A Gingerbread House Fit for a President: A White House Tradition Continues at the Nixon Library
A near exact recreation of the iconic Pat Nixon gingerbread house, which first debuted in 1969, is now on display at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library.
Festive holiday TRAINS are not the only things that have returned to the Nixon Library this season. The Presidential Library that was recently voted the “Best Museum in Orange County” has just unveiled its massive gingerbread house, which is a near exact replica of the one First Lady Pat Nixon first displayed at the White House in 1969.
The Nixon Library’s gingerbread house weighs 40 lbs and stands nearly 4 feet tall and was crafted by the talented team at Rockewell’s Bakery in Villa Park.
The massive house looks as intricate as it does delicious, and required the work of two professional bakers and two professional decorators. In total, six members of the Rockwell’s Bakery team put in over 140 hours on the project.
The A-frame designed house required 10 lbs of delicate gingerbread, meticulously decorated to reflect a traditional East Coast aged brick house complete with a walkway, draped windows, a functional door, and a shingled roof.
“The most difficult part was getting it set in place, and the design of the roof was tricky,” said professional Baker and Cake Designer Juli Beltran. “But we figured it out as a group.”
“We had fun doing it together and it was an honor to take part in recreating Pat Nixon’s gingerbread house,” said Beltran.
The gingerbread house on display is a faithful recreation of the White House’s 1972 gingerbread house.
Beginning fifty years ago in 1969, the first Christmas that the Nixon’s spent in the White House, Pat Nixon worked with German-born pastry chef Hans Raffert to create what is now considered among the most treasured and recognizable 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.
Children of all ages are invited to feast their eyes on the incredible gingerbread house at the Nixon Library. The house will be on display, along with the six model train displays, until January 5th.
The incredible edible house is now on display at the Nixon Library and included with the price of admission. Visit nixonfoundation.org/events to purchase tickets to the last Candlelight Evening event of the season on December 12 for the chance to see the gingerbread house, Santa and Mrs. Claus, carolers, TRAINS and more after hours at the Library.
See other creations by Rockwell’s Bakery online at rockwellsbakery.com or on Instagram at @rockwellsvillapark.