By Liv Hage

Dear B&S readers, 

This week, I invite you to join me in investigating Grinnell’s rich history. We’ll be diving into a special topic to celebrate the unique stories that are part of our institution’s identity. This week, we’re talking about food! 

While DHall has its many quirks, the history of one particular baked good stands out in comparison to other banal confections. I’m talking about the rum bundt cake. Yes, I mean the bundt cake. The preferred cake of aspiring alcoholics, masochistic students hoping to fill the void, and the rare few who actually enjoy the overabundance of rum in their baked goods. No single cake has evoked such fear and confusion in the hearts of Grinnell students as this notorious bundt. In the shape of an innocent, circular loaf, the appearance of the cake may fool you, but don’t be deceived—each slice has an average ABV of 80.4%. 

Although there are many theories concerning the origin of the cake, B&S archives have provided a definitive answer. The cake was originally created in 1920 by a mentally disturbed student named Alistair Cohol, Class of 1923, just after the start of Prohibition. The bold chemistry major had been working at D-Hall for 33 weeks before he finally snapped under the stress of his job. He was never the same after he was attacked by a group of rogue french fries that had been launched from a possessed fryer (which was fortunately exorcized in 1935). While we can never know for sure what Cohol’s exact motives were in creating the baleful bundt, the trauma of this incident is assumed to have played a role in the near lethal alcoholic content of the bundt cake. Instead of baking the alcohol into the cake, Cohol simply poured a bottle of low-quality rum (stolen from the Dean’s office) over the absorbent sponge of the cake. The recipe has not changed since. 

There’s a documented link between servings of rum bundt cake and cases of alcohol poisoning, as well as an uptick in Norgies that night. Yet, dining services continue to provide the forbidden fruit to both students and faculty at events such as SEPC welcome sessions, lectures, and of course, D-Hall. It is currently unknown why the cake is still legal. Regardless of its origins or status, the bundt cake will always be intertwined with Grinnell’s prestigious reputation as a nursery for the alcoholically enthused. If you do choose to join the small population of students who actually like the rum bundt cake, please exercise extreme caution when eating. Some still say that the mad spirit of Al Cohol lives on in each rum bundt, sometimes surprising students with an extra splash of Prohibition-era moonshine. 

This has been Grinnell history, written by me, Viv Page. Thank you for reading, and until next time.