US Presidents Favorite Desserts

Calvin Coolidge enjoying ice cream at a White House garden party in 1924. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Underwood & Underwood Collection
 
On President’s Day, we honor the individuals who served our great nation. We tend to think of our former United States presidents as larger-than-life figures, men who inspired greatness and achieved near mythical status. At the same time, however, they were men who had the same hopes and desires as many of us, and that includes our nation’s collective sweet tooth.

U.S. presidents have long enjoyed tasty treats during their tenures, going all the way back to George Washington and his beloved wife Martha, who made a “Great Cake” that our first President greatly enjoyed.

Even before the White House created the permanent position of White House Executive Pastry Chef in 1979, presidents would find ways of acquiring their favorite sweets. According to the White House Historical Association, elaborate parties and state dinners were fantastic excuses to serve incredible desserts. Personal events would be celebrated as well, such as birthdays and even weddings, when President Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson welcomed visitors into the White House to celebrate their daughter Luci’s wedding.

Each president has their own unique style of governing, their own unique personalities, so it stands to reason that there would be a wide variety in each president’s favorite dessert. Listed below is the preferred sweet for each of our Commanders-in-Chief.

  • George Washington – Martha Washington’s Great Cake, which included fruit, nuts, and alcohol among its many ingredients.
  • John Adams – Abigail Adams’ Apple Pan Dowdy – closely related to apple pie, usually sweetened with brown sugar or molasses.
  • Thomas Jefferson – Monticello Muffins – resembling biscuits, these has fairly straightforward ingredients.
  • James Madison enjoyed ice cream, but one of the desserts that he is linked to is Dolly Madison’s Soft Gingerbread.
  • James Monroe – Cry Babies, which are molasses cookies.
  • John Quincy Adams did not have much of a sweet tooth, preferring fruit.
  • Andrew Jackson – Rachel Jackson’s Burnt Custard.
  • Martin Van Buren – Charlotte Russe, a French dessert involving Bavarian cream and ladyfingers.
  • William Henry Harrison – Although his time as President was tragically short (he died one month after his inauguration due to pneumonia), Harrison Cake was a fruit-studded spice cake created in his honor.
  • John Tyler – Pudding Pie
  • James K. Polk – Corn Pone, a crunchy, bread-like dish.
  • Zachary Taylor - Calas-Tous-Chauds, Creole-inspired cakes
  • Millard Fillmore – Corn Pudding
  • Franklin Pierce - New Hampshire Fried Pies
  • James Buchanan – America’s first and only bachelor President, Buchanan loved to entertain and enjoyed serving Apees, spiced butter cookie of German origins that were popular in Buchanan’s home state of Pennsylvania.
  • Abraham Lincoln – Lincoln was fond of his wife Mary Todd’s cooking, such as her White Cake and Lemon Custard Pie.
  • Andrew Johnson – Sweet Potato Pudding
  • Ulysses S. Grant – the former Union general and the person who began the tradition of hosting foreign heads of state for dinner, Grant loved Boston Cream Pie.
  • Rutherford B. Hayes – Cornmeal Battercakes
  • James Garfield – Apple Pie
  • Chester A. Arthur – Devil’s Food Cake
  • Grover Cleveland – Snickerdoodle cookies
  • Benjamin Harrison – Birthday Bonbons, which included dates, cherries, and almonds.
  • William McKinley – Like John Quincy Adams, McKinley didn’t appear to have a favorite dessert.
  • Theodore Roosevelt – Fat Rascals, a sort-of sweet biscuit.
  • William Howard Taft – Pumpkin Pie
  • Woodrow Wilson – Teas Cakes
  • Warren G. Harding – Almond Cookies
  • Calvin Coolidge – Ice Box Cookies, which included brown sugar and walnuts.
  • Herbert Hoover – Grandma Hoover’s Cream Peach Pie
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt – Blueberry Pudding, but he’s most synonymous with fruitcake which he enjoyed year round.

Bill Baker created fruitcakes for FDR during his presidency. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing Collection.
 
  • Harry S. Truman – Butterscotch Cookies
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower – Marble Cookies, with chocolate and pecans.
  • John F. Kennedy – Frozen treats like Cream Cheese and Frozen Strawberry Delight
  • Lyndon B. Johnson - Lady Bird Johnson’s Chocolate Nut Drop Cookies
  • Richard Nixon – Sugar Cookies, with lemon zest
  • Gerald Ford – Butter Pecan Ice Cream
  • Jimmy Carter – Peanut Butter Pie
  • Ronald Reagan – Coconut Macaroons. He was also fond of Jelly Belly jelly beans.
  • George H.W. Bush – Barbara Bush’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Bill Clinton – Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • George W. Bush - Apple Cider Creme Brulee
  • Barack Obama – Crustless Coconut Pie