Simple Steps to Host a Holiday Cookie Exchange Party

Holiday cookies

Whether you love to bake or dread it more than the mall parking lot on Christmas Eve, homemade cookies are a central part of the holidays. From traditional frosted sugar cookies and peanut butter blossoms, to ethnic treats like krumkake and biscochitos, everyone expects their favorites to be on hand throughout the season.

This year, rather than spend hours in the kitchen making an endless variety, try hosting a cookie swap. Not only will the exchange cut your cooking time in half — without sacrificing quality or quantity — the gathering of friends may likely become a sweet new holiday tradition. Here’s everything you need to know about hosting a successful cookie party.

How It Works
Instead of making several kinds of cookies, each guest makes only one variety, but enough to share one dozen with everyone present. For example, if you have eight guests, each one will make eight dozen cookies. Everyone arrives with eight dozen cookies to exchange, and leaves with eight dozen to enjoy!

Four to Six Weeks Before
When setting the date, be mindful of your guests’ schedules during this busy time of year. As many may be booked during the evenings, a Sunday brunch may work best.

  • Consider the guest list: Because you’ll be making a dozen cookies for each attendee, keep the guest list between eight to 10 people. If you have more than that, consider making six cookies for everyone, instead of a dozen.
  • Send invitations: Paper invites can be expensive and time-consuming. Instead, opt for creating a private event on Facebook, or use other social media and text messaging to get the word out. Be sure to include a way for guests to RSVP with what kind of cookie they will be making.
  • Set the ground rules: Make sure guests know the swap is for homemade cookies (as opposed to store bought) that are holiday themed.

Two Weeks Before
If you haven’t done so already, call your guests to confirm they are coming, and cover the following:

  • What type of cookie each person is bringing (so you don’t have repeats)
  • If guests can bring an extra six to 10 cookies to share at the party itself
  • Reminder to bring a container to take cookies home
  • Bring the cookie recipe for everyone to copy at the party

Holiday cookies

One Week Before
It’s almost party time, which means the details are coming together.

  • Set the scene: Because you already have some holiday decorations out, there’s no reason to do any more. All you need is a large dining room table or several smaller tables for the cookies.
  • Start baking: Because you’re making a large quantity of cookies, buy the ingredients in bulk to save money. Then, make your dough ahead of time and freeze it, or bake cookies that are sturdy enough to be stored until party time.
  • Plan a simple menu: While guests will be able to sample the variety of cookies at the party, you many want to also have some simple appetizers on hand, like cheese and crackers, mini party pizzas, cranberry and brie turnovers, or an easy crock pot of soup with a side of rolls.

Holiday cookies

The Day Before and Day Of
You’re almost there! Now all you need are a few finishing touches to show off the star of the show — dozens of homemade cookies.

  • Create a cookie stage: Use platters and plates to display the cookies on the table. Include a card with each one, so your guests can write down the names of their cookies.
  • Food and beverage station: Set up an area in the kitchen or away from the cookies where guests can get snacks and a glass of eggnog, cider, or hot chocolate.
  • Wrapping it up: Make sure you have extra containers and plastic wrap to help guests get their cookies home.

Show and Tell
You may want to take a moment during the festivities to encourage guests to share something about the cookies they chose to bring, such as the recipe’s origin or memories from holidays past. At the end of the party, your guests will leave not only with a bounty of delicious cookies, but also with their holiday spirit rekindled by friendship and fun.

What to Bake
Looking for a sure-fire cookie recipe that will have everyone begging for more? Then look no further than these yummy peanut butter delights.

Peanut Butter Blossoms
Makes 54 cookies

1/2 c. shortening
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. granulated sugar
Chocolate kisses or stars

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg, milk, and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in the 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate kiss into center of each cookie. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Place in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to three days or freeze for up to three months.