Fortnum & Mason, iced Christmas cake with brandy, £19.95
Not a good start, as the icing, only on the top, fell off straight after cutting. But this revealed a “beautiful dark, rich cake”. The consistency of this cake was “quite dry” and crumbly with a hint of cloves and “plenty of orange peel”—a good interpretation of how a Christmas cake should taste. There was a “good balance” of icing, marzipan and cake. This is a strong contender.
Marks & Spencer, Present cake, £12.99
First impressions of this “luxury fully-iced fruit cake” weren’t great. It held together well, but there was a shower of sparkles on top of the icing, which one panellist said “smelled of glue. “ A shame really, because the cake itself was great. Comments included “a good all rounder”, “has perfect consistency” and ”fruity and satisfying”. But some pannelists were put off by the somewhat “artificial” icing.
Organic Christmas cake, £17
This cake was supplied to After Hours courtesy of the new John Lewis Food Hall. It had a “pleasant tang” which matched its “nutty texture” well. A thin layer of icing and marzipan meant the focus was on the fruit—and it didn’t disappoint. “Sticky”, “tastes like it’s homemade” and “well balanced” were some of the more positive comments from our tasting panel.
Bettys by post, Soft sugar iced snowflake, £24.95
Bettys offers a large selection of Christmas cakes. And this one impressed, with its “perfect marriage of fruit and spice” , its “balanced sweetness” and “moist, boozy stickiness” . It was let down slightly by the icing, which divided opinion. Although it avoided the cloying taste of some, it was “hard enough to break teeth”. Still a worthy centrepiece for any Christmas spread.
Marks & Spencer,
Jewel cake, £9.99
This fruitcake, the second contender from the M&S stable, had a selection of glacé fruit arranged invitingly on top, in lieu of the traditional Christmas icing and marzipan. Our panel found it to be “excellent value”, and “light and dry”. Apart from the orange, though, much of the candied fruit topping looked better than it tasted. A good, light alternative for the icing-phobic.
Konditor & Cook, winter in London royal iced cake, £38
If first impressions count for anything, this cake would win hands down. “Amazing presentation” featuring the London city skyline in white icing was “too pretty to cut.” Better still it tasted as good as it looked, with two pannelists declaring it the best fruitcake they had ever tasted. “Perfect texture”, said one while another praised the “melt in the mouth icing”, the pick of the cakes tested.