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
Saturday 03 December 2005
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
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