Why does fruitcake last so long? Ingredients and preparation of the dessert play into its longevity


Fruitcake has built quite a reputation. It is known for its longevity, but also as a gift not widely preferred — although you can always regift. 

The origins of fruitcake date back to the ancient Romans, where a version of the dessert was made as a sort of energy bar to keep soldiers fueled for battle. 

These original fruitcakes were often made with pomegranate seeds, raisins, honey and wine. 

EASY FRUITCAKE FOR NATIONAL FRUITCAKE DAY: TRY THE RECIPE 

Fruitcake lasts for six months when kept in the pantry and up to a year when it is put in the fridge, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Even though this is a typical length of time, the dessert is good for even longer. 

A fruitcake lasts a lot longer than a typical dessert. It can be consumed months, even years after it’s originally made. (Rick Eglinton/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

In 2017, a 106-year-old fruitcake was left by members of an Antarctic expedition in 1911. 

The main reasons a fruitcake lasts so long are the ingredients and the process of putting it together. 

An ingredient that contributes to the longevity of a fruitcake is the alcohol that is often used, according to Bryan Quoc Le, a food scientist, per Scientific American. 

Fruitcake

The alcohol that fruitcake is soaked in plays a large role in its longevity. (Deb Lindsey For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Many fruitcake recipes include soaking the cake in rum, brandy or bourbon. This process makes the cake more acidic. 

There are fruitcakes that are made without alcohol, but these won’t last as long as the boozy alternative.

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When it comes to the fruit in a fruitcake, fresh ingredients are not traditionally used. 

Instead, dried fruit is ideal for this dessert. Since the fruit is not fresh, this ingredient reduces moisture in the cake, giving it a much drier texture. 

“Foods with low amounts of moisture, like fruitcakes and Twinkies, are resistant to the growth of microorganisms because you need a certain amount of moisture for spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms to grow,” Le said per Scientific American. 

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“If you can get rid of the moisture, you have something that’s nearly indestructible.”

A traditional fruitcake

Fruitcake lasts longer when put in the fridge versus being left out. (Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Fruitcake is not a light, fluffy delicacy. It is instead very heavy and dense. 

This allows the cake’s freshness to remain many weeks, months and even years after it is originally made. 

Though eating a year-old fruitcake isn’t likely to make you sick, according to Scientific American, the flavors won’t be ideal after long periods of time. 

Fruitcake that sits for anywhere for a week to a few months is ideal for eating. 

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