Food & Culture

This Perfectly Preserved 100-Year-Old Fruitcake Found in Antarctica is Almost Still Edible, Somehow

You've probably heard more jokes about fruitcake than you've had actual slices of the stuff. (Why is that, by the way?) Say what you will about this famously tormented holiday loaf, but fruitcakes deserve much more credit. Name another dessert that holds up after being left behind in Antarctica for 100 years. We'll wait.

The Great Fruitcake Redemption

In August 2017, a team of researchers in Antarctica stumbled upon something unusual: an ancient fruitcake. This festive loaf was more than 100 years old, and it was so well preserved that it's almost still edible. Fruitcake may be good for more than just cheap holiday punchlines after all.

The discovery was made by conservators with the New Zealand–based Antarctic Heritage Trust, who were excavating artifacts in Antarctica's oldest building, a hut on Cape Adare. The lonely cake was wrapped in paper and encased in a rusty tin, but according to the trust, the fruitcake was in "excellent condition" and looks and smells almost good enough to eat. "Fruitcake is not something that people usually get excited about, but this discovery shows what a spectacular environment for historic preservation the Antarctic is," Clemson University historian Stephanie Barczewski told National Geographic.

A Wild Cake in Its Natural Habitat

As much as we like to imagine a band of baking emperor penguins flinging fruitcakes at the South Pole, the cake has a reasonable story of origin. More than likely, the fruitcake came from British explorer Robert Falcon Scott and his crew during their 1910-1913 Terra Nova Expedition. The cake, made by the British biscuit company Huntley & Palmers, was found in the Cape Adare hut that the expedition's Northern Party called their temporary home.

Maybe the team had a particular fondness for fruitcake, but it's also likely to have been a smart option for a source of sustenance in the harsh climate. "It's an ideal high-energy food for Antarctic conditions, and is still a favorite item on modern trips to the Ice," program manager for artifacts Lizzie Meeks said in a press release. Fruitcake: annual punchline? More like optimal exploration fuel. Take that, fruitcake haters.

A 100-Year-Old Fruitcake Was Found 'Perfectly Preserved' In Antarctica

Written by Joanie Faletto December 13, 2017