How do you make a star Christmas bakery product?

Each year, British Baker holds the Christmas Stars competition to find standout examples of festive baked goods.

We asked this year’s seven winning businesses to explain what makes their product exceptional, and how they will be using their victory to drive sales during the festive season.

Festive Bread including Panettone

Aldi Stores Specially Selected Exquisite Panettone (£6.99/800g)

Few things say festivities like a little fizz – which is what Aldi is banking on with its Specially Selected Exquisite Panettone.

Manufactured for Aldi by Corsini Bakery, the bread is made from a 40-year-old mother dough using a long and slow baking process to give it the characteristic air bubbles and a light and fluffy consistency. It is filled with fruits that perfectly complement the flavour of the subtle Prosecco, according to Aldi.

“This traditionally made panettone combines the traditions of Italy with the on-trend fizz, prosecco,” explains the company. “At Aldi innovation is really important to us; the Exquisite Panettone is a fun twist on an Italian classic.

“Our Specially Selected range is hugely successful over Christmas as consumers plan to upgrade to more premium products.”

The retailer has been stocking the product for two years throughout the Christmas period, and expects it to be a big success this year.

“We will be using the British Baker Christmas Stars logo on digital marketing throughout the Christmas period,” it added.

The judges said: “The taste and texture are great.”

  • Highly commended: Aldi Stores Specially Selected Christmas Tree Brioche

Festive Biscuits inc. Gingerbread

Bachmanns Luxury Lebkuchen (£14/300g)

“This is a variation on an old recipe of a Continental-style spiced gingerbread from my father’s apprenticeship in Switzerland,” explains Bachmanns managing director Chris Bachmann.

The lebkuchen is made with a lot of honey, and baker’s ammonia is used as the raising agent, which imparts a distinctive flavour, says Bachmann, who adds it has proved very popular with customers as a super-luxurious festive treat. “It is softer and chewier, rather than crunchy,” he adds. “We sandwich it with a good continental marzipan, then bake it.”

The firm decided to cover the biscuit with dark couverture after one of its staff members dipped a spare piece in dark chocolate. “It was delicious, so we decided to enrobe it in our signature dark couverture and decorate it with a Christmas theme which we thought would look striking,” says Bachmann, explaining that it also increases the longevity of the gingerbread.

This is the second year that Bachmanns has won a Christmas Star, and it is already designing its Christmas advertising to reflect the latest win and last year’s victory in the Cakes, Pastries & Tarts category with its prune and cognac tart.

The judges said: “A well-crafted product with a beautiful finish.”

  • Highly commended: Aldi Stores Belmont Prebuilt Gingerbread House Kit

Stollen

Asda Extra Special Chocolate Hazelnut & Amaretto Stollen Loaf (£5.50/500g)
Supplied by Mathiesons Bakery

Offering new takes on traditional products has helped the baking industry deliver some stand-out product development, and this creation from Mathiesons Bakery is a great example.

Developed for Asda’s premium Extra Special range, the Chocolate Hazelnut & Amaretto Stollen Loaf is making its festive debut this year.

Inspired by the traditional rum and marzipan stollen, Mathiesons believes the success of the product is down to offering “new and exciting twists on flavours such as chocolate marzipan and using a more modern alcohol flavour in the amaretto”.

The combination of innovation and an excellent flavour profile made this the standout entry in the stollen category for our panel of expert judges.

Mathiesons has started promoting its success in the competition by including the Christmas Stars logo in email signatures, and has also supplied the logo to Asda for use in marketing material.

The judges said: “This innovative product offers great and chocolatey flavours.”

  • Highly commended: Aldi Stores Specially Selected Luxury Topped Stollen

Christmas Cakes, Pastries & Tarts

Waitrose Christmas Gingerbread Latte Cake (£13/824g)
Supplied by Finsbury Food Group

Manufacturer Finsbury Food Group wanted to create a product that was fun, a bit different, and suitable for the whole family to enjoy at Christmas.

Finsbury drew inspiration for this cake, which is hand-finished and decorated with a chocolate gingerbread man and ginger crumb, from the growing popularity of festive coffees and their novelty cups.

“For some, it has even become a yearly festive ritual to enjoy with family and friends,” explained the company. “We chose ‘Gingerbread Latte’ as this is one of the top sellers and lends itself nicely to cake.”

For Finsbury it was important for the product to taste amazing, as well as look good. “We opted for a spiced ginger sponge and an aromatic coffee frosting to deliver that Gingerbread Latte flavour we were looking for,” it explains. “The creamy frosting helped to deliver the ‘latte’ element.”

Finsbury reckons there has never before been a product like it on-shelf at Christmas, adding it hopes the novelty aspect puts a smile on shoppers’ faces. 

The judges said: “This show- stopper has nice, even layers and lovely presentation. The balance of flavours is exceptional. It is really well thought out.”

  • Highly commended: The Co-op Ruby The Reindeer (supplied by Finsbury)

Free-from Christmas Bakery

Tesco Finest Christmas Pudding with Cranberry & Orange (£3/200g)

Tesco wanted to be able to offer its customers a sharing Christmas pudding that was free from gluten but exceptional in taste, and the retailer insisted there was no compromise in terms of flavour and appearance.

Hand-topped with orange vermicelli and cranberries and finished with a shot of Courvoisier, it is described as being steamed to perfection for a light moist eat. “It’s packed with plump and juicy vine fruits and glacé cherries mixed with brandy, ruby port, English cider and amontillado sherry for a really indulgent festive eat,” said the retailer.

Tesco added that the pudding, which was first rolled out for Christmas 2017, is the only ‘serves two’ product in the luxury gluten-free pudding market at the moment.

The retailer will be promoting its success in the Christmas Stars competition by using the winners’ logo to boost the standout of the product.

“It is really important for us that customers can see we offer a wide range of products to cater for all health needs and choices,” added Tesco.

The judges said: “This is a lovely moist pudding with a great boozy hit.  The structure is impressive – you wouldn’t know it was gluten-free.”

  • Highly commended: Flower & White Meringue Truffles

Mince Pies – sponsored by Flemings Zeelandia

Poundbakery Mince Pies (£1/four-pack)

Great pastry, great filling and great value for money – these Poundbakery mince pies were a smash hit with the judges and a well-deserved category winner.

And Poundbakery is going to make sure its customers know about its success in the competition.

“We are going to plaster it over the windows and our shop teams are going to love telling our customers,” says the business.

Manufactured by Poundbakery to a 100-year-old recipe, the pies are baked daily in its stores. According to the company, they look home-baked rather than baked in a factory.

It is the combination of great taste and the 100-year-old recipe that makes the Poundbakery pies stand out against other mince pies, believes the company.

“They are that popular that we stock them 52 weeks of the year in most shops,” it says. “Everyone here at Poundbakery is delighted that they have got the recognition they deserve.”

The judges said: “These are excellent value for money, with great pastry that is buttery and short. They have a lovely fruity taste.”

  • Highly commended: Aldi Stores Specially Selected Mince Pies

Christmas Puddings

Matthew Walker Cherry Topped Christmas Pudding (400g)

Matthew Walker set out to create a pudding that was traditional and special, and that customers would be proud to use as a centrepiece for their Christmas table.

Rolling out to foodservice suppliers for the first time this Christmas, the pudding is topped with whole glacé cherries, almonds, orange vermicelli, golden syrup and has a dusting of edible golden lustre, and is packed with juicy vine fruits.

“The vine fruits  and topping of cherries and almonds are time-honoured, and Amaretto and the edible golden lustre add a touch of modern decadence,” says the manufacturer.

Matthew Walker adds that what helps its products stand out from the competition is steaming all its puddings, so the customer doesn’t have to do so.

“The steaming process plumps up all the dried vine fruits and makes them incredibly plump and juicy,” it adds.The company plans to promote its Christmas Stars success by using the winner’s logo on the product and has the accolade in the signature of its emails.

The judges said: “A lovely twist on a traditional pudding. Lots of filling and toppings, which is great, and the cherries add to it.”

  • Highly commended: Aldi  Specially Selected Salted Caramel Vodka Pudding

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