How to Plan a Holiday Cookie Exchange Party

Cookies are one of the best parts of the holiday season, but there are always too many delicious varieties to choose just one or two to bake. If you don’t want to spend days in the kitchen during the holidays making a dozen different varieties of cookies, there’s a simple solution—arrange a cookie exchange (sometimes called a cookie swap) for you and a few of your friends. Each person makes one big batch of cookies, and after a festive few hours of swapping treats, every guest walks out with a wide variety of cookies to enjoy all season long.

Planning the party takes a little prep and coordination—but pays off in a fun and festive event that everyone will love. Here’s how to do it.

Plan your cookie exchange for early in the season.

Choose a date in early December, so your guests will have plenty of cookies to put out for their holiday get-togethers.

Decide how many cookies each person will take home.

You can simply have each guest bring four to six dozen cookies, then divide them evenly among the attending guests (meaning that people only get a few of each if you have a lot of guests), or request that they bring a dozen of their cookies for each guest. (Be sure that you don’t forget yourself in the cookie count—or to have guests bring a few extra cookies for people to try during the party.)

Find out what everyone’s bringing.

No one wants to head home with seven batches of sugar cookies, so ask every guest to identify their choice in advance, and suggest other recipes if you’re getting too much repetition among your guests. Make a list of who’s bringing what.

Decide if you’re providing the packing materials.

Some hosts give out cookie tins, storage containers, or Chinese takeout containers for guests to pack up their goodies, while others suggest that their guests bring their own containers for packing up their favorites. If it’s BYO, make sure your guests can display their cookies on big serving trays  so everyone can pack up their take.

Make pretty display cards.

Let guests know what each cookie is and who’s responsible for making them. You may also want to list any common allergens, such as nuts. You can also ask each baker to bring a copy of the recipe for each guest — that way, everyone goes home with not only a variety of cookies, but a whole new recipe collection as well!

Offer a few non-cookie treats for snacking.

Cookies are great, but your guests may want something a little more substantial. Consider some savory choices—canapés, nut mix, mini quiches, or a hearty tapas collection of cheeses, olives and meats for an evening party. (Try our Sweet & Spicy Glazed Nuts with Cranberries & Rosemary — they’re addictive!)

Plan your party drinks.

A festive champagne punch, served in a pretty punch bowl or pitcher, can be a perfect accompaniment to the sweets. You can set up an elegant coffee and hot chocolate bar, with whipped cream, cinnamon, shaved chocolate, peppermint sticks and more to jazz up the drinks.

Set it up stylishly.

One long table makes a perfect place for everyone to set up their sweets—choose a festive tablecloth, and put out cake stands, tiered servers, and platters to help guests display their cookies.

Keep the kids busy.

While the grownups are swapping cookies, set up a station in the kitchen where the kids can frost and decorate a set of simple sugar cookie cutouts. Put out a variety of sprinkles, a few dishes of festively-hued frosting, and let them get to work making masterpieces. (Serve them a little hot cocoa and marshmallows for sweet inspiration.)

Lisa Milbrand

Are you doing a cookie exchange this year? What kind of cookies will you bake? 

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Lisa Milbrand

is a writer for Bed Bath & Beyond. She constantly battles the chaos that comes with cramming one husband, two daughters and four pets into a standard-sized house—and when she's winning the war, she loves to throw a good party to celebrate.

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Jess December 5, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Great tips!!
I am hosting my 5th Annual Cookie Exchange this year! Its a such a great way to celebrate the season with friends and family! I make a big brunch as people are hungry for a meal!
Its a super fun day and a great tradition!

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