Tuesday, December 31, 2019

World's Oldest Fruitcake?

In keeping with the holidays, this post will discuss an amusing archaeological find: A fruitcake, found in Antarctica, on Cape Adare.  A BBC News article about the find may be read here.
A fruitcake.  "To my grandmother's recipe"
James Petts from London, England.  Found on Wikimedia Commons

It's believed that the cake is 106 years old, based on the deduction that the cake was left by an expedition of explorer Robert Falcon Scott. According to a short article on the find by Archaeology magazine, Scott was fond of fruitcake.  This one was found in its original tin (somewhat rusted) and had been made by the British company Huntley & Palmers, which after going dormant was reestablished and is once again in business today.  The cake was in surprisingly good condition, and "smelled edible," according to one of the archaeologists quoted in the BBC article.  A picture of Scott's fruitcake in its current condition may be seen in that article.  The photograph to the right is a more recent fruitcake; it is NOT the one found in Antarctica, but it may be used (with attribution) under a Creative Commons license.

The fruitcake find was only one of many at the Cape Adare site, where excavations have been ongoing since 2016.  The 1,500 or so finds, including clothing, tools, badly deteriorated meat and fish, and some "rather nice looking" jams, are being restored and returned to the find site, which was the base camp for Scott's last Antarctic expedition.  Scott's team found the South Pole, only to discover, to Scott's dismay, that a Norwegian team had beaten them by 33 days. Scott and four of his team members perished on their way back to their base camp.

It turns out that Scott's cake may not be the only fruitcake to survive a century.  This ABC story is about another fruitcake, preserved (though not as well) among ANZAC memorabilia, apparently as a serviceman's memento of his wife.

I hope you've enjoyed these odd tidbits about fruitcake!  Have a happy and prosperous New Year!


  1. I knew fruitcake can last a long time, but this is impressive. It doesn't even look very different from the one in the picture you used!

  2. Yes, that's pretty amazing. But then, Antarctica is very cold, and that likely helped with preservation as well. I'm actually more impressed that the ANZAC cake held up so well--it didn't spend decades in antarctic cold the way Scott's cake did.