IN MERRY ENGLAND in the time of old, when good King Henry the Second ruled the land, there lived within the green glades of Sherwood Forest, near Nottingham Town, a famous outlaw whose name was Robin Hood. No archer ever lived that could speed a gray goose shaft with such skill and cunning as his, nor were there ever such yeomen as the sevenscore merry men that roamed with him through the greenwood shades.
Right merrily they dwelled within the depths of Sherwood Forest, suffering neither care nor want, but passing the time in merry games of archery or bouts of cudgel play, living upon the King’s venison, washed down with draughts of ale of October brewing.
Not only Robin himself but all the band were outlaws and dwelled apart from other men, yet they were beloved by the country people round about, for no one ever came to jolly Robin for help in time of need and went away again with an empty fist.
And now I will tell how it came about that Robin Hood fell afoul of the law.
-from Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, 1883
I first learned about the Cake Crew from reading the whiteboards outside select doors in my dormitory. “You’ve been caked,” they would read. Underneath the phrase, I would find a crudely drawn picture of a cake, a piece of graffiti waiting for the lucky resident’s consumption.
At first the sight annoyed me. The whiteboard messages appeared randomly and I had yet to grasp their true meaning. Questions began to rile me: How does it feel to be caked? Does it involve food? And of course, the inevitable Why not me? Am I not worthy of being caked?
Apparently, I wasn’t alone in my thoughts. Rumors began to spread throughout my dorm. Jealous residents who not been caked began seeking out these “delinquents,” who, as I learned, delivered the university’s best cakes – velvety ribbons of chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch and cranberry – to unsuspecting residents of our hall. Our imaginations fueled our envy, and had we been given the authority of the Sheriff of Nottingham, we would surely have “served a warrant upon the bold outlaws.” My roommates and I obsessed over the group, reaching new lows by searching for “cake” on thefacebook. The smiling faces on the newly formed “I’ve Been Caked” Facebook group drove me to the Wa, where I stocked up on packets of donuts and cookies. Alas, there is no substitute for cake.
The Thursday after the cookie incident, as I worked on microeconomics, I heard a series of knocks. My roommate opened the door to seven of my fellow dorm members. They pulled out a platter, and said the three words I had been imagining for the last three days: “You’ve been caked.”
My heart swelled within me. The illustrious Cake Crew was made up of seven freshman residents from my dorm. I couldn’t help but view them as the Viet Cong – the group that I had disparaged (and even fought) turned out to be comprised of my neighbors – except these Viet Cong brought me phenomenal vanilla cake. And for that, I forgave them instantly. The flavor of the cake was astonishing…like angels having sex in my mouth.
The Cake Crew is cloaked in secrecy. To interview them, I had to agree to reveal only their pseudonyms: Robin Hood, Little John, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, The Merry Man, The Prince of Thieves, Maid Marian and Allan A. Dale. The names recall medieval chivalry and the group indeed abides by their own code of law. “We remain anonymous because the mark of a truly magnanimous man is his humility,” writes Robin Hood. “To be worthy [of receiving a cake], you must be patient, humble, friendly, and desirous of cake.”
The group’s camaraderie has drawn many residents into copying its example. The Cake Crew, while confident in its mission, tries to limit itself to a “small and centralized organization [because the alternative] is inhibitive to the friendly, personal air which the Cake Crew maintains.” They continued: “We encourage others to embark on benevolent ventures, but we ask that they be creative, and serve the community in an area which is not currently being fulfilled.”
In any case, perhaps the risk of obtaining the cake is too great to leave in the hands of all students in my dorm. Weather problems, such as rain and high wind, often inhibit the Cake Crew, which pledges never to deliver soggy cakes.
I had one more question: Where do you get the cakes from? Their only response was to assure me that their “methods, while secret, are entirely legal.”
Even if the Cake Crew works illegitimately, the reaction of Princeton’s freshman probably makes their job rewarding enough to run risks. Just as strangers “raised a great shout of joy at the sight of Robin…and kissed his hands and his clothing, with the great sound of weeping,” freshmen “cry tears of happiness and assail [the Cake Crew] with hugs.” The parallels are uncanny. While advancing Princeton’s motto of acting “in the nation’s service,” the Cake Crew never loses sight of the neo-Gothic towers that surround it.