A very traditional cake we usually do every Christmas in Greece & Cyprus with a chocolate twist! The King Cake (Vasilopita in Greek or galette des rois in French), is a New Year’s Day cake which contains a hidden coin or trinket which gives good luck to the receiver. It is associated with Saint Basil’s day, January 1, in most of Greece, but in some regions, the traditions surrounding a cake with a hidden coin are attached to Epiphany or to Christmas.
On New Year’s Day families cut the vasilopita to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year. This is usually done at the midnight of New Year’s Eve. A coin is hidden in the cake by slipping it into the dough before baking. At midnight the sign of the cross is etched with a knife across the cake. A piece of cake is sliced for each member of the family and any visitors present at the time, by order of age from eldest to youngest. Slices are also cut for various symbolic people or groups, depending on local and family tradition. In older times, the coin often was a valuable one, such as a gold sovereign. Nowadays there is often a prearranged gift, money, or otherwise, to be given to the coin recipient.
- 250 g. dark chocolate 72% cocoa
- 400 g. butter
- 300 g. brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 bulb fresh ground nutmeg
- 400 g. almond powder
- 10 eggs
- 175 g. flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- Decorative nuts and bonbons
- 125 g. butter
- 150 g. brown sugar
- 30 g. dark chocolate 72% cocoa
- 125 g. flour
- 50 g. almond powder
- Melt the chopped chocolate with the butter in the microwave.
- In a bowl add the eggs and beat with a hand blender or whisk.
- In another pan , place the melted chocolate with the butter , add the brown sugar , cinnamon, cloves , nutmeg , the almond powder , beaten eggs , flour and lastly the baking powder.
- Mix well and pour the mixture into a 28cm diameter tin, with a built bottom foil.
- Bake in preheated oven at 170 degrees C for 30 minutes and at 160 degrees C for another 30 minutes.
FOR THE ALMOND CRUMBLE :
- Melt the chocolate in the microwave.
- In a bowl add the butter, brown sugar, almond powder and stir briefly with an electric mixer.
- Add the melted chocolate and flour, continuing to stir.
- Take it out of the bowl and roll it out into a thin sheet of thickness 3 mm with a roller pin and place it in the fridge.
- When frozen cut a disc diameter smaller than the hoop of the Kings Cake.
- Cover the surface of the almost cooked cake with the crumble and continue baking for 15 minutes until the crumble is cooked.
- Garnish with decorations of your choice .
makes ~20 oz. apple butter, far more than you’ll need for apple butter buttercream, but delicious to have around for other uses!
- 2 lbs. apples, peeled, cored, and in chunks
- 4 cups unfiltered apple juice
- 1/2-2/3 cup light brown sugar*
- 1 tspn cloves
- 1 tspn ground cinnamon
- juice of half a lemon
- In a large pot over medium high heat, combine the apples and apple juice and cook until the apples are completely tender, about 15-25 minutes, depending on the size you chop the apples. If a foam forms, you may skim it off if desired.
- Remove the pot from the stove and let cool briefly. Puree the apples and apple juice in a food processor or blender until completely smooth.
- Return the puree to the pot and add the brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and lemon juice.
- Return the pot to heat and simmer on medium/medium-low heat, trying to maintain 105 degrees C. Cook for 1-2 hours, stirring regularly, until mixture really thickens and darkens and bubbles/splatters. Remove from heat when desired consistency is reached.
*Add only 1/2 cup sugar for a less-sweet apple butter. I used 2/3 cups sugar and while still really good, it was a little on the sweet side for me.
Cinnamon Apple Macarons
makes ~50 small macarons or 20-30 large macarons
for macaroon shells*:
- 200 gr powdered sugar
- 120 gr blanched and slivered almonds
- 10 gr freeze-dried apple
- 1 heaping Tbspn ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tspn green powered food coloring, if desired
- 30 gr granulated (superfine, opt) vanilla sugar
- 100 gr egg whites, aged 1-2 days at room temperature or a week in the refrigerator, at room temp
- 1/4 tspn cream of tartar
- Prepare two baking sheets lined with silpats or parchment paper and a pastry bag with a large round piping tip.
- Combine the powdered sugar, almonds, dried apple, cinnamon, and green food coloring, if using, in a food processor and grind until a fine powder. Sift thoroughly through a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
- In a small bowl, have ready the granulated vanilla sugar.
- In a separate mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and the cream of tartar. Using a balloon whisk, quickly stir the mixture until the entire surface is covered with foam. Then, start whisking the egg whites, gradually adding in the granulated vanilla sugar. Whisk until you reach glossy, almost-stiff peaks.
- Gently fold the sifted almond and powdered sugar mixture into the egg whites in three to four stages, just until the ingredients are incorporated and the batter slowly re-absorbs peaks.
- Transfer the macaroon mixture to the prepared piping bag and pipe rounds on to the lined baking sheets. Tap the baking sheets on the table a few times to release air pockets.
- Rest the macaroons for at least 30 minutes (and up to 60), until the outside shells are no longer tacky and sticky to a light touch.
- Preheat oven to 150 degrees C, with the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.
- Bake the macaroons in the oven, one sheet at a time, for 24-28 minutes total, rotating the sheet half-way through the baking time to insure even baking.
- Remove from oven and let cool.
*Note: the resting and oven temperature and times are adjusted to what works in my kitchen and oven (which, to my knowledge and according to two oven thermometers, is quite accurate). Please note that you may have to adjust according to what works in your kitchen and oven.
for apple butter buttercream:
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup apple butter
- Whip the egg yolks until light and shows definitive streaks when you move your whisk through them.
- In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and stir until the sugar is completely wet. Cook over medium high heat, without stirring, until the sugar reaches 114 degrees C. Immediately remove from heat and (carefully!) gradually pour into the egg yolks while whisking, being careful not to hit the whisk wires.
- Continue whipping the egg yolks on medium high until the the outside of the bowl is no longer hot or warm to the touch.
- Add the butter in while beating, one tablespoon at a time.
- Once the butter is incorporated, beat in the apple butter. Use immediately to fill the macaroons (or, if you refrigerate the buttercream, bring to room temperature and beat to restore texture before using).
- 1 small tart green apple, in small, thin chunks (thick enough to still have crunch, though!)
- lemon juice
- ground cinnamon
- Toss the apple chunks with a light coating of lemon juice. Then, sprinkle with cinnamon.
- Fill the macaroons with the apple butter buttercream and apple chunks. Let the macaroons “cure” in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
Please note that the amounts in the recipe for poached pears are approximate.
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 1/3 cup red wine
- 1 cup water
- 1 whole vanilla bean
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 Tbspn cloves
- 2 extra ripe Anjou pears
- 10 firm ripe Seckel pears (4 Bosc pears also work, if Seckels aren’t available)
- In a deep medium saucepan, combine the wine, water, and sugar. Split the vanilla bean; scrape the seeds into the saucepan and add the entire bean. Add the cinnamon sticks and cloves.
- In a food processor, puree the extra ripe Anjou pears. Strain the puree through a fine sieve into the wine mixture in the saucepan.
- Bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
- Meanwhile, use a melon baller to remove the center of the seckel pears, starting from the bottom. Peel each pear.
- Once the wine mixture has come to a simmer, add the seckel pears. Cook at a simmer until done, about 10 minutes, depending on the original firmness of the pears.
- Strain the pears from the liquid once they are done and set them on a cooling rack to cool and drain. Keep the remaining poaching liquid in the refrigerator for future use.
Frangipane tart filling
- 3/4 cup blanched and slivered almonds
- 2 tspn AP flour
- 1 tspn cornstarch
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 6 Tbspn butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg + 1 egg white
- 1 tspn vanilla
- 1 tspn almond extract
- 1 tspn brandy
- n a food processor, combine the almonds and flour. Grind finely.
- Add in sugar, butter, and flavorings. Blend.
- Finally, blend in the eggs until the mixture is smooth.
- Allow the filling to rest in the refrigerator for two to three hours.
Sweet tart pastry crust
makes enough for a 9″ round tart
- 1 3/4 cups AP flour
- 7 Tbspn cold butter
- 4 Tbspn sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 1/2 Tbspn water
- 1/2 Tbspn almond extract
- Preheat oven to 220 degrees C.
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend just until a dough begins to form.
- Remove from food processor and place the dough on a floured work surface. Knead gently just until the dough comes together. Chill if the dough is too warm.
- Roll out the pastry or pat down evenly into the bottom of the pan. (The patting works perfectly for this crust.)
- Chill the dough for about 20 minutes in the freezer.
- Using a fork, prick the bottom of the pastry several times. Top with a layer of foil or parchment paper and then fill the crust with pie weights. (I use dried beans–multi-purpose! Don’t waste your money on pie weights.)
- Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until almost done. Remove and let cool.
Tart assembly and final baking
- additional ingredient: apricot jam/preserves
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
- Spoon the frangipane filling into the baked tart shell and smooth.
- Slice the poached pears thinly and arrange on top of the frangipane filling. The filling will puff up during baking, so keep that in mind when you make your pear arrangements.
- Bake the tart for 40-50 minutes, until the frangipane is puffed and firm to the touch.
- Remove from oven and let cool.
- Heat the apricot jam in the microwave until it is liquid. Using a pastry brush, brush a thin layer of glaze onto the tart.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup fat-free or light strawberry yogurt
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 3 tbsp fat free milk
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup strawberry jam
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 190. Line a muffin tin with papers and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and whisk to combine. Make a well in the center and set aside.
- In another bowl add the yogurt, butter, milk and egg and whisk to combine. Pour into the well in the flour mixture and using a scraper/spatula, lightly mix the wet into the dry until just combined.
- Drop one tablespoon of batter into the prepared muffin cups and top with 1 teaspoon of jam. Top evenly with the remaining batter.
- In a small bowl, combine the 1 tbsp of sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the tops of each muffin. Bake for 15 minutes, or until centers are done. Cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Note: you could change this recipe by adding different flavored yogurts and jam. Blueberry or Blackberry would be outstanding.