Let the fruitcake jokes start rolling in a little early this year. A group of conservationists recently discovered a 106-year-old fruitcake in Antarctica…and amazingly, it still looks edible (see above!).
The cake, made by the still-in-business British biscuit company Huntley & Palmers, was found among artifacts that members of the New Zealand-based Antarctic Heritage Trust recently collected from a historic hut on the Cape Adare peninsula. The hut was used by British Royal Navy officer and Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott on an expedition that took place from 1910 to 1913, and it’s been documented that Scott took that exact brand of fruitcake with him.
The hut at Cape Adare used by Robert Falcon Scott.
Since temps in Antarctica rarely rise above freezing, the dessert most likely remained frozen for more than 100-plus years.
“We were extremely surprised to open one of [the tins] up and find an almost as-new fruitcake looking back at us,” Lizzie Meek, the trust’s program manager of artifact conservation, told ABC Radio Perth. “The tins were very rusty so we weren’t expecting that anything inside would be in very good condition but I think the combination of the tin and the paper wrapper which was enclosing the fruitcake had really protected it from the atmosphere.”
The rusty tin that helped preserve the fruitcake.
The smell, however, was slightly less appealing. “It doesn’t smell quite as new, but it definitely looks new,” she added. “It smells like butter that’s gone slightly off, a little bit rancid.”
A few of the nearly 1,500 artifacts collected from the hut.
And while 100 years might be pushing it for shelf life, fruitcake was indeed created to last a long time, thanks to its high density. Before the advent of refrigeration, homemakers would make the cake using fruits and nuts from the summer and fall harvests and store it in their root cellars during cold months.
"It was a celebratory cake they'd bring out at Christmas, in the dead of winter when there was nothing good to eat," Hayden Crawford, a partner with Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, TX, which has been making fruitcakes since 1896, told The Feast last year. "It would be flavors they might not have had in several months since there was no fruit, no vegetables; it was all gone by then."
So if you're looking to stock up on food for the impending apocalypse, it seems like a stash of fruitcake would be a pretty smart choice.
Photos: Antarctica Heritage Trust
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