The Great Presidential Spouse Cookie Bake-Off

Every four years in the United States is a presidential election year, and more importantly, it’s a presidential candidate spouse cookie bake-off year. You see, every presidential election year since 1992 each spouse of a presidential candidate submits a cookie recipe to Family Circle magazine. Subscribers to the magazine then vote on which cookie recipe is the most delicious. This may seem minor in the scheme of things, but so far in every election except one, the person with the winning cookie recipe had a spouse that went on to become the leader of the free world. Obviously, making the spouses of presidential candidates submit cookie recipes is totally not reliant on sexist tropes about how women need to be good at baking in order to be a good wife to the president and in turn the country, but is actually an important indicator of who will win the presidential election come August.

Now, I’m not much of a baker myself despite being a woman and a wife (which sadly disqualifies me from ever becoming the first lady), but I decided to make an exception and attempt to bake and review the cookie recipes submitted this year by Bill Clinton and Melania Trump.

First though, a quick word of warning. I’m terrible at baking, generally because I’m bad at following directions, doing things in the correct order, and measuring ingredients rather than just pouring it into a bowl while “guessing” how much looks like it’s probably about 1 cup. I did my best in this instance to actually follow the directions but knowing me I might have still screwed it up somehow, so if you attempt to make these cookies yourself you can likely expect different results from whatever I ended up with. Consider my versions of the recipes to have an element of chaos thrown in just for fun.

Bill Clinton’s Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

First up, I decided to start with Bill Clinton’s recipe, since it was already a two-time winner of the presidential candidate spouse cookie bake-off. Yep, that’s right, Hillary Clinton submitted this same recipe and won both times that Bill Clinton ran for president. Since it already had two wins under its belt, I thought it would make a good benchmark for what a delicious presidential candidate spouse cookie should taste like.

cookie dough on a cookie sheet ready to be baked
Cookie blobs waiting for their turn to be baked

It turned out it was pretty easy to make. Mostly I just had to pour all the ingredients in a bowl, mix it all up, then bake it. I did somehow still manage to screw it up a bit. First of all, I used kosher salt instead of regular salt. I knew it was wrong when I did it, but it seemed easier to pour the kosher salt from the box than to try to get the correct amount of non-kosher table salt out of our salt shakers. Also, I secretly like when sweet things are a bit salty so I figured it could only improve the cookies.

My second screw up was using dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar. This happened due to my ignorance of there being two types of brown sugars. The cookies managed to come out just fine regardless so I’m still not sure what the difference between the brown sugars are or how it may have changed the flavor had I used the correct shade of brown sugar.

plate of cookies
The Clinton cookies are all baked and ready for eating!

FINAL VERDICT: Despite fucking up the recipe a bit, Bill Clinton’s cookies were absolutely delicious. They were as sweet as the freedom of choice and the dark chocolate combined with the light oats made the cookies as diverse as our great nation. Base score is a 10/10.


  • +1 Point for being the first male presidential candidate spouse to ever submit a recipe to this historic cookie contest
  • -1 Point because Bill totally phoned this one in by submitting his wife’s cookie recipe rather than coming up with his own
  • -1 Points because Bill cannot even eat these cookies since he’s vegan and these cookies are decidedly not vegan.


Melania Trump’s Star Sugar Cookies

The next day I decided it was time to tackle Melania Trump’s sugar cookies. This recipe was far less simple to implement than Bill Clinton’s cookies. It required making the dough, then letting the dough sit in the fridge for awhile, then flattening it and using cookie cutters to cut out the cookie shapes. It also had a strange ingredient list, requiring two egg yolks but only one egg white, powdered sugar instead of regular sugar, and sour cream for some reason.

The only screw up I’m aware of was that I forgot to put in the sour cream during the correct step. I was supposed to mix it in at the same time as the eggs, but I forgot and then added it later when I was adding the flour. I don’t think this should have messed up the recipe too much, but it could have so it’s worth noting.

two discs of cookie dough
The recipe called for splitting the dough into two discs. I’m like 80% sure this is what it meant.

I also did not own any star shaped cookie cutters and the recipe specifically called for star shapes. So, instead of making star-shaped cookies I made cookies in the shape of the White House, cats, and T. rexes. Frankly, those are better shapes than stars anyways so Melania should really thank me for making her cookie recipe less boring.

The hardest part was actually cutting the shapes out of the dough. I made the dough too thin, didn’t use enough flour, and also kept accidentally using the cookie cutters upside down, so my cookies ended up looking like vaguely White House, cat, and T. rex shaped lumps. The T. rexes tiny arms and the tips of their tales kept coming off and I would just sort of try to mush them back on. It wasn’t pretty. Luckily Skepchick Julia came over to help me cut the cookies, and her cookies turned out perfect so clearly the issue was with me and not with Melania’s recipe.

cookies on a baking sheet ready to be cooked
Just take a guess as to which cookies Julia cut and which I did

FINAL VERDICT: These cookies were like if aliens came to earth and saw cookies then tried to recreate them without really understanding that the purpose of a cookie is to taste good. They look like beautiful perfect cookies on the outside but once you bite into them you realize they are empty of all substance and flavor, a bit like the candidate himself, and they were as white and bland as Trump’s base. Although some of the cookies were shaped like the White House, I did that just to make the Trumps feel good since a White House shaped cookie is the closest either of them will ever come to the actual White House. Base score is a 1/10.


  • +1 Point because the cookies tasted so bland that I’m not convinced I didn’t actually fuck up the recipe somehow. It doesn’t seem possible this is what these cookies are actually supposed to taste like.
  • +1 Point for Melania managing to come up with an original cookie recipe rather than just copying a previous presidential candidate’s spouse’s recipe
  • -1000 Points for Donald Trump being a bigot, because I’m honestly a bit unclear as to why we’re talking about cookies when we have a literal white supremacist running for president

FINAL SCORE: -998/10

As a final test, I put out both sets of cookies at a small book club I hosted. It looked like this at the beginning of the night.

Two plates full of cookies

But by the end of the night after everyone was done with book clubbing, the plates looked like this.

two plates, one with only a couple cookies and the other full of cookies

A couple people did try the Melania cookies but they proved far less popular than the Bill cookies. I even attempted to send the cookies home with people but had no takers. I considered bringing the Melania cookies into work the next day to give to my coworkers, but decided that would be cruel so instead they ended up in the trash.

Congratulations to Bill Clinton for winning the Great Presidential Spouse Cookie Bake-Off. It surely is the greatest honor you will ever receive in your life. If any of you would like to attempt to bake these cookies yourself, both recipes are posted at NPR.

Jamie Bernstein

Jamie Bernstein is a data, stats, policy and economics nerd who sometimes pretends she is a photographer. She is @uajamie on Twitter and Instagram. If you like my work here at Skepchick & Mad Art Lab, consider sending me a little sumthin' in my TipJar: @uajamie

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  1. Bill Clinton’s cookies look a lot like Grandma Hill’s Cowboy Cookies, a recipe handed down three generations to my ex, then purloined by me. 😀  They’re really good. Original instructions specified teaspoon-sized blobs, but I tend to lean towards tablespoon-sized.

    Grandma Hill’s Cowboy Cookies

    1/2 cup butter
    1/2 cup shortening
    1 cup sugar
    1 cup brown sugar
    2 eggs
    1 tsp. vanilla
    2 cup rolled oats
    2 cup self-rising flour
    8 oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips (or can do 16 oz. for extra-chocolately)

    Beat butter, shortening, and sugars; add eggs and vanilla. Blend well. Stir in flour, then oats, then chips (you may have to use your hands). Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet, and bake at 350 F for 10 – 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly, remove from cookie sheet.

    Also, I really want Hillary Clinton to win, for many reasons, not least of which is the prospect of seeing Bill standing resolutely behind her, wearing white gloves and a pilbox hat.

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