Taste & Tell

Buy the best: we put supermarket Christmas cakes to the taste test

Our judges have spoken: here's where to head to pick up the most delicious fruit cake this festive season

24 November 2019 - 00:00 By Hilary Biller
Iced Christmas cakes from, from left, Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Spar, Checkers and Food Lover's Market.
Iced Christmas cakes from, from left, Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Spar, Checkers and Food Lover's Market.
Image: Christoph Hoffman

HOW WE CONDUCTED OUR TASTE TEST

It's free and fair!

It's the most anticipated tasting of the year, the annual search for the best-tasting iced Christmas cake from five of the big retailers.

As such, we brought in the big guns, to be on our judging panel:

  • Jane-Therese Mulry, the executive chef of the five-star Saxon hotel in Johannesburg, and her two pastry chefs, Catherine Adonis and Nathan Jacob;
  • Chef Fritz Flatscher of CafĂ© Mozart, a top-notch confectioner;
  • Chef Heinz Brunner and Unilever Food Solutions chef Pinky Maruping, who are seasoned tasters, particularly of Christmas fare.

As with all our tastings, this was a blind taste test, meaning the mince pies were stripped of their packaging, numbered and presented to the judges with no reference to the brand.

An auditor oversaw the entire process and tallied up the judges' score sheets.

THE RESULTS

FIRST PLACE: PICK N PAY

Luxury Iced Brandy Fruit Cake

Price: 1kg for R199.99

What the judges said:

  • Chef Jacobs: The best of the lot we've tasted but nothing special.
  • Chef Maruping: The cake looks perfect but is very dry.
  • Chef Mulry: The best of the lot, nicely presented.

SECOND PLACE: WOOLWORTHS

Iced Brandy Fruit Cake

Price: R159.99

What the judges said:

  • Chef Adonis: Crumbly texture and overwhelming almond essence flavour.
  • Chef Brunner: Looks a bit pale, texture moist but lacking in flavour.
  • Chef Maruping: Texture is too crumbly and falling apart. I can pick up the alcohol.
The chefs on our judging panels: Catherine Adonis, Nathan Jacobs, Heinz Brunner, Jane-Therese Mulry, Pinky Maruping and Fritz Flatscher.
The chefs on our judging panels: Catherine Adonis, Nathan Jacobs, Heinz Brunner, Jane-Therese Mulry, Pinky Maruping and Fritz Flatscher.
Image: Michael Edwards

THIRD PLACE: SPAR

Freshline Iced Christmas Fruit Cake

Price: 900g for R119.99

What the judges said:

  • Chef Jacobs: There's a funny taste in the cake, not sure what it is.
  • Chef Brunner: The cake leaves a bitter aftertaste.
  • Chef Maruping: The cake tastes unpalatable.

FOURTH PLACE: CHECKERS

Iced Festive Fruit Cake

Price: 800g for R109.99

What the judges said:

  • Chef Jacobs: Crumbly and dry, the taste is not good,
  • Chef Brunner: It is very crumbly and not up to standard.
  • Chef Maruping: Crumbly but moist and I can't pick up any spices.

FIFTH PLACE: FOOD LOVER'S MARKET

Iced Fruit Cake

Price: 1kg for R129.99

What the judges said:

  • Chef Flatscher: The cake is not baked through, it has a raw centre.
  • Chef Mulry: This cake is raw and needs to be taken off the shelf immediately.
  • Chef Brunner: This cake is not baked through and is raw inside. It's a no-no.