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Discovering South Africa’s oldest cake in the town of Graaff Reinet

One of the first things Karoo Girl asked me when she heard I was going to visit her hometown of Graaff-Reinet, as if I was going to go and see the oldest cake in the country.  Now I know most of Graaff-Reinet’s attractions, but the cake was a first for me.  She directed me to aunty Ira’s Antique Shop next to the Graaff-Reinet Tourism info office and that is where we headed on the Saturday morning of our visit before taking a walk around town.
Once there we took a slow walk through the antique store and marveled at all the beautiful pieces and nic nacs before I found the cake on the mantlepiece in one of the front rooms.  Nothing spectacular till you look at the date 1902, making it 115 years old (this being 2017), making it only four years younger than the oldest cake in the world.
The cake was baked for the Golden Wedding Anniversary of Franz Te Water and Caroline Theodora Muller who got married on 5 April 1852 with the cake being baked in 1902.  The fancy decorations that were originally on the cake, as per the photo, is no more, but the cake is intact.  Apparently it was found in an attic in town.  Unfortunately Karoo Girl wasn’t with me to tell the whole story, which she relates as part of her walking tour of the town.
Frans te Water and Caroline Theodora Muller on their Golden Anniversary
The cake isn’t something that is written about in guide books or tourism brochures, and the kids just had a quick look before heading outside, but I found it really interesting and definitely part of the town’s rich heritage.  It just shows that there is often so much more to discover in a place than what is in the guidebooks.  Look around, explore and investigate.  It’s always worth it.
I did a quick bit of research on Frans te Water and Caroline Muller and found the following:
Name Frans Karel te Water
Born 13 August 1824 – Brussels, Belgium
Died 18 December 1913 (89 years old) – Graaff-Reinet, Eastern Cape, South Africa
His first wife was Jacomina Jacoba Jansen van Rensburg, born in Graaff-Reinet 3 December 1814, they got married on 7 December 1848, but she passed away aged 36 in 1851.
He then married Carolina Theodora Muller on 5 April 1852.  She was born in March 1828 in Beaufort West and passed away 1 June 1904 in Graaff-Reinet aged 76.
They had 9 children:
  1. Hendrina Helena Adriana te Water, b.16 May 1853, Graaff-Reinet, d. 9 Sep 1938, Cape Town (Age 85 years)
  2. Willem Jacobus te Water, b. 1855, The Netherlands, d. 1855, The Netherlands (Aged 0 years)
  3. Thomas Nicholas German te Water, b. 6 Jun 1857, Graaff-Reinet, d. 23 Oct 1926, Cape Town, (Age 69 years)
  4. Adriana te Water, b. 15 Jan 1859
  5. Frans Karel te Water, b. 1 Sep 1860,  d. 22 Sep 1890  (Age 30 years)
  6. Willem Jacobus te Water, b. 17 May 1862
  7. Karel Theodorus te Water,  b. 24 Aug 1864
  8. Palmyra Hortense Felicite te Water, b. 20 Nov 1866
  9. Jacoba Muller te Water, b. 26 Jan 1869, d. 1965  (Age 95 years)

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Fascinating stuff and I have been to Graaf Reinet so often without knowing the cake was there

  2. Anonymous

    On our regular visits to Graaff-Reinet for school and club hockey to play against Union High as well as Volkskool (I think) and also against Graaff-Reinet Teachers' Training College with its terrible gravel pitch we saw an ancient grape vine that was still growing and producing leaves and was one of the tourist attractions of Graaff-Reinet. Does it still exist?

  3. Jonker Fourie

    Yes, the grape vine is still there at the Reinet House Museum. I posted a pic of it in the post about Graaff-Reinet as a whole a week or two ago

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