Australian War Memorial takes 97-year-old cake



The Australian War Memorial (AWM) has received an interesting addition to its collection – three 97-year-old pieces of fruitcake.

The cake was baked to mark the homecoming of Moss Valentine Brasington, a labourer from Bombala in New South Wales who returned to Australia after three years of service in the 17th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force.

This week, his grand-daughter gave the century-old dessert to the AWM along with photographs, badges and other belongings.

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The cake was so mouldy that staff at the memorial needed to wear masks and gloves when handling it.

AWM curator Dianne Rutherford said it needed to be treated with care.

fruit cake handed to the Aust War Memorial

The fruitcake was made to celebrate the homecoming of Private Moss Valentine Brasington. Photo: ABC

“The cake is in a very interesting condition. It does have some mildew so we have to be quite careful when we handle it,” she said.

“You can see some evidence of the fruit that was in the cake.”

The pieces were surprisingly well preserved in a tattered Starlight Soap box.

“Two pieces are quite lovingly wrapped and we don’t know what condition they’re in. But there’s one that you can see and that’s quite interesting to look at,” Ms Rutherford said.

She said it was unusual to see food still intact after so long.

“It’s very very rare. We have recently received a bottle of whisky that’s a similar age, still with its contents, but things like cake which were never meant to last that long are extremely rare.”

Remarkably, the memorial is in possession of another cake specimen older than this one: a slice that dates from Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

Ms Rutherford said the 97-year-old cake’s fragile condition meant it probably would not go on display.

“It might not be able to cope with display conditions … we’ll catalogue it, photograph it and put it in our system and eventually it will go online for people to have a look at.”

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