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Michigan family keeps passing down 141-year-old fruitcake: 'It's a legacy'

The rock-hard loaf is apparently still safe to eat.
/ Source: TODAY

When it comes fruitcake, one person's holiday doorstop is another’s treasured family heirloom.

Julie Ruttinger, who lives just outside Detroit, Michigan, is the proud keeper of a 141-year-old fruitcake that was baked by her great-great grandmother Fidelia Ford in 1878.

“It’s a great thing,” Ruttinger, 56, told the Associated Press. “It was a tradition. It’s a legacy.”

Julie Ruttinger calls the 141-year-old fruitcake that was baked by her great-great grandmother, "a legacy"David Guralnick / AP

Ford’s special holiday dessert called for a year of aging before it could be served, but she passed away before the time came to indulge in the confection and her husband couldn’t bear to cut a slice from the dessert. Instead, he rested her obituary on top of the cake and enclosed it in glass.

The rock-hard loaf has since been passed down for five generations.

Ruttinger’s father, Morgan Ford, was entrusted with the cake until his death in 2013. Under Ford’s watchful care, the cake went to church, attended family gatherings and even appeared on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" over 15 years ago.

Leno bravely tried a tiny bite in 2003 after cutting into it with a pocket knife. “It needs more time,” the former late night host joked. Ford, who also took a nibble, described the confection as tasteless and “not good.”

The Ford fruitcake has been passed down by five generations.David Guralnick / AP

Fruitcakes are ubiquitous around the holidays, but how long do they really last? The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests a fruitcake will keep for up to one month in the pantry, up to six months refrigerated and up to a year frozen.

However, Ben Chapman, a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, says the Ford's fruitcake is actually safe to consume.

“The bacteria we need worry about needs water to grow,” Chapman told TODAY Food. “There’s not a lot of water that is available in fruitcake because it’s all bound up by sugar. Now, it’s gonna taste terrible, likely. But that’s a totally different situation.”

The oldest known cake in the world that still exists today was made from sesame, honey and possibly some milk. It was found in the grave of Prince Pepionkh, who lived in Egypt around 2200 B.C., according to Guinness World Records.

Ruttinger's cake still has quite a ways to go if it wants to smash that record.