The cake is believed to date to Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition between 1910 and 1913.
Although the tin containing the cake was rusted and falling apart, the cake inside “looked and smelt (almost) edible” according to the Antarctic Heritage Trust.
Lizzie Meek, the programme manager for artefacts at the Trust, said: “With just two weeks to go on the conservation of the Cape Adare artefacts, finding such a perfectly preserved fruitcake in amongst the last handful of unidentified and severely corroded tins was quite a surprise.
“It’s an ideal high-energy food for Antarctic conditions, and is still a favourite item on modern trips to the Ice.”
The cake and its tin have been taken to New Zealand’s Canterbury Museum laboratory, where the Trust’s staff are working on conserving almost 1,500 artefacts.
Scott’s expedition had a number of objectives, but reaching the pole was key – and although they ultimately succeeded they found that the Norwegians had beaten them to it.
Tragically the entire party died on the return journey from the pole.