Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 33° Partly Cloudy
News >  Nation

141-year-old fruitcake is a Michigan family’s heirloom

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 13, 2019

Julie Ruttinger, of Tecumseh, Mich., poses Dec. 9 with a 141-year-old fruitcake, a family heirloom baked by her great-great-grandmother, Fidelia Ford, in 1878. Fidelia, pictured at right, died before the cake was served, and the family, out of respect of her memory, decided not to eat it and has instead passed it down for generations. It resides in a glass case with the date of its creation affixed to the top. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Julie Ruttinger, of Tecumseh, Mich., poses Dec. 9 with a 141-year-old fruitcake, a family heirloom baked by her great-great-grandmother, Fidelia Ford, in 1878. Fidelia, pictured at right, died before the cake was served, and the family, out of respect of her memory, decided not to eat it and has instead passed it down for generations. It resides in a glass case with the date of its creation affixed to the top. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Associated Press

TECUMSEH, Mich. – Some families pass down jewelry, watches or even recipes. But a Michigan family has its own heirloom: a 141-year-old fruitcake.

“It’s a great thing,” said Julie Ruttinger, the great great granddaughter of Fidelia Ford, who baked the cake in 1878. “It was tradition. It’s a legacy.”

The cake was initially preserved to honor Ford. She established a tradition of baking the cake and letting it age for a year before serving it during holiday seasons. Ford died at age 65 before her 1878 cake could be eaten, and by the time the holidays arrived, the family considered her handiwork a legacy, not food.

Until his 2013 death, the cake was in the care of Ruttinger’s father, Morgan Ford, who was Fidelia Ford’s great-grandson. He had stored it in an antique glass dish on the top shelf of a china cabinet in his Tecumseh home – which is where it remains today.

“He took care of it to the day he left the earth,” Ruttinger said. “We knew it meant a lot to him.”

Guinness World Records doesn’t have an entry for the oldest fruitcake, but as for cakes in general, the Ford fruitcake is nowhere near the world’s oldest, the Detroit News reported. That honor goes to a 4,176-year-old cake that was found in an Egyptian tomb, according to the Guinness organization. It is on display in a food museum in Switzerland.

During the 93 years that Morgan Ford held on to his family’s fruitcake, he showed it off at church and family gatherings and shared stories about its history with younger relatives. He even showcased the cake on “The Tonight Show” in December 2003, taking a bite with the host and saying it tasted like thrashed wheat.

“He really enjoyed sharing the joy of the cake,” said another of his daughters, Sue Durkee. “He took a lot of pride in it.”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.