News & Politics

White House Dessert Molds Are Up for Auction. Here’s the Story Behind Them.

Why was George H.W. Bush so angry about his birthday cake?

Former White House executive pastry chef Roland Mesnier is auctioning more than 300 dessert molds. On September 28, the Potomack Company is selling off the whole collection. Here are the stories behind a few of them.

Photo courtesy of The Potomack Company.

Eagle-Shaped Ice Cream for George H.W. Bush

For a presidential birthday fete, Mesnier used this mold for a dessert that Bush was excited about. But when the party began, there was no eagle, and the President inquired. “Sir, you’re too late,” Mesnier replied. One of Bush’s grandchildren had bitten off the head. “That was funny for some people, but not everybody,” Mesnier says. “President Bush didn’t think it was funny.”

 

Photo courtesy of The Potomack Company.

A Chocolate Coach for the Queen of England

Hand-cut by Mesnier in the White House carpentry shop, this mold was made for a 1991 state dinner attended by Queen Elizabeth II. Mesnier, worried the dessert would collapse, added a block under the carriage to support the pistachio marquise and fresh raspberries. “The last thing you want is for the dessert to fall on the invited ladies’ dresses,” he says. “That would be your last day at the White House.”

 

Photo courtesy of The Potomack Company.

Sorbet for a Prince and Princess

When the Prince and Princess of Wales visited the White House in 1985, Mesnier served sorbet peaches that he shaped with this mold. Nancy Reagan supervised the process. “Mrs. Reagan said to me one day, ‘When the dessert gets to the table, I want to hear ‘ooh and aah,’ ” Mesnier recalls. “ ‘If I don’t hear that, it’s a flop.’ ” The First Lady made Mesnier redo the dessert’s sugar plumes a dozen times. “It had to be just the way she saw it in her mind,” he says. “If Mrs. Reagan blessed your dessert, it’s almost like the pope doing it.”

This article appears in the September 2021 issue of Washingtonian.

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Editorial Fellow

Anne Tate, originally from Annapolis, MD, joined Washingtonian in July 2021. She is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she studied journalism and psychology.