A chunk of non-archival fruitcake.

A chunk of non-archival fruitcake. (Photo: Ruth Hartnup/Flickr)

We have all heard the legends, passed down through generations, of old-as-heck fruitcake.

But just because everyone thinks their family’s nibbled-on block of fruit and dough is the oldest ever doesn’t make it so. To nail down that kind of title, you have to get ritually rigorous. You’ve got to have an Archival Fruitcake.

This past Saturday, for the twelfth year in a row, dedicated pilgrims traveled to Independence, California to witness the exhumation and reburial of (probably) the world’s only such baked good. The Archival Fruitcake was removed from its storage container (a Cold War-era Civil Defense barrel marked “Hazardous Waste”). A piece was eaten by a sacrificial volunteer. The cake was then sugared, re-brandied, and returned to the barrel for safekeeping, and revelry continued around it deep into the night. 


One of this year’s winning cakes.

The rite is part of the town’s annual Fruitcake Festival, a nutty extravaganza that also includes a costume contest, a multi-tiered competition overseen by actual Superior Court judges, and the election of a Fruitcake King. Past themes have included “disco,” “alien invasion,” and “20,000 Fruitcakes Under The Sea.” This year’s theme, Fruit-A-Con, featured many caped cake crusaders and a green-frosted “Kryptonite Fruitcake.”


Fruitcake Festival - December 12th at 6 pmLegion Hall, Independence, California

Posted by Mary Roper on Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A poster advertising 2013’s “Fruitcake Madness”-themed festival.

The festival has gradually picked up momentum over its decade-plus history, and shows no sign of slowing down—good news for those who want a more impressive record, and better news than expected for the fruitcake tasters. “It is my opinion that the flavor [of the archival fruitcake] has improved considerably under long-term storage,” the Festival’s organizer, Nancy Masters, told local radio station KCET. Let the legends be revised.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.

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