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The 12 best Christmas cakes

Whichever way you slice it, you need a first-class cake at Christmas. Caroline Stacey and her little helpers put 12 contenders through a blind tasting

Carluccio's Panettone Tradizionale

Beautiful crackled, crusted top on a "blindingly good" panettone; fluffy, full of flavour, "fabulous". Comes in a stunning silver box. £13.95 (1kg) from branches of Carluccio's and www.carluccios.com

Tesco Finest Panettone

High-domed, sweet and aromatic, this is a fine, elegant and gorgeous panettone. It looks less rustic than the Harvey Nicks version, but there's not much to choose between them in taste. Hide the box and nobody need know where you bought it. £5.99 (750g) from Tesco

Nigella Lawson's Living Kitchen

A crime against Christmas cakes: "weird", "scary", "bitter", "grotesque". This dark-chocolate and fruit Christmas cake is all wrong. £25 (1kg) from department stores and independent food shops, www.nigella.com

Fiona Cairns Cinnamon and Orange Christmas Cake

A class act - this is the kind of cake that gives Christmas excess a good name. It's spicy, fruity and perfect in taste and texture. Even the icing isn't sickly. £24.99 (approximately 1.25kg) from most branches of Waitrose

The Village Bakery Organic Stollen

The marzipan filling is nicely spiced, but overall, this is "a bit puritanical for Christmas". Maybe we're not quite European enough to appreciate the subtleties of this stollen. £4.75 (400g), from www.village-bakery.com and independent stores

Harvey Nichols Panettone

This is an excellent panettone, with a fragrant citric kick. And it comes in a beautiful box.

£11.95 (1kg ) from Harvey Nichols in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Edinburgh and Dublin

Columbine Cakes Luxury Christmas Cake

Pale and insignificant; a drier, crumbly cake.

£12,99 from House of Fraser World of Food, Birmingham and Croydon. 0870 1607270, www.houseoffraser.co.uk

Bettys Mincemeat Streusel Cake

Looks unassuming, but if granny likes Mr Kipling's, she'll love Bettys all the more. It's continentally spicy, light and crumbly - "don't eat it in bed".

£5.50 (480g) from Bettys Café Tea Rooms in Yorkshire or mail order, 0845 3453636, www.bettysbypost.com (delivery £7)

Asda Extra Special

Despite a slightly heavy hand with the booze, this is a respectable, good, traditional fruity cake with pleasing icing and subtle marzipan. £7.98

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Three Wise Men

A "journeyman cake" that leaves plenty of room for improvement. More spice and flavour are needed, and the icing is glycerine soft and tooth-achingly sweet. £18.99 (2kg) from Sainsbury's

Marks & Spencer Luxury Stollen

Gaudy - all that's missing are flashing lights and it could stand in as an anaemic tree. Underneath all the nuts and cherries there's some indifferent spiced bread and marzipan. £6.99 (685g) from Marks & Spencer

Duchy Originals Glacé Fruit Cake

Crumbly, "more than enough nuts for granny to choke on", and so restrained with the sugar there must be a worthy underlying message. Top better than bottom. £14.95 (800g) from Waitrose and Sainsbury's