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Does Fruitcake Ever Go Bad?

Fruitcake, with its rich blend of candied fruits, nuts, and spirits, is famed for its longevity. Properly stored, it can last months or even years, thanks to the preserving qualities of alcohol and sugar. However, it isn't immortal; it can spoil or dry out over time. Wondering how to tell if your fruitcake is past its prime? Keep reading to uncover the signs of an aged fruitcake that's no longer a treat.

Regardless of whether you're a fan of fruitcake or can't stand the holiday loaf, there's no arguing that the one discovered by conservators in Antarctica is pretty impressive.

Historical documents suggest that the cake was brought to Antarctica by none other than explorer Robert Falcon Scott (or, more likely, a member of his team) during Scott's 1910 "Terra Nova" expedition. It was found in 2017 in one of the Cape Adare huts – the oldest buildings on the continent. While the tin-plated container it was found in was partially deteriorated, the fruitcake itself was remarkably well preserved.

Conservators have discovered a well-preserved fruitcake left in Antarctica by Robert F. Scott's 1910 expedition.
Conservators have discovered a well-preserved fruitcake left in Antarctica by Robert F. Scott's 1910 expedition.

"There was a very, very slight rancid butter smell to it, but other than that, the cake looked and smelled edible!" said Lizzie Meek, the artifacts program manager for the Antarctic Heritage Trust. "There is no doubt that the extreme cold in Antarctica has assisted its preservation." According to Meek, explorers to the frosty region have always loved fruitcake, since it travels well, keeps well, and contains a lot of nutrients to supply energy. Antarctic workers can easily burn 5,000 calories a day, so loading up on cake is not such a fruity idea.

Fun with fruitcakes:

  • According to Harper's Magazine, the density of a typical fruitcake is the same as mahogany.

  • Apollo 11 astronauts carried – but didn't eat – a pineapple fruitcake into space.

  • Fruitcakes have been around since at least the days of Ancient Rome; in Ancient Egypt, a form of fruitcake was often left at gravesites as a treat to be enjoyed in the afterlife.

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    • Conservators have discovered a well-preserved fruitcake left in Antarctica by Robert F. Scott's 1910 expedition.
      Conservators have discovered a well-preserved fruitcake left in Antarctica by Robert F. Scott's 1910 expedition.