Annual Gingerbread White House: An American Presidential Tradition

Here’s a White House tradition you rarely hear about. Since 1993, the White House Executive Pastry Chef, Roland Mesnier, has prepared many different White House replicas made of gingerbread. Talk about a massive gingerbread house! In fact, the first one ever made weighed around 100 lbs. If you think that is a lot of gingerbread, this past year’s gingerbread house takes the cake weighing in around 300 lbs!

First Gingerbread White House 1993

“The House of Socks” Named after the Clinton’s beloved cat Socks Source: The White House Historical Association

Gingerbread White House 2017

Source: TMZ.com

How Did This Tradition Begin?

The first gingerbread house to be part of the White House Christmas decor was in 1968. The Assistant Executive Chef Hans Raffert made a simple German A-frame style house. Ever since then, gingerbread houses have been a tradition in the White House. Each year they get bigger and become more elaborate.

Gingerbread House 1968

Source: The White House Historical Association

Chef Mesnier creating “An American Christmas Village” during the George H. W. Bush Administration

Source: Roland Mesnier by White House Historical Association

Gingerbread Replicas of the White House, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, and Mount Vernon 1999

Source: The White House Historical Association

Gingerbread White House 2004

Source: The White House Historical Association

Gingerbread: An Americana Presidential Tradition

American presidents and gingerbread have a deep rooted connection that started with Mary Ball Washington, the mother of the first President of the United States. It is rumored that she served her famous gingerbread cake to the French General, Marquis de Lafayette on one of his diplomatic visits. First Lady, Martha Washington, carried on her mother-in-law’s tradition and was known for making gingerbread cakes for foreign dignitaries. Dolly Madison continued that tradition and was well loved for her gingerbread cakes. The Grants hired Lucy Latimer as a cook based off of her delicious gingerbread recipes. Lucy went on to serve her gingerbread for three subsequent presidents, Hayes, Garfield, and Arthur. Grover Cleveland's favorite dessert was a gingerbread cake made with buttermilk, molasses, baking soda, a syrupy topping and nuts. First Lady Hoover, in 1929, decorated the first Christmas tree in the White House Entrance Hall with gingerbread horses and gingerbread men. Then in 1965, First Lady Johnson decorated the Blue Room Christmas tree with gingerbread cookies in various Christmas themed shapes. It is fun to see the rich and tasty tradition follow so many Presidents and now become a staple in the White House during the holidays.