It's hard to find a more dramatic—or delicious—Christmas cake.
Christmas Cake
Credit: Hector Sanchez

The Southern Living Test Kitchen has baked up dozens of cover-worthy Christmas cakes over the years. And just like children, it's hard to pick a favorite. Our Gift Box Cake (complete with edible Fruit By The Foot ribbon) has been a reader favorite ever since it graced the magazine's cover back in 1996. Since then, we've experimented with fillings, flavors, and frostings, and cake layers and shapes of course. Our star-shaped cake from 2000 was probably the most polarizing, while the pure white on white simplicity of Mrs. Billet's White Cake earned rave reader reviews.

They're all centerpiece-worthy cakes in our book, but one has stood out from the rest: our Red Velvet-White Chocolate Cheesecake, made by our baker extraordinare Pam Lolley. This five-layer masterpiece, which was originally published in December 2013, has 90 reviews and counting—most of which are glowing. Layers of dense red velvet cake and white cheesecake create a candy cane-like effect, while also pleasing both chocolate and vanilla lovers. The entire thing is covered in creamy and sweet White Chocolate Frosting and topped with elegant white candy "leaves" and store-bought coconut truffles.

WATCH: How to Assemble Our December White Cake

We'll be the first ones to admit that this is a labor-intensive cake. The total cook time is almost 14 hours—not for amateur bakers. But the brilliant thing about the recipe is that there is less than one hour hands-on cooking time and the components can be made in advance, or in stages, and frozen, then assembled just before serving. The cheesecakes should be made one day ahead so they have time to chill and firm up, and the cakes can also be made one to two days ahead. (Double wrap the cake layers tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator or freezer.) The decorative leaves can be made up to one week in advance, if stored in an airtight container in the freezer. As reader "cbsopp," commented on the recipe: "It is labor intensive, so don't be in a hurry when you are making this."

Reader "NoVahoney" agrees, saying: "If you are looking for a cake to impress, look no further. It did take a bit more time than a standard layer cake, but well worth the effort. And, if you have time, make the candy leaves for decoration. Very easy to do, and it adds to the "wow" factor. The only downside is that everyone liked this cake so much that it now has to replace the chocolate cheesecake that I have been making since Southern Living published the recipe in December 2010."