to have such a wonderful family. I'm sorry you missed your cruise, though, and I hope you are feeling better. And congratulations on your golden wedding anniversary! You are so right--I am very, very lucky and I still can't believe I'm here. Thanks for the well wishes, and I hope you like Feta Attraction!

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