A Nixon White House Christmas Tradition Remade
The Pat Nixon White House Gingerbread House harkens back to 1972
“How many of you can bake like this?” the First Lady asked, teasing the White House press corps during her annual tour of the Executive Mansion’s Christmas decorations.
“My husband tried to pick off a little piece and I said, ‘Don’t you dare!’”
The Nixon Library unveiled its very own gingerbread house in honor of Pat Nixon, one of the highlights of the Whistling White House Wonderland holiday festival now open at the Nixon Library.
Smiling children everywhere: “feast” your eyes on an elaborately decorated and delectable confection, handcrafted and donated by the Cookie Element of Yorba Linda, a local bakery that offers a wide variety of cookies, macaroons, ice cream cookie sandwiches, and other premium desserts.
The Pat Nixon White House Gingerbread House is a faithful recreation of the White House’s 1972 gingerbread house.
It stands just under three feet tall and took more than 70 hours to create. The A-frame design in traditional East Coast aged-brick color, was created using five pounds of icing and ten sheet pans of gingerbread.
“The biggest challenge was creating the windows,” Chef Amy Spillane said. “They’re delicately hand-piped with royal icing.”
Spillane and her husband, Mike, who own the Cookie Element, worked with two loyal employees, Jenna Sand and Jacquelynn Drurry, to assemble the house. It is completely edible.
Beginning in 1969 —the Nixons’ first Christmas in the White House— Pat Nixon, working with German-born pastry chef Hans Raffert, gave life to what is now the most treasured of White House holiday confections.
Chef Raffert’s early gingerbread house designs held an A-frame, elaborately embellished with cookies, candies, icing and gumdrops. The two-foot high house was kept together with six pounds of icing, five pounds of cookies, one pound of hard candy, and a dozen peppermint candy canes.
Altogether, the completely edible gingerbread house weighed 40 pounds, and took twelve hours to create. One year, Chef Raffert even created miniature figures of the Nixon family dogs Pasha, Vicky and King Timahoe, that sat outside the front door.
By 1977, the gingerbread house had become the White House’s main attraction, and was guarded during public tours by two U.S. Marines.
The design would evolve over the decades as Chef Raffert worked to balance the increased popularity and interest in the design with the wants and favorites of each First Family. By the 1990s, the gingerbread house design had morphed to edible scale replicas of the White House, monuments around Washington, Santa’s Workshop, and even a castle; the 2008 gingerbread house weighed nearly 500 pounds.
The Pat Nixon White House Gingerbread House will continue to be an annual tradition at the Nixon Library to celebrate the holidays.
Smell the sugary goodness of the Pat Nixon White House Gingerbread House today! Purchase tickets to the Candlelight Evening parties here.
The Gingerbread House is also on display during regular visitor hours, included with the price of admission.
Visit The Cookie Element online at TheCookieElement.com and on Instagram @CookieElement,