Maggie Austin shares sugary secrets behind White House holiday party decor

December 16, 2013

Alexandria-based wedding baker and decorator Maggie Austin created these sugar vases at the White House, which were featured on HGTV’s special Sunday night on the Obama’s holiday decor. (Eddie Gehman Cohen)

Guests at the White House holiday parties probably didn’t realize it, but two floral vases in the Red Room were crafted entirely out of sugar. The first lady tapped Alexandria-based wedding baker and decorator Maggie Austin to create the sugar fantasies, which were featured on HGTV’s special Sunday night on the Obama’s holiday decor.

Sugar, "gumpaste" flower vase by Alexandria-based baker and decorator Maggie Austin. Comissioned for the White House Christmas decor. Sugar, “gumpaste” flower vase by Alexandria-based baker and decorator Maggie Austin. (Courtesy Maggie Austin)

Austin and a team of interns handmade hundreds of gumpaste roses, ranunculus, berries, plums and leaves over countless hours for the vases commissioned by White House florist Laura Dowling. The sugar flowers, unlike fresh-cut stems, could last throughout the month of December and provided a unique update to the cranberry topiaries that have traditionally adorned the room. Not many people realized the vases were not fresh flowers — the sugar looks as authentic as the real thing, but had to be painstakingly created petal by petal, Austin told our colleague Cara Kelly.

“It was a learning experience for both of us,” said Austin, who tapped by Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds to create a cake for their 2012 wedding and is currently working on a special collection with Dean and Deluca. No regrets: “It was above all an unbelievable honor — the opportunity of a lifetime to be a part in any way.”

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