Scratch Bakers Can You Help Me With This One?

Baking By LNW Updated 9 Jan 2015 , 10:07pm by -K8memphis

LNW Posted 4 Jan 2015 , 12:53am
post #1 of 20

For New Years I decided to go all in with the "lucky foods." I've never done that before, we don't have any traditions for that day besides staying up late.


Anyways, I googled traditional New Years foods and found all kinds of stuff including something called a vasilopita cake.  It's a traditional Greek cake for New Years and the recipe reminded me of one I use to make orange marmalade cake.  Except minus some very tedious steps...


Anyways, I made the cake and it is AMAZING.  It's so fluffy and MOIST.  My family kept going on and on about.  I make some of my cakes from scratch and some from a doctored mix.  But even my best scratch recipes don't give me a crumb this moist and fluffy. 


I don't know anything about the science behind baking.  I just follow the recipe and pray it turns out awesome.  This one blew me away though and I NEED TO KNOW what it was I did to make the cake so amazing!


Here is a link: 


And the recipe just in case that doesn't work:


Once starting to prepare this vasilopita recipe, make sure that your butter is at room temperature before using. It is very important to mix the butter and sugar thoroughly until the butter is really fluffy and creamy, like whipped cream, and the sugar has dissolved. Give this step some extra time and the result will definitely reward you.


In many vasilopita recipes, the eggs are added whole to the cake mixture but with this recipe the egg whites are beaten into meringues and combined towards the end with the rest of the dough. This is the secret to a more fluffy and airy vasilopita. To avoid the egg-y smell, which can ruin the flavour of your vasilopita, add the egg yolks one at a time, allowing each one to be absorbed from the mixture.


Once done mixing the rest of the ingredients, use a marise spatula to incorporate the flour and the meringue. Using an electric mixer will result the vasilopita to loose it’s fluffiness. Just add the flour (sifted) and the meringue and blend with light circular movements, trying not to overwork the dough.


Also very important is not to open the oven under no circumstances, before 30 minutes of baking, as this will result your vasilopita to deflate. Finally don’t forget to insert the coin through the base of the cake!


If you prefer to make a vasilopita using a tsoureki dough, here is a no fail tsoureki recipe, for you to succeed on your first time. Enjoy!


For the vasilopita


  • 375g butter (13 ounces)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs (divided into yolks and whites)
  • zest of 2 oranges
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 200g yogurt, strained (7 ounces)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 750g self-rising flour, sifted  (26.5 ounces)



For the glaze


  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 2 tbsps hot water or milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Instructions
  1. To prepare this vasilopita recipe, start by dividing the eggs into yolks and whites. Place the egg whites in the bowl of the electric mixer, along with a pinch of salt. Make sure your egg whites, bowl and whisk attachments are clean and free of any water. Whisk the egg whites until the mixture is very thick and glossy and a long trailing peak forms when the whisk is lifted (meringues). Place the mixture in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Use the electric mixer, to mix the butter and sugar, for about 20 minutes, until the butter is creamy and fluffy, like whipped cream. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, whilst mixing, allowing time for each one to be absorbed, before adding another. Pour in the orange juice, the vanilla extract, the orange zest, the yogurt and mix to combine. Add 1/3 of the sifted flour and blend, using a maryse spatula. Add 1/3 of the meringues and blend with light circular movements from the bottom up. Repeat with the rest of the flour and meringue (adding 1/3 of the flour and 1/3 meringue and then the remaining flour and meringue).
  3. To bake the vasilopita, preheat the oven to 200C (both top and bottom heating elements on). Butter the bottom and sides of a round non-sticking cake tin (approx.32cm diameter) and pour in the mixture. Place the cake tin in the preheated oven, on the lower rack, turn the heat down to 175C and bake for 50-60 minutes, until nicely coloured and cooked through. Check if the vasilopita is ready, by sticking in the middle of the cake a wooden skewer or toothpick. If it comes out clean, then the cake is ready.
  4. Let the vasilopita cool down (otherwise it will break) and invert the pan on a plate. Wrap a coin with aluminium foil and stick it in the cake. Invert the vasilopita on a serving platter.
  5. Prepare the glaze for the vasilopita. In a large bowl add all the ingredients and blend with a spatula to combine, until the glaze is smooth and and glossy.  Add a little bit more hot water, if needed (the glaze should be like a thin cream). Top the vasilopita with the glaze and even out with a spatula. Don’t forget to carve the number of the year on top of the glaze! Enjoy!


I did two things totally different from the recipe.  Well three.  I converted all the measurements to US standard.  Then I mixed everything in my stand mixer for one.  Once I saw I was going to mixing butter and sugar for 20 freaking minutes I threw it all in the stand mixer with my whipping attachment and let it go.  Secondly I mixed in all the flour and THEN folded in the meringue.  I wasn't sure how I was going to mix in all that flour and meringue without deflating my meringue so I waited until the end and added them.  The batter was all fluffy and whippy when I put it in my 14" round cake pan to bake.  I came out absolutely perfect.


I'd love to use this recipe as a base for other flavors.  My family loves orange but my husband asked if I could make a plain vanilla cake using this recipe and I assume I could.  But I am afraid to change anything about it.  I don't know what about the recipe contributes to it being so darn moist and yummy.


Thank you all for any help you can give me!


19 replies
Pastrybaglady Posted 4 Jan 2015 , 3:11am
post #2 of 20

This sounds really good!  I've never made an orange flavored cake so I would like to try this one.  To make a vanilla cake I would substitute milk for orange juice and up the vanilla to 2 or 3 teaspoons.  I think the batter sounds really rich from the eggs and butter and is tender from the yogurt.  I would change the flavor via the liquid and the extract.  Everything else should probably remain the same.

costumeczar Posted 4 Jan 2015 , 3:20am
post #3 of 20

It's mostly (probably) the thorough creaming of the butter and sugar. If people would do that the right way every time it would really improve the texture of their cakes. Folding the meringue in at the end keeps air in the batter and gives it more lightness too.


The only issue with switching out the orange juice would be that there's so much of it, and since it's an acid it might have something to do with the leavening. Self-rising flour has baking powder in it already, so if you take out an acid it COULD affect the way the batter rises, but you never know. If you're not controlling the amount or type of baking powder that's in the batter you don't know exactly what you're working with.


If it was me I'd try switching out the orange juice with water to see what happens. If the acid in the juice is key to the texture you'll find out pretty fast. I wouldn't substitute milk because that would introduce some fat into the equation, and that's just another variable to deal with. I'd use water and vanilla instead of the orange zest and orange juice and see how it works. You might decide that you do need milk instead of water, but who knows.


If you don't get the same amount of rise in the water version you could add a little vinegar to the batter to replace the acid and see if that works.

Pastrybaglady Posted 4 Jan 2015 , 9:07am
post #4 of 20

@costumeczar - ah, good point.  How about we split the difference with skim milk?

-K8memphis Posted 4 Jan 2015 , 12:01pm
post #5 of 20

Avinegar or lemon juice in water or milk to replace the orange juice -- it's already got yogurt so milk should be ok -- but water is the closer replacement

costumeczar Posted 4 Jan 2015 , 1:45pm
post #6 of 20


Originally Posted by Pastrybaglady 

@costumeczar - ah, good point.  How about we split the difference with skim milk?

That could work. Once you have a good recipe that's balanced it's just a matter of having to experiment if you want to change it.

jchuck Posted 4 Jan 2015 , 6:27pm
post #7 of 20

AI've been a scratch baker since I stated baking with my Mom at 13. About 100 yrs. ago...hee hee. If you want to know about the science behind baking, may I recommend "The Cake Bible" book by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Invaluable. Best $$$ I ever spent. Recipes and great instructions, tips on baking AND the science behind it. I did know tho, from my Mom, and Home EC classes, which, sadly doesn't get taught anymore, beating the butter...a lot!...,incorporates air...which helps your cake rise. So when adding beaten egg whites, you have to fold in carefully as to not remove the air from the batter. I'm posting a Vasilopita cake I've made....devine, and I think, much easier than yours. Less steps, and you use your mixer. No OJ, but orange zest, so a little more subtle orange flavour. If I wanted a plain/vanilla cake, obviously eliminate the OJ, and add a good 2 tsp of quality vanilla extract....Mexican or Madagascar. Even some vanilla bean would be a nice touch. My Mom-in-law was Polish, not a be baker, but she made the Polish version of this cake for celebrations, especially New Years. But it contained yeast, which allowed a good rise....hmmmm, I can taste it now, buttery, moist...yum. I also bake in a bundt pan. Here's the recipe I use:

Vasilopita — Orange Scented New Year’s Cake

1 cup butter, softened 2 cups sugar ( I use ultra fine sugar, the kind used in making alcoholic drinks, or grind your sugar fine ) 6 eggs, room temp 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup of milk, room temp ( I use unsweetend almond or rice milk ) 2 tablespoons cognac or brandy ( I use Cointreau, orange flavoured liqueur) 1 tablespoon grated orange zest (from about 1/2 an orange)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and generously grease and flour a 10-inch round cake pan. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Beat butter and sugar until light, about 3 minutes. Add cognac and zest. Add the eggs, one at a time. Begin adding the flour, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with flour.

Pour batter into prepared pan and place in oven. Bake for 5 minutes then drop foil wrapped quarter into cake if using a coin for New Year’s Day. Continue baking for another 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

LNW Posted 4 Jan 2015 , 8:22pm
post #8 of 20

AYou ladies are awesome!

I'll make it again using water for the OJ and some vinegar for the acid. I worried about the acid in the juice having an affect on the cake. I have the best buttermilk biscuit recipe and when I tried to make them using regular milk they weren't anywhere close to as good. I attributed the flop to the lack in acid since I used regular milk but again, I don't get the science behind baking :-P

Would 1 TBSP be enough?

Should I use all purpose flour and add the leavening myself?

Thank you again ladies! I really really appreciate the help!


costumeczar Posted 4 Jan 2015 , 8:43pm
post #9 of 20

Only change one thing at a time so that you'll know what was responsible for what difference!


I'd put at least 1 tsp of vinegar in, maybe up to 1 Tbsp. No more than that.


If you want to switch out the self-rising flour don't use AP flour, use cake flour or a pastry flour like White Lily (is that what it's called?). It's in a bag...Self-rising flour is usually lower-protein than an AP flour would be, so that would affect the final texture too. I'd stick with the self-rising unless adding the vinegar to the water doesn't work. Maybe then I'd try self-rising flour plus a little baking soda and the vinegar instead of the regular flour plus more leaveners.

LNW Posted 9 Jan 2015 , 2:17am
post #10 of 20

AI tried again. I replaced the OJ with water and added 1tsp lemon juice (I was out of white vinegar and didn't think rice or red wine vinegar would work here ;) ).

Everything else I kept the same. The cake came out crumbly. It tastes amazing and is really moist but I couldn't ever make anything with this, like ice and decorate it. It fell apart when I removed it from the pans. It has so many eggs I can't imagine why it was all crumbly ? Any ideas?

costumeczar Posted 9 Jan 2015 , 4:22am
post #11 of 20

So basically it was too soft? hmmm...Try it with water and no extra acid. I'd say that it might be too much baking powder but if you used self-rising flour you can't adjust that. Also make sure it's cooled completely before you take it out of the pan.


Or...try removing like 1/4 cup of the self-rising flour and substitute AP flour.

Pastrybaglady Posted 9 Jan 2015 , 7:05am
post #12 of 20

I agree there may have been too much acid.  It's the acid that works against the gluten that keeps the cake tender.  I am surprised that 1 teaspoon of lemon juice is too much vs. a whole cup of orange juice.  If you look at jchuck's recipe it's similar but uses 1 cup of milk instead of orange juice.  Without the orange juice you're missing not only acid but sugar. I wonder what role that extra sugar plays.  Jchuck's using rice milk aleviates the fat issue but adds the sugar.  I'm interested to hear how just using water would come out, I just think it's a missed opportunity for flavor.

costumeczar Posted 9 Jan 2015 , 11:28am
post #13 of 20


Originally Posted by Pastrybaglady 

I agree there may have been too much acid.  It's the acid that works against the gluten that keeps the cake tender.  I am surprised that 1 teaspoon of lemon juice is too much vs. a whole cup of orange juice.  If you look at jchuck's recipe it's similar but uses 1 cup of milk instead of orange juice.  Without the orange juice you're missing not only acid but sugar. I wonder what role that extra sugar plays.  Jchuck's using rice milk aleviates the fat issue but adds the sugar.  I'm interested to hear how just using water would come out, I just think it's a missed opportunity for flavor.

That's true about the flavor...I was going to say to maybe try it with milk but then you'd be adding the fat...Maybe the skim milk you suggested earlier would work? the sugar would be a softener but I don't know that there would be enough in orange juice to make that much of a difference. If it did, the second cake would have been less soft than the first one, but it sounds like it was softer, which is strange.

-K8memphis Posted 9 Jan 2015 , 1:17pm
post #14 of 20

an idea is to try the best buttermilk you can find -- it has this powerful/wonderful emulsifier in it -- maybe with a couple tablespoons of water?


idk -- this is a very specific formula and sometimes it's that way or no way kwim -- 


i hope you are making 1/3 (1 egg) or 1/6 (2 eggs) of a recipe at a time in order to keep costs down 

LNW Posted 9 Jan 2015 , 4:51pm
post #15 of 20

Buttermilk then?  And leave out the acid?

I made the full recipe because I was teaching a 4-H cake decorating class and was showing the girls how to torte, fill, crumb coat and final ice a cake and I thought hey why not?  Lets try that new recipe again.  I ended running to the grocery store to buy some mixes instead.


I really like this recipe.  But could it have to be made just the way it is for it to work?  I don't mind playing around with it.  We raise chickens so I have, literally, a never ending source of fresh eggs.  It's butter that kills me.


I'll give it another shot with the buttermilk and see how that goes.  Maybe switch out the SR flour for AP and add leavening and cut back on the baking powder?  This is all actually really fun :D  Just a real bummer when it doesn't come out right.  But if I can get a working scratch white cake that tastes as amazing as this recipe did I'll be over the moon :)

Thank you ladies for all your help.  It is so greatly appreciated!


-K8memphis Posted 9 Jan 2015 , 5:15pm
post #16 of 20

yes buttermilk already has some acid and it has phospholipids that are the best at creating an emulsification between fat and water particles --


you can easily do 3 or 6 different tests at one time -- by dividing the ingredients by 3 or 6 -- then just keep everything well marked but you can make cupcakes out of it for test purposes --


divided by 3 then you can have three different tests running at once --


  • 375g butter (13 ounces)  4.3 ounces
  • 3 cups sugar 1 cup
  • 6 eggs (divided into yolks and whites) 2 eggs
  • zest of 2 oranges optional
  • 1/2 cup orange juice 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons or scant 3 tablespoons
  • 200g yogurt, strained (7 ounces) 2.33 ounces
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract lil bit
  • 750g self-rising flour, sifted  (26.5 ounces) scant 9 ounces


i think my math is right ;)

LNW Posted 9 Jan 2015 , 6:37pm
post #17 of 20

Have I mentioned how AWESOME you are??? 

Test batch #1 going into the oven soon :D

-K8memphis Posted 9 Jan 2015 , 7:49pm
post #18 of 20


Originally Posted by LNW 

Have I mentioned how AWESOME you are??? 

Test batch #1 going into the oven soon :D


merci beaucoup from all of us

costumeczar Posted 9 Jan 2015 , 9:18pm
post #19 of 20

Buttermilk is slightly acidic itself, so if you substitute that for milk in recipes you need to adjust leaveners. It usually makes things rise more than they would with milk, so if too much acid was the reason the second cake was too soft then it might have the same effect.


If you go with the buttermilk get the fat-free buttermilk to avoid adding more fat. Real buttermilk is fat free, but the cultured kind they sell can be fat free or full fat versions.

-K8memphis Posted 9 Jan 2015 , 10:07pm
post #20 of 20
i suggested subbing the buttermilk for the orange juice in the original recipe --  oj & buttermilk are similar ph -- buttermilk slightly less as you say

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