Candidate Cookies: Rick Perry

August 9, 2015 in Candidate Cookies


Candidate cookies are a quick look at the men and women who aspire to be President of the United States 2017-2020.

Rick Perry’s cookie takes a look at some of Perry’s favorite things. Rick Perry plays the piano, so white and chocolate chips are used here to represent the ebony and ivory keys. He is said to like popcorn, too so they are also included in his cookie. Because Rick Perry is a fifth-generation Texan, it seemed appropriate to also include pecans since Texas grows a lot of them. 

For substantive information about Rick Perry, you might take a peek at his campaign website, or at his Project Votesmart profile page. The Wikipedia page will lead you to some articles and other resources if you scroll down to the bottom.

Candidate Cookies: Bernie Sanders

June 28, 2015 in Candidate Cookies



Candidate cookies are a quick look at the men and women who aspire to be President of the United States 2017-2020.

Bernie Sanders’ cookie begins with chocolate chips. After all, chocolate chips are pretty classic and Sanders’ history includes a classic immigration story. His father had immigrated to the United States from Poland, and much of his family had been killed in the Holocaust. His grandparents were also Jewish immigrants. His cookie contains dried blueberries, which are a nod to the northeast, where he’s been for most of his life. Sanders was born in New York, and has been a politician in Vermont over the last several decades. The sunflower seeds in his cookie are a nod to his work as a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Sunflowers are named after the sun, and this particular committee, among other things, deals with proposed legislation pertaining to solar energy.

For substantive information about Bernie Sanders, you might take a peek at his campaign website, or at his Project Votesmart profile page. The campaign Wikipedia page will lead you to some articles and other resources if you scroll down to the bottom. 

The Amalgamation

March 14, 2015 in Cakes


I’ve been asked more than once whether I’d make a chocolate cupcake for President Obama because he is the first black president. Actually, most people who ask that say African-American president. However, considering that I have a website that explores the way that we use food language to describe women, I wasn’t too keen on using chocolate to interpret a president just because his skin is brown.

But what do you say about a president whose presidency we’re still living through? It’s too early to even summarize it. Making 44 cupcakes, generally, is a challenge. I’ve looked at the presidents through a variety of lenses. Because Barack Obama spent time in Hawaii as a child, I might work that element. However, I’ve tread over Hawaii with the McKinley cupcake. I could use Indonesian flavors because he spent time there, but that’s be almost like Hoover’s cupcake, taking advantage of a place he happened to live for a while. His left-handedness might have made for an interesting interpretation, but many of his predecessors were also lefties. Truman tried to achieve national health care long before Obamacare came along. He’s not even the only president to come to us by way of Illinois.

Barack Obama, though, is a reminder that no president is wholly unique. Each president borrows ideas from the men who came before him. Perhaps the presidency is more cumulative than we think. Perhaps the current president can always be viewed as an amalgamation of the previous residents of the executive mansion.


The cake:

Because I chose the amalgamation element, I wanted to nod toward another treat that is defined by the components that comprise it. That made me think of Neapolitan ice cream.  So, here we have a vanilla and chocolate chip cupcake with strawberry buttercream frosting. Since the presidency is a complex sophisticated job, the cupcake is filled with red-wine flavored whipped cream. At the end, I decided that the cupcake would have a chocolate shell because with some people, the only thing they’ll ever see is that brown exterior.


The Decision Point

March 13, 2015 in Cakes


As I’ve gotten closer, and closer to the present, it has become more of a challenge to figure out how to approach these cupcakes. This is more true for the last two presidents. In the preface to the book The Faiths of the Postwar Presidents, David Holmes says, “No president’s story is complete until his death– and even then, reevaluations frequently occur.”

Here, then, I’ll take a bit of a different approach to this cupcake. George W. Bush may very well be the reason that Head of State Cakes exists. You see, in the days leading up to the 2000 presidential election, I had a recurring dream about George W. Bush. In this dream, he stood in the middle of my childhood bed wearing dress socks, dress shoes, boxer shorts, a dress shirt and a tie. He stood there twirling a lasso. That is it. I had that dream time and time again until the election happened. Then it never happened again.

That’s one heck of a dream. And I spent some time trying to wrap my mind around it. That’s what led to me taking a poem about this dream to the writing group I had been attending. Later, showed the group a poem about President Nixon. At this point, someone asked me if I was planning to write a poem about each president. I quickly replied that I didn’t know enough about each of them to write a poem about each one.

But I realized that I could.

Here, an endeavor to read at least one book about each President of the United States began. When I finished, I had a hole in my heart that I chose to fill with, yes, cupcakes.

So you see, this project is directly linked to George W. Bush. Without him, and without that dream, none of this would be happening.


The cake:

Because the ever important George W. Bush dream was set in my childhood bedroom, I decided to make a cupcake that might evoke childhood. Also, because George W. Bush is reputed to have enjoyed a lunch of peanut butter and honey sandwich regularly in the White House, peanut butter and honey would be the main flavors in this cupcake.

The cake itself is honey flavored with a peanut butter swirl. It’s topped with a vanilla buttercream and drizzled with honey. It’s garnished with a peanut butter filled pretzel.

The cupcake is called the Decision Point because that’s very close to the name of the book that he wrote which discusses some of the major decisions that he’s made in his life.


The Temptation

February 8, 2015 in Cakes


 One of the things that the media loved to talk about during Bill Clinton’s presidency was his diet and his weight. When I was thinking about this cupcake, this came to mind. But, sometimes we misremember things. A few cursory searches, though, proved to me that I wasn’t making this up at all.  

Don’t read the articles about Bill Clinton’s relationship to food if you’re hungry. You’ll probably drool all over your computer or phone. You’ll probably go eat something that you wouldn’t normally eat. You’ll read about Clinton eating chicken enchiladas, hamburgers, barbecue, cinnamon rolls, tacos, baked beans, sweet potato pie, jalapeƱo hamburgers, corn pudding, carrot cake, apples, bananas, roast beef, peach pie, and lemon chess pie. Drooling yet? And this is not an exhaustive list.

Back in 1992, the New York Times published an article “Bill Clinton and Food: Jack Sprat He’s Not.” Saturday Night Live had a bit of fun at the expense of his gustatory reputation, in it Clinton visited a McDonald’s and helped himself to the food on people’s trays.

More recently, media attention to Clinton’s diet has focused on lifestyle changes that he’s made in the last several years. Following serious heart trouble, Clinton adopted a more or less vegan diet. This change doesn’t mean an end to articles about Bill Clinton and his food habits, they’re just pitched differently. 




The cake:

This cake combines some of Bill Clinton’s favorite things, with some of the things that might look good, but not be good for him. Bill Clinton is a fan of bananas, so the cake is banana-flavored. It is filled with whipped cream, which is one of the things that looks so good, but would be bad. You see, Clinton is allergic to milk. He is also allergic to chocolate, part of this cupcake’s garnish. The cake is frosted with butterscotch buttercream, bringing these flavors together with sweetness, a taste that he has seemed to favor. Finally, the cupcake is sprinkled with salted peanuts. This cupcake is called the temptation because like some of the foods that the press so loved talking about, it looks so good, but if consumed with reckless abandon, it could be so bad for you.



The Poppy

February 7, 2015 in Cakes



Recently, I was at my son’s pediatrician, George H. W. Bush came up. I was trying to distract my son from the immunizations he was getting, so I started spouting off presidential trivia. As a part of this, I told him that George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush were our nation’s second father and son pair to have both held the office of the presidency.

We do what we need to do to take care of our families.

It seems fitting that George H. W. Bush was one of the presidents who was helpful in this tense moment. When I think of him, the first thing that I think is almost always “family man.” Not one, but two of his children penned biographies of him. George H. W. Bush has also become family another former president, Bill Clinton, who sees him as a father figure. In fact, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush affectionately refer to each other as brothers from another mother. When Bush was vice president, Bill Clinton introduced his daughter to Bush. Chelsea Clinton, a youngster at the time looked at him and asked where the bathroom was. Bush, took her by the hand to the bathroom. If that’s not a dad move, I don’t know what is.

This family man was the dad to six children. He also followed in the footsteps of his own father, Prescott Bush, and entered politics.

Even the way that he talked about his job could sometimes be fatherly. His inaugural address illustrates this, “We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it.”

George H. W. Bush’s cupcake celebrates him as a dad and family man. In his family, George H. W. Bush is referred to as Poppy, making it clear that his cupcake needed to feature poppy seeds. 


The cake:

This cupcake is grapefruit flavored and studded with poppy seeds. The grapefruit flavor comes from grapefruit zest. The cupcake’s sugar is blended with a few bandage-sized pieces of grapefruit peel. The oils from the grapefruit peel provide a good amount of grapefruit flavor.  The cupcake is filled with spiced grapefruit gelatin, and is topped with spicy cream cheese frosting and garnished with more poppy seeds.


The Great Communicator

February 6, 2015 in Cakes


Ronald Reagan is really the first president that I remember from when he was the President of the United States. I think that the incident that even really made me aware of the presidency at all was the Iran Contra Affair and the news that was playing all of the time during that period. An aside, I remember thinking that Oliver North was so cute. 


Ronald Reagan as a young man was on the football team and acted in plays. When he finished college he was a radio sports announcer. He then became an actor starring in 53 films in a two decade career. Reagan also worked as the host of a weekly television program which allowed him to continue to tighten his public speaking skills. In addition to his acting, announcing, and his role on television, Reagan also wrote numerous opinion columns following his loss of the 1976 Republican presidential nomination.

In some ways, it seems that he was destined for popularity, meant to have the nickname, “The Great Communicator.”


The cake:

This is one time when people who have guessed and speculated about what cupcake a president would get were correct. The Reagan cupcake does involve jelly beans. Back in the sixties, Ronald Reagan began eating jelly beans as he gave up smoking. For his inauguration in 1981, three and a half tons of red, white, and blue jelly beans were a part of the festivities. Those jelly beans were Jelly Belly jelly beans very cherry, coconut and blueberry. So, the cake, here, is in these three flavors. The frosting is vanilla buttercream, and it is garnished with red, white, and blue jellybeans.


The Globetrotter

December 12, 2014 in Cakes


Jimmy Carter is one of the presidents that comes up when I talk to strangers about this strange Head of State Cakes projects. Everyone bets that the Jimmy Carter cupcake features peanuts or peanut butter.  Jimmy Carter means more to me than having been a peanut farmer.

Jimmy Carter is the first president during whose presidency I was alive. Barely. You know, for a matter of months. That, however, doesn’t stop a child from holding a special place in her heart for him.

In college, one of my history professors described Jimmy Carter something like this, “He’s probably the first president to use the presidency as a launchpad for better things.” Like Truman before him, though, he did his best during difficult times. He faced inflation, an energy crisis and a difficult hostage situation. Those Carter years were tough times and he had to maneuver those tough times without the finesse with the time’s media like a Roosevelt or a Kennedy.

Though he was a single term president who had been, before that, the governor of Georgia. Jimmy Carter had broad experiences. He grew up in rural Georgia and left it to join the Navy where he was able to see much of the world. Post-presidency, Carter has worked with Habitat for Humanity international in order to provide housing for people who might not otherwise have had it. President Carter has also done a lot of work smoothing tensions between countries. He has also observed elections in countries that have had a history of corrupt election-related processes.  This is why his cupcake is the Globetrotter.


The Cake:

While Jimmy Carter has spent a significant part of his life performing a variety of roles around the world, it seems that his beginnings in Plains, Georgia have had a lasting impact on him. Here he saw the effects of structural inequity and of poverty on the quality of people’s lives. These are some of the things he worked to improve for most of his life. So, his cupcake features ingredients that are plentiful in his home state, pecans and peaches.

The cupcake is flavored with peach jam. It is frosted with pecan-cinnamon cream cheese frosting and garnished with toasted pecans. Inside the cupcake is a brown sugar peach compote. Playing with peaches and pecans made me want to add some bourbon to the mix, however, Carter is no drinker, so I left the bourbon out.

This cupcake tastes like a peach cobbler mated with a pound cake and named cinnamon cream cheese frosting as the progeny’s godfather.



The Victor

December 7, 2014 in Cakes


 Even  before I became profoundly interested in the United States presidents, Gerald Ford stood out to me for one reason and one reason alone. He was from my home state, Michigan.

As I learned more about President Ford, it struck me how much “midwestern” was used to describe him, at least in the places where I read about him.

Ford is probably best remembered by some folks as the president who pardoned Richard Nixon after ascending to the presidency following Nixon’s resignation. He is also the answer to the trivia question, “Who held both the offices of president and vice president without being elected to either position?” Fewer people know that he said that his highest dream was to be the speaker of the House of Representatives, a post he never did achieve.

Ford was the first vice president to test out the 25th Amendment which stated what should happen should the vice presidency become vacant. It also covered what should happen in the case of presidential disability more specifically than the constitution had in the past. This amendment establishes that if there is a vacancy in the vice presidency, that the president will nominate a successor who will become the vice president if confirmed by a majority vote of both houses of the congress.

This Midwesterner was the choice who could make it through.


The cake:

This cupcake makes reference to Ford’s college years, yes, in the Midwest.  Gerald Ford is a Michigan Wolverine. The school colors, then, would be part of this cupcake, maize and blue. Maize is interpreted as corn here. The cupcake itself is corn flavored, this is achieved by infusing the milk in the cupcake with corn. The blue is achieved with a dollop of blueberry preserves in the cupcake. The frosting is lemon-flavored cream cheese frosting. The block M is made from blue candy melts.

Go Blue!!


The California Boy

November 7, 2014 in Cakes


 When you embark upon a project about the presidents, there are certain presidents that people ask you about. No one is as interested in how you’re going to interpret, say, Millard Fillmore as they are in how you’re going to interpret someone like Tricky Dick. 

Nixon even inspired suggestions. Someone wanted to know if I was going to do something with the 18 minutes of missing tape of Watergate infamy. More often, though, of Nixon people just say, “You could take that in so many directions.”

That was the challenge.

I decided to go back to Nixon’s roots. Richard Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California. In fact, he is the last famous person to hail from the small California city. He was raised in Whittier, California, the son of a grocer/gas station owner. Though he was admitted to Harvard University with a full tuition grant, Nixon remained at home in Whittier because of family demands, and attended Whittier College.

As we know, life and opportunity pulled him away from California, but after his resignation from the office of the presidency, he returned home. This time, home was San Clemente, California. Here, essentially Nixon was in exile. Here, however, Nixon mounted a recovery of sorts. With time he was able to position himself as an elder statesman.


The cake:

This cupcake pays homage to Nixon’s California beginnings and endings by making generous use of citrus. The cupcake itself is lemon-lime flavored. It contains lime juice and lemon zest. The cupcake is filled by a homemade clementine marmalade. That marmalade, provides a punch of citrus flavor in the buttercream frosting that tops the cupcake.

I took this cupcake to a potluck and those who tasted it enjoyed it.