Christmas 2016: Where sells the best mince pies, Christmas puddings and Prosecco - Sainsbury's, Waitrose or Aldi?
PUBLISHED: 18:00 02 December 2016 | UPDATED: 14:36 05 December 2016
Our judging panel put Christmas food from Suffolk supermarkets to the test to help you with your Christmas 2016 food shop.
There are more festive foods on the shelves than ever before, with supermarkets putting on the glitz and upping the ante with flavour combinations in a bid to woo customers through their doors. But where do you start?
If we’re to believe the shops, the Christmas countdown begins from the moment the ghoulish Halloween decorations are stripped down and replaced with baubles and tinsel.
That means your thoughts will now turn to where can you buy the best Christmas pudding, mince pies and cake?
Our panel of testers blind-tasted nearly 50 items of food and drink to help you make those all-important choices this December.
JUDGES’ FAVOURITE: Aldi Specially Selected Chocolate Orange Mince Pies x 6, £1.29 (10/10) - Topped with the neatly written inscription ‘Noel’, these non-traditional mince pies were absolutely gorgeous and won over both traditionalists and mince pie loathers.
Sitting above a bright orange-infused mincemeat is a layer of dark chocolate ganache that, on tasting, was like a grown-up orange Smartie. Indulgent when warmed, these would be scrummy on Christmas Eve with a hot chocolate.
BEST BUY: Aldi Specially Selected All Butter Cognac Laced Mince Pies x 6, £1.29 (10/10) - It seems Aldi really have it cracked when it comes to mince pies because these are crackers too. Beautiful star decorations on top. A buttery, short, perfect pastry. And a filling with a good hand of zest. A fantastic all-rounder that everyone liked.
Heston from Waitrose Spiced Shortcrust Mince Pies x 6, £2.25 (9/10) - These are another depart from the usual mince pie. Wider and flatter than traditional, they resemble a Scottish ecclefechen tart. The exterior was crumbly with flavours resembling a German lebkuchen – filled with clove. The appearance, with a crumble topping, was pleasing, and ideal for those who aren’t really lovers of buttery pastry. Tasters enjoyed the fruity filling – with a touch more lemon they’d be a 10.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference All Butter Mince Pies x 6 £2 (9/10) - These ones had a sweet holly leaf design on top and a good golden colour. They had the best-tasting pastry, full of pure butter, crisp and short. The filling was spot-on too.
Waitrose One All Butter Mince Pies x 6, £2.50 (9/10) - Golden beauties. These had a homemade taste and appearance and were ideal partners to a glass of Port.
Asda Extra Special All Butter Mince Pies x 6, £1.50 (8/10) - Excellent pastry, but the filling in these needed a little more zing to hit the right note. Still a really good pie though.
Snowy Lodge (Lidl) Luxury Mince Pies x 6, £1.49 (7/10) - A little cloying but a nonetheless enjoyable pie that represents good value for money.
JUDGES’ FAVOURITE and BEST BUY: Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference 18 Month Matured Christmas Pudding, £10 (10/10) - This was by far and away the very best traditional Christmas pudding tasted. It smelled, looked and tasted like a proper homemade pudding. There was an initial hit of booze on the nose, and on eating the pudding didn’t disappoint, carrying the flavour of Cognac throughout. Once the initial flavour of alcohol subsided there was plump vine fruit, citrus and sticky dark sugar. The texture was fabulous. A real winner at a keen price for the size.
Heston From Waitrose Persian Spiced Christmas Pudding, £10.50 (10/10) - If you prefer your puddings on the light side, then this is perfect for you. Underneath the golden sheen of the exterior, is a moist, bright pudding filled with apricots, pistachios and pomegranate liqueur. The panel adored the honey and rose butter in the centre, which melted generously to coat the pudding and gave the whole dessert a divine fragrance that wasn’t at all sickly. Serve with crème fraiche or yoghurt.
Snowy Lodge (Lidl) Luxury Cherry Pecan Topped Pudding with Glace Orange, £8.99 (8/10) - Judges scored this pud highly for its attractive, neat arrangement of fruit and nuts across the top, and for its enticing glossy shine.
The dessert is more towards the ‘tart’ end of the spectrum, rather than being too rich and deep. However the ‘bready’ texture let it down a couple of points.
Cooperative Truly Irresistible Christmas Pudding, £5.49 (7/10) - This pudding was heavier in nuts than most of the others tested, and had bags of dried fruit too, however the flavour just wasn’t quite fruity enough.
One for those who like a bit of crunch and texture.
Aldi Specially Selected 12 Month Matured Christmas Pudding, £3.49 (7/10) - Judges described this as an ‘inoffensive’ dessert that everyone will like. Not too dark or rich, not too light, just the right texture and flavour but nothing that said ‘wow’.
Asda Extra Special 9 Month Matured Christmas Pudding, £4 (7/10) - Judges couldn’t believe the low price of this pudding, which is sufficiently flavoursome and citrusy to be a big hit at the end of your Christmas meal. The taste scored well across the board.
Asda Extra Special Italian Panettone and Prosecco Pudding, £5 (5/10) - The judges loved the aroma and look of this pudding but the flavour profile didn’t quite hit the right notes. Prosecco wasn’t detectable and the texture was ‘bready’, more like a bread and butter pudding.
BEST BUY: Heston from Waitrose Mini Sticky Toffee Apple Sponge Pudding, £2.62 (8/10) - If you don’t like your puds sickly sweet, try this. Although it looks gooey and rib-sticking at the table, the appearance belies the grown-up taste this dessert has. Underneath the gently salted toffee topping is a delicate, close-textured sponge spiced with cloves and mace.
Tesco Kir Royale Sponge Pudding, £6 (7/10) - This is a pretty dessert, crowned with shiny cherries and blackcurrants soaked in cassis, and drizzled with a golden cinnamon sauce. Some judges found the sponge overly buttery, but this was countered by the sharp/sweet fruit. It was soft and moist and would be great with crème fraiche.
Cooperative Chocolate and Salted Caramel Pudding (6/10) - These had a good sticky texture but the chocolate flavour was a little artificial. Children would probably scoff it down with ice cream as an alternative to Christmas pud.
JUDGES’ FAVOURITE: Asda Extra Special Belgian Chocolate Frosted Yule Log, £3 (8/10) - You get a lot of bang for your buck with this delicately dusted log smothered in crisp milk chocolate and lashings of fudge icing.
While the sponge was a little dry, the thick topping more than made up for that, and judges liked the ‘real’ butter and chocolate taste of the frosting, which didn’t have the artificial aftertaste you sometimes find. Kids will adore this. It’s very very rich so only small slices are required.
BEST BUY: Sainsbury’s Chocolate Log, £1.50 (7/10) - You can’t argue with the value of this simple chocolate log with a sprinkle of ‘snow’. The log had a good proportion of filling to sponge, and a good chocolate flavour. A low cost option to serve at the Christmas table alongside more traditional desserts.
Cooperative Chocolate log (6/10) - This was a little dry and the filling was more ‘moussey’ than the others sampled. It won’t get any ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at the table but will do the job nicely if you need a bit of chocolate.
Snowy Lodge (Lidl) Luxury Hand Finished Festive Yule Log (2/10) - Swirled with icing and topped with bronzed flakes of white chocolate, this was the best-looking of all the yule logs. But the flavour was pretty terrible – soapy, sour milk – and the texture didn’t fare it any better. Sorry Lidl!
JUDGES’ FAVOURITE and BEST BUY: Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Star Garland Iced Rich Fruit Cake, £15 (9/10) - This pretty white cake with a halo of twinkling stars on top elicited a great reaction from judges who all said it’s a fabulous centrepiece. Underneath a good ratio of icing to marzipan, was a full-flavoured, close-textured cake with sweet, juicy fruits and just the right blend of tastes. Excellent.
Waitrose 1 with Fiona Cairns Christmas Spice Fruit Cake £16 (9/10) - An attractive alternative to a fully-iced cake, this confection came in a ribbon-embellished tin and is strewn with stars and a liberal hand of cinnamon and Demerara sugar.
The sugar gave an unusual (but pleasant) crunch to the cake, which had a marvellous flavour and texture. Although sold as a spiced fruit cake it didn’t seem to have any more spice than any other cake.
Cooperative Christmas Cake (8/10) - All judges appreciated this cake. While it wasn’t as glamorous as some of the others, with its rice paper Christmas tree decoration, it delivered on flavour, having a true, homemade taste that everyone liked.
Snowy Lodge (Lidl) Luxury All Over Iced Christmas Cake, £9.99 (7/10) - This was by far and away the most impressive looking cake judged, being topped with a slumbering polar bear, Christmas tree and lots of sheen and sparkle. Inside it was beautifully moist, but had perhaps too much treacle or brown sugar which gave it a bittersweet, almost burnt aftertaste that not everyone enjoyed. However, if you prefer your cakes darker, it’ll suit you to a tee and the price is very reasonable for the work that’s gone into it.
Asda Extra Special Three Month Matured Brandy-Soaked Iced Fruit Cake Bar, £2.50 (7/10) - If you’re catering for one or two this Christmas and don’t have need for a large cake, you can’t go far wrong with this soft, gently boozy cake which was well-balanced and traditional tasting.
Tesco Finest Hand Decorated Rich Fruit Cake with Oak-Aged Cognac, £10 (7/10) - Tesco have got the flavour profile of this cake just-right, but the texture isn’t quite moist enough and judges found it crumbled easily. However, that’s nothing a drizzle of brandy cream wouldn’t sort out!
Aldi Specially Selected Iced Fruit Cake with Cognac (5/10) - While they are the masters of mince pies on this occasion, Aldi haven’t quite hit the mark with this fruit cake bar, which is a bit pappy and dry with not too much flavour. Another one to drizzle with brandy cream or ice cream.
BEST BUY: Aldi Fillio Sansovino Prosecco (9/10) - A pleasingly refreshing and easy-to-drink Prosecco with a bright, crisp finish.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Special Reserve Port, £10 (9/10) - Smooth, packed with raisiny notes and not overly sweet. This Port sings with sticky dried fruit and has a depth to it often associated with much more expensive bottles. It’s a steal.
Tesco Finest Valdobbiandene Prosecco Superiore, £8 (8/10) - Light and pleasant, this Prosecco is a good example of the wine that’s become one of the UK’s most popular drinks. It came across a little sharp, but scored highly across the board.
Tesco Finest Salted Caramel Liqueur, £12 (8/10) - It’s not hard to see why this bottle is an award-winner. Judges described it as an ‘adult milkshake’. There’s no escaping the fact the liqueur is sickly sweet, but that’s cut through with a good dash of salt, and the creamy mouthfeel is very luxurious. If you like your drinks sweet and moreish you should stock up before they sell out as it was very popular last year.
Lidl Christkindl Gluhwein (8/10) - The proper stuff. Not overly sweet but suitably aromatic, filling the kitchen with all the smells of a German Christmas market. A perfect partner in crime to a mince pie or slice of stollen.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Godello, £7 (7/10) - Packed with citrus and a zing that popped in the mouth this was fresh and fruity and vibrant. Try it with Christmas cake instead of Port and you’ll find it zips through the richness.
Heston from Waitrose Spiced Mulled Cider, £3.74 (5/10) - This divided judges. Some liked the taste, others found it too heavily spiced. All agreed it was a little too sweet.