FAYETTE, IA (December 10, 2008) - That culinary icon of the holiday season--the ever-present rum cake--has special significance for faculty, staff , trustees and special friends of Upper Iowa University. They're the lucky recipients for the homemade delicacy made by President Alan G. Walker from a secret family recipe.
Walker spent the long Thanksgiving weekend in the UIU kitchen of Garbee Hall decked out in his chef garb, breaking eggs, mixing flour, sugar and butter, and measuring rum, for 140 cakes, which he made as holiday gifts. It's a tradition Walker started nine years ago when he was vice provost at Western Michigan State and carried forward to Upper Iowa where he's been president for four years.
The recipe has been in Walker's family for generations. It was passed down to him by his mother, whose own concoctions are legendary. "She is absolutely horrified that I make her recipe and give my cakes out as gifts," chuckles Walker. "Not because of her recipe, but because I do the baking--believe me, her cakes are, by far, superior." This is not the general consensus of Walker's holiday rum cake recipients, who look forward to this special treat each year. He has repeatedly been asked for the recipe, but it remains a closely guarded secret kept hidden in his briefcase.
Walker is no stranger to cooking. He paid his way through college as an apprentice chef at Biscuitroot Park in Moscow, Idaho. "It was either cooking or auto mechanics," he said. "I chose cooking because free meals were included." He also worked as a fireman.
Walker has an A.A. in Fire Science, B.A. in Industrial Technical Education, M.A. in Adult Vocational Education, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Policy and Administration from the University of Kansas.
Walker will personally deliver more than half of the cakes as soon as he returns on Dec. 19 from his trip overseas to attend graduation ceremonies at Upper Iowa's international centers in Hong Kong and Malaysia. In the meantime, the bulk of the cakes are boxed and stored in University freezers.
Besides the UIU center locations in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, Walker's holiday rum cake list includes local community colleges Upper Iowa has strong articulation agreements with, such as NICC, DMACC, Hawkeye, Gateway, and North Central Technical College. Walker will also personally deliver rum cakes to Loras College President Jim Collins and University of Northern Iowa President Ben Allen.
"My only disappointment is I can't deliver them on my Harley," said Walker.
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