Anne and David Cowburn have been married for nearly 50 years. To mark each passing anniversary, they celebrate with a really sweet tradition ... but not one that tastes very good.
Many couples remember celebrating their first year of marriage by enjoying a slice or two of wedding cake that was frozen on their big day.
The Cowburns, however, have savored this special moment many, many times — 49 to be exact — because they've marked each anniversary by enjoying a tiny piece of their original wedding cake.
Every July 18, the Cowburns (two teachers who currently reside in West Grove, Pennsylvania) cut a sliver from what was once about a 5-inch piece of a vanilla wedding cake and gently feed each other. It was baked in 1970.
How, exactly, were they able to preserve it all those years? The cake has spent its nearly five decades sitting in the freezer, wrapped tightly in Saran wrap and two plastic baggies. And they only take it out on their special day, the couple told TODAY Food.
As for how a 49-year-old cake tastes?
"Something between cardboard or lighter fluid, I guess. It doesn’t taste anything like cake at this point," David Cowburn told TODAY, laughing. "I don't remember when it tasted good."
"For maybe 10 years it tasted like a cake — maybe a cake that was freezer burned. But now it doesn’t really taste like anything, just kind of chemical-ly," Anne added.
Despite its off putting flavor, the cake has never grown mold, nor has it ever made either David or Anne feel sick. Still, it certainly surpasses the "toss leftovers after four days" rule.
But for the Cowburns, who first shared their story this summer with the New York Post, their ritual is not about how the cake tastes. It's about the tradition of marking life's major milestones. Together, they've raised three children and now have four grandchildren.
As a couple, they also know that this adorable gesture has had an impact on their kids who find it pretty special, too.
"We have a very romantic daughter who remade my wedding gown into her wedding gown. She finds the cake story to be unique and we think it's just an ordinary thing," Anne said of their youngest daughter, Cecily, who tried to unsuccessfully to get her parents' food feat into Guinness World Records in 2012.
The Cowburns aren't the only people who have enjoyed the aging confection over the years.
"It’s amazing that the years go by so fast and we say, 'Here we are with this original cake.' It’s really kind of fun," Anne told TODAY. "We had a party on our 22nd anniversary and our friends tasted it. It’s been something that we kind of pepper an occasion with, but we've never made a ceremony of it."
Said David, "Things that have [be]come traditionalized really do help you reflect on the years and the occasions and the value of the relationship over time."
David recalled drawing inspiration for their romantic habit from a TV game show called "I've Got a Secret." One couple on the show disclosed their secret was that they'd been eating a bite of their wedding cake for 25 years.
Of course, the Cowburns didn't stop at their silver anniversary, so now they're going for the gold. To celebrate their 50th in 2020, the couple plans to have one of the last remaining crumbs baked into a totally new cake. Ideally, they'd love that cake to be made in the same place where their first was baked.
In 1970, the Cowburns married at the DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware. After digging a little deeper into the details of her wedding, Anne discovered that the Hotel DuPont actually baked the cake, too.
Yet the Hotel DuPont staff initially told the couple no due to a policy of not allowing outside contaminants into their large-scale kitchen. But the Cowburns haven't been totally deterred.
"I'm going to see if they'll make an exception. We still have time," Anne told TODAY.
Once they accomplish that feat, they'll see just how much further they can stretch the last of the crumbs — savoring every bite of their beautiful marriage with a slightly unsavory confection.