Everyone visits museums for different reasons. For some, it's the idea of being surrounded by so many historical artifacts that predate their own existence by centuries. For others, it's the intrigue of learning something new and leaving knowing something they hadn't known prior to visiting. Regardless of the specific reason that one might visit a particular museum, there's no denying one thing: the world's oldest cake is quite a lucrative draw.

Food history might not be something a person is interested in but upon hearing that the oldest cake in the world is on display in England - and features stunning Victorian decor - that's pretty hard to pass up. The museum with this especially unique artifact is the Willis Museum in Hampshire, England, and the story of how they came to acquire this unusual dessert is really something.

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The Oldest Victorian Wedding Cake In The World

It's not an uncommon tradition - at least, in the U.S. - for newlyweds to save a slice of their wedding cake in the freezer until their one-year anniversary. While there's no telling how it'll turn out 365 days later or if it'll survive the dreaded freezer burn, it's still a tradition. More than 100 years, however, is quite a lengthy amount of time for a cake to remain preserved, let alone uneaten, but that's exactly what happened in the case of the cake that's on display at the Willis Museum. Before diving into how visitors can see this cake, it's fun to learn why it's worth seeing this cake because it's not your average wedding cake.

The confectionary in question was created by C.H. Philpott, Baker and Confectioner, a bakery owned by Charles H. Philpott and his wife. The bakery was based in Basingstoke, and this cake was displayed prominently in the window for a whopping 66 years. It begs the question of how, exactly, the cake was so well-preserved, but that's not even the most fascinating thing about the edible masterpiece. The city of Basingstoke was the target of attack during World War II, and the town center was nearly destroyed after an attack in 1940. However, despite the destruction around the bakery, the cake in the window of C.H. Philpott, Baker and Confectioner remained entirely intact - with only a single crack. This, in itself, was a triumphant moment for the cake, which had already survived half a century up to that point. To this day, the crack can be seen at the base of the cake but, surprisingly, the structural integrity of its multi-layer tier remains intact.

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The Cake And The Museum

At this point, some might be wondering how on earth such a cake, with its intricate Victorian detailing and baroque-style decor, made its way to the Willis Museum. After surviving two World Wars and, essentially, the test of time, the cake was eventually donated to the museum by the Philpott's daughter. This was back in 1995 and, since then, the Willis Museum has done some work in order to keep the cake in - er, tip-top shape.

After receiving the miraculous wedding confectionary, the museum discovered that despite all the cake had been through, it was still perfectly moist inside. Since the bakery's opening in 1898, the uncut cake had retained much of its original interior condition, as was evident by the discoloring on the exterior due to the moisture behind the icing. Therefore, to protect the cake even further, the museum made use of silica gel and injected this into the center of the sweet treat in order to ensure its preservation. As a secondary precaution, the team at the museum filled the cake with a glue-like substance to add to its structural integrity. Today, it remains on display prominently as a unique addition to the museum - and the world's oldest known cake to date. It's also monitored around the clock to ensure that there's no deterioration, and so far, so good.

Visiting The Willis Museum

visitors to the Willis Museum in search of the cake that remained unmoved until 1964 can find it under Social History. The cake boasts exquisite Victorian details and, even though the moisture level has turned the exterior icing brown, it's still quite a sight to behold. The only extra measures the museum has gone to in order to ensure its survival, besides those previously mentioned, was to adhere a strip of icing that had fallen away. Impressive, no?

  • Hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, & Sunday 10 AM - 4 PM, Friday 10 AM - 6 PM, closed Monday & Tuesday
  • Admission: Free, but donations are welcome
  • Address: Market Place, Basingstoke RG21 7QD, United Kingdom

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