For some, fruit cake is an unappealing part of a traditional holiday dessert spread, for others it’s a sweet, satisfying, high-energy treat. For food manufacturers, however, a particular piece is of special interest. A Huntley & Palmers fruit cake dating back to 1911 was recently found at Cape Andre in Antartica and it still appears to edible. This find may provide clues into how to extend the life processed foods without the addition of modern preservatives.
Image Source: Popular Science
Expanding On Food Preservation Methods
Although ordinary fruit cake is notably shelf stable, the exceptional longevity of the Antarctic piece has been tied to the extremely low temperatures of its location. The cake itself was wrapped in ordinary wax paper and kept in a tin box. Conservators described only a slight scent of rancid butter upon discovery with the cake looking and smelling otherwise edible. While proper wrapping and freezing are well-known methods for preserving baked goods and other foods, the condition of the cake after so long is unexpected and has piqued the interest of food researchers and processors.
Image Source: NPR
Natural ingredients, Exceptional Shelf-Life
According to Forbes, baked goods comprise five percent of the processed food industry’s $4.6 trillion business—one third of which is based in the United States. The frozen food industry in the U.S. alone is expected to grow from $52 billion in 2015 to $70 billion by 2024. Developing better methods for retaining the freshness of baked and frozen foods is big business, and the Antarctic fruitcake might provide valuable clues into how food freshness and stability could be greatly extended without having to alter natural ingredients or introduce any particularly specialized packaging. At the very least, the find itself may help some consumers develop a new appreciation for a cake that doesn’t always get the most enthusiastic response.
Have any thoughts on this discovery? Tell us what you think in the comments.