The White House Gift Shop Gingerbread Cookies

I love to share this story for a number of reasons, but I’ll stick with my top three.

  1. Whatever it is that you make, giving it away is a tried and true way to spark interest.
  2. A small gesture of kindness can pay off in ways you never imagined.
  3. If you’re just starting out, reevaluate your prices so you don’t undervalue your products.

It was a sunny, summer Sunday afternoon and I’d just finished boxing up an order of birthday cookies to head out the back door when I noticed a party in my courtyard.  (I live in a garden-style condo where our shared backyard/courtyard is always jumping with activity).  I’d forgotten that my neighbor Doug’s birthday celebration was that day because I got sucked into my cookie order.  Since I had made a few extras, I boxed up some birthday cookies for him and took them to him as I headed out.  That was it.

Fast forward to September, he caught me in the Courtyard while I was out walking my dog and asked me to send him some pictures of the cookies I’ve decorated.  That he wanted to show them to his boss and possibly have me make some cookies for the window displays he does for Neiman Marcus.  I’m like what?????  OK!  So I sent of few pictures of cookies and that was that.

Fast forward to November, and I got a text from Doug asking if I would be able to make a few cookies for a window display, honoring the former White House Pastry Chef, Roland Meisner.  Of course I said yes! He dropped off the white house cookie cutter and book for inspiration, saying I didn’t need to go to any trouble of making gingerbread, that sugar cookies would be fine. If you haven’t met me, I can tell you this wasn’t going to happen.  How could I possibly make cookies honoring a former White House Chef, and his book that specifically spotlights gingerbread, and not make gingerbread?!?  So, I made gingerbread.

Side note, If you haven’t worked with gingerbread before, the dough gets really sticky and difficult to work with when it warms to room temperature, which occurs pretty quickly.  To save myself from pulling my hair out, I roll it out on a baking sheet between two pieces of parchment paper and as soon as it gets unruly, it goes right back into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes until it’s cold and firm again. If you have any tips, please, I’m all ears.

OK, so I made gingerbread. 16 cookies  in total, 8 decorated, 8 undecorated. How bad could this be?  Well, let me tell you.  At the time, I was also fulfilling a number of orders, long weekends and weeknights of nothing but cookies, which takes it toll on your hands, neck and back from leaning over cookies for hours at a time.  That said, by the time I got to decorating the 8, I opted to use fondant for the windows so that they were uniform.  I still feel this was the right way to execute the windows, but little did I know that there were 128 windows to make.  All in all, they turned out really well, but they were really labor intensive. It’s almost humorous that I only charged $40 for those 16 cookies.  Gasp!  Ever do this?  Unknowingly sell yourself short? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I made them, but it’s pretty laughable that I literally gave them away. Doug, if you’re reading this, please…no offense.

Now, you’re probably thinking I left out the part about how they got into the White House Gift Shop window display.  But honestly, I didn’t know. I just assumed since Doug works for Neiman Marcus that that it was the Neiman Marcus window display, in Tyson’s Corner, but as it turned out, that wasn’t the case.  I only found out when he texted me the picture of the window display with my cookies.  I about fell out of my office chair when I got the picture.  Very exciting, right?  He did save the cookies and they were used in the same window display the following year. I don’t know if they’ll be there again this year, but you all will be the first to know if they are!!

I made these cookies well before I was selling cookies as a side-hustle, so I’m lucky Doug and a friend that went to see them, took these pictures for me. I literally finished boxing them up at 3AM for an early morning pick-up and all I was thinking about was sleep. I’m so thankful they were kind enough to photograph them for me.

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