Presidents Day. It’s nice that we have a day to celebrate all of the men who have led this country since its inception. But you know what? We’re reminded of past presidents every time we reach for our wallet. Or fly through JFK, Ronald Reagan or G W Bush airport. Or drive by any number of monuments, libraries, and elementary schools.

But there are hardly any reminders of previous First Ladies in our culture, with the possible exception of Dolly Madison Raspberry Zingers and The Betty Ford Center. (Neither of which, hopefully, any of you are reminded of on a daily basis.)

So if Monday is Presidents’ Day, we decided to declare Sunday “First Ladies Day.” And to honor these great women by baking their (reportedly) favorite recipes. Yes, we understand that reducing our great and powerful First Ladies’ memories to the kitchen is horribly sexist. But that’s what we like to do on the weekends. (Baking. Not being sexist.)

Ready to bake:


We invited some good friends up to the farm this weekend to help us bake these First Lady favorite recipes with us. These friends also just happen to be two of America’s best bakers – Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, of “Baked,” along with their partners, Bret and Sven. (Okay, perhaps it’s not a total coincidence that we make friends with awesome bakers. In fact, we highly recommend you take up the same habit.)


You definitely want to have house guests who bring you gifts like these.

You’ve probably seen Matt and Renato on Cooking Channel, or Food Network, or Martha Stewart. Or you’ve seen their great products in Williams-Sonoma. Or you have one of their beautiful cookbooks. Or, if you’re really lucky, you’ve visited their Red Hook Bakery in person.

We made three desserts that we’ll share over this coming week – one by Mary Lincoln, one by Mamie Eisenhower, and one by Rosalynn Carter.


Occupational hazard when baking with other food bloggers: lots of pictures of people taking pictures.

We definitely had mixed results…but also had a lot of fun baking together. And if that’s not a great way to remember these fantastic women, we don’t know what is.


It’s certainly better than staring at a monument or driving over a bridge.


Have you ever made a recipe penned by a first lady? Let us know in the comments section.

by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Reader Comments

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Ursula Anderson

I have a very old copy of the White House cookbook. Bought it at a house sale. Because it was not valued or ever used by the owner; it was not in the best shape. The recipes are great & the rules of etiquette & deportment are fun. Will try to remember to bring it when we come to visit, you may want some of the recipes. 8) Ursula

Perry foreman

I have an old cookbook, it says it’s the first edition to the president’s wife’s first cookbook, I got it atSalvation Army. I tried to use it, but adding salt and other ingredients was tires less, and the part of rubbing your husbands feet when they get home, it’s priceless!


In 1978, my Junior High Home Economics class put together a cookbook titled”First Ladies’ Favorite Recipes”. We wrote letters to the White House as well as the Governor’s Mansion of each state,asking them for their favorite recipe. The response was overwelming-not only did they send a recipe but a wonderful note along with it. I had the wonderful opportunity to send my letter to the White House. Mrs. Rosalynn Carter was so gracious to reply with this wonderful recipe:

“Plains Special” Cheese Ring

1lb. grated sharp cheese
1 cup finely chopped nuts
1 cup mayonnaise
1 small onion, finely chopped
Black pepper
Dash of cayenne
Strawberry preserves, optional
Combine all ingredients except preserves, season to taste with pepper. Mix well and place in a 5 or 6 cup lightly greased ring mold. Refrigerate until firm for several hours overnight. To serve, unmold, and if desired, fill the center with strawberry preserves, or serve plain with crackers.

Pam Jones

I, also decided to bake with First Ladies recipes. In honor of the inauguration, I made Mrs. Obama’s dark and white chocolate mint cookies. They were fabulous – melt in your mouth – treats. Then to be politically correct (something I’m usually not) I also made Mrs. Romney’s oatmeal peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips. They were tasty, but the consensus of opinion in my office was that Mrs. Obama’s cookies won, tastebuds down!


I found Barbara Bush’s Mushroom Quiche on the food network site and I LOVE it! It is probably more mushroom than egg but I do not care as I love mushrooms more than a hobbit. 😉 This is probably the best item to EVER come from a Republican….could not help myself.

Donna R

Just made a quilt that honored a lot of the First Ladies. Many quilt blocks are named for them. Alas it’s at the quilter’s so no pictures available yet!

marilyn rios

Hi Guys, any thoughts about having farm tours. If you decide to do it. Please invite me!!
Where do you get your baking recipes?

I enjoy your site!!

marilyn rios

Thanks for the reply so quickly. Could you give me those dates?
I’d love to visit!
I made the bread!! It’s the best thing since white bread.
Thank you.


I just finished reading your second book for the second time. Decided to check out your website and am very happy to see you still have the Beekman Mansion! BTW, also loved the first book! 😉

Amy Smith Wexler

I have a farmers almanac from 1897 when Ida Mckinley was first lady. The recipe is in the fall for a Hot Apple Soup. 8 apples (4 tart 4 sweet) 2 1/2 cups of water juice from one lemon, nutmeg, cinnamon and 1 cup of cream..Unsweetened whipped cream for the topping. Simmer peeled apples and everything but the cream for 20 minutes and puree or use an immersion blender. Add the cream and warm again but dont boil. Top with the whipped cream it is sooo good. (Even though I know nothing about president Mckinley, I like his first lady)

Heidi Sutton

I have made Martha Washington’s Cherry Bread Pudding many times – yum! and Barbara Bush’s Apple Crisp with Orange Juice – double yum. I also have chocolate chip
cookie recipes from the Clintons and the Bush’s but never tried them. Can’t wait to try your recipes!


I haven’t made a White House related recipe but when you reveal what you made this weekend, I just might find something to try! It is always nice to have something that has been tried and perfected before attempting for oneself!

Diane Svatek

Did you pose all the men with beards on one side and the clean shaven on the other on purpose? Great photo, love your smiles.


Did you know that in addition to being a General and the first President of the United States, George Washington also operated a distillery at Mount Vernon? Finger Lakes Distilling, a New York State farm distillery that produces whiskey, vodka, gin and fruit liqueurs from local farm crops, re-created a peach brandy from George Washington’s original recipe. The original batch was produced in 1799.

Michael Godley

Looks great and like you all had fun. Will we get details on what you are baking? Oh…by the way I made your bread and it came out fantastic. I will share a pic of it on your page. Say Hello to Brent and get some baby goat kisses.

sue tolbert

NO, I haven’t made any First Lady desserts but once you post the recipes I’ll give one a try. I’m ready to become a baker since the bread was a success. sue t.

Elena Mac

I would love to bake with/for you. I collect old (and new) baking books, the trouble is, they really aren’t meant for today’s baking so the results are not always sublime! I have the “Baked” books and have made a few of their fab deserts…I’m jealous!