Oldest cake in the U.S.?

  • Article by: LEE SVITAK DEAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 22, 2011 - 2:07 PM

The spice cake, found on a top of a closet shelf, was baked in 1911.

We could call this mummified wonder "Old Spice" -- at 100 years of age, the cake qualifies. And there's definitely a hint of spice emanating from its layers.

The surprise -- after the age -- may be that it's a spice cake, not a fruit cake. At least that's what Pierre Girard, of Golden Valley, thinks, based on its faint fragrance.

His friends found the cake in 1992 on a closet shelf in St. Louis Park. They were doing an estate sale assessment, prompted by the death of an elderly resident, originally from Canada, who had died without heirs. The friends passed it along to him as a gag gift, never expecting that he would hang on to it.

The cake was packed within a six-sided florist box with the handwritten inscription, "XMAS CAKE BAKED IN DEC. 1911" on the lid. On the bottom of the box, there was more handwritten inscription: "Xmas Cake Baked in Year 1911 by my Mother's Brother Alex died Dec. 27. Was operated on Xmas Day."

Last weekend, Girard celebrated the cake's 100th birthday with friends and family, who snapped photos and peered at the curious confection atop his piano.

After some research, Girard discovered that a Victorian holiday tradition was to soak spice cakes in brandy and rum. After nibbling on the cake, families would save it for another year, when another layer would be added.

The two-layer, 7-inch cake was once frosted, though much of that has disintegrated. Mints are lined up horizontally on the frosting, some bearing the word "Purity" and others "Extra English Mint." Nuts, now petrified, top the cake.

Back in 1997, when the Hennepin County Public Health office was asked if the county knew of any older food item, they said they had never heard of any.

Could this be the oldest intact cake anywhere?

Perhaps, unless there's a yogurt-filled cake sitting around in Russia.

Lee Svitak Dean • 612-673-1749

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