How to Host a Cookie Exchange Your Friends Will Love

10 min read

How to Host a Cookie Exchange Your Friends Will Love

I don’t know about you, but I often find long periods of time when I have absolutely nothing to do. My house is completely clean.  There is no laundry to wash and my kids are playing quietly, not wanting to bother me at all. When this happens, I head towards the kitchen, put on my cute apron, and whip up about 12 dozen batches of cookies.  Each recipe is more delectable and gourmet than the one before. All the while, I’m humming a beautiful tune as birds sing outside my window.


And then I wake up to reality. My house looks like…it could use some work. I gave up on laundry two kids ago. And those kids I speak of? I tried to let them help me bake a single batch of cookies. I put on my trusty BBQ apron, dragged a chair to the kitchen island for the kids to stand on, and went to work. It ended with crying and flour in everyone’s hair. The crying one was me.


But I do love fresh homemade cookies. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t? There’s nothing quite like biting into a warm, gooey cookie and washing it down with a glass of cold milk. Okay, so maybe my above scenario included a little bit of hyperbole. Not much, but a little. I can bake a batch of cookies on a good day.  Perhaps even a double batch. However, it usually stops at one recipe. Multiple types of cookies require multiple bowls, whisks, and measuring spoons. I honestly don’t even own enough mixing bowls and whisks to accommodate multiple recipes.  That means I get to frantically wash dishes in between cookie batches. No one wants to kiss the cook when she’s covered from head to toe in flour, using her apron to wipe smeared cookie dough off her child’s face.

blonde woman wearing christmas pajamas pulling cookies out of an oven
Image under creative commons license, © m01229 on flickr

Let’s be honest, few of us have time nowadays to be Betty Crocker. This running a household thing is exhausting.  We work, run our kids to dance, karate, and soccer, and try to serve dinner that’s not from a drive through window every once in a while.  Even if you don’t have kids, your career or schoolwork demands so much of your time.  The household needs to be maintained, and social events seem to be crammed into every minute of the week. Plus, we need to make sure we keep up with the latest episodes of Grey’s Anatomy for…science.


When Is a Good Time for Cookies?


What season do we most associate with baking cookies? Christmas, of course! The good news is that none of us have any extra chores or tasks during the holiday season!  That leaves us ample time to bake for hours upon hours, cleaning each mixing bowl as we go. No speck of flour is out of place in our immaculate kitchens.


In reality, we are all scheduled and stressed to the bones during November and December. Our time is a precious commodity.  We need to  shop, wrap those presents, decorate the house, host parties, and travel to family. We’d love to enjoy the season, but we’re just too darn tired!


This is where a cookie exchange heroically comes in to shine. Even though it’s most often held during the Christmas season, this type of party can be held at any time. Remember, we’ve already come to the conclusion that everyone loves fresh homemade cookies! It’s the perfect blend of practicality and an excuse to entertain! Have a Thanksgiving cookie swap so you can show off your beautiful fall dress that pairs nicely with your sequin apron. Host an Easter cookie exchange to highlight your adorable spring outfit with a cute white sweater and some Easter Bunny ears. Or have a completely laid back cookie swap in the summer, paired with a barbecue. A pool, a grill, and lots of homemade cookies sounds like the perfect combination to me!

 close up picture of warm chocolate chip cookiesThis makes me want to eat my computer screen right now.

So, what exactly is a cookie exchange? It’s a party where everyone comes together to share different cookie recipes. We take the principles of Henry Ford (bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this) and apply them to baking. Sort of. Okay, forget the analogy. Everyone bakes multiple batches of a single cookie recipe. Chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles, peanut blossoms…you know what cookies are. Everyone then brings them to the host’s house to exchange.


The Host’s Prep Role


To start, you should designate an amount of cookies that each participant should bake. This number should be large enough to give each participant a decent amount of each cookie to take with them.  It should also be small enough to be manageable for one person to bake.  Remember, you’re hosting this party to make everyone's lives easier!  The fun of entertaining and socializing is a great bonus!  Six dozen cookies seems to be the go-to amount for parties.  You should adjust this number to fit the needs of your party and the number of participants.


Next, it’s time to plan your invitations. Digital invites work best for this type of party.  This allows everyone to respond with the recipe they will bring. Create an Evite or a Facebook event page. Make sure you’re interactive with your guests. That keeps people excited for your party and helps them get into the cookie mood! Ask them about their recipes, ask a favorite holiday memory, comment about how you’re decorating your house. Don’t let guests put aside your invitation and forget about it until the day of the party! That ensures microwaved Chips Ahoy that someone tries to pass off as their own. (Pro tip in case you’re ever this person: throw some flour on your apron to make it look like you’ve been baking. Not that I’d ever do that or anything…)


The good news about decorating for your cookie exchange is that you can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. The main décor is being brought by guests…the cookies! Set up tables that give ample room for people to walk arounds. Decorate with a festive tablecloth that fits the season of your party. A nice fall cookie party lets you use autumn tones along with pumpkins and gourds to decorate. A summer party brings out a more patriotic color palette. Of course, Christmas is an entire genre.  Your house is probably already decorated, even without hosting a party. Create a luxurious look by placing boxes of different heights underneath the tablecloth. Place serving dishes at each height, making it look like you’re a glamorous host.


Let’s Talk Food!


My next favorite thing to plan for a cookie exchange is the menu! This doesn’t need to be a five course meal. In fact, it’s probably best that it isn’t, since people will most likely begin sampling all the cookies at the party. Finger foods tend to work best. Guest favorites are comfort foods like pigs in a blanket and teriyaki chicken skewers. Again, fit your food to your season whenever possible. Here are some suggestions for easy appetizers.


Buffalo Chicken Dip


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread one package of softened cream cheese into an ungreased shallow baking dish or crock. Add 1 cup of cooked chicken breast. Spread ½ cup of buffalo wing sauce and ½ cup of ranch dressing over the chicken. Sprinkle with 2 cups of shredded Colby-jack cheese. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted. This is also an easy recipe to make in the crock pot or instant pot for larger crowds.


Pizza Roses


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out refrigerated pizza dough into a rectangle. Slice the dough into 12 even strips. Spoon pizza sauce onto each strip and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Place sliced pepperoni onto the length of each strip, making sure that half of the pepperonis hang over the edge of the dough. The pieces of pepperoni should overlap slightly. Roll each loaded dough strip into a tight roll and place into a greased muffin tin. Bake for 15-18 minutes. The crust should be golden brown.


Irish Nachos


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut 5 large potatoes into ¼” slices and place in a bowl of cold water for 20 minutes. Drain and dry the potatoes. Lightly brush potatoes with olive oil. Place on baking sheet and bake 30-35 minutes until brown. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. In a bowl, mix 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, ½ cup corned beef, and 2 sliced green onions. Layer half of the potatoes in a casserole dish. Top with half of the cheese mixture. Add another layer of potatoes and again top with the cheese mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted. Top with slice green onions, tomatoes, and jalapenos. Serve with sour cream and guacamole.


Crab Artichoke Dip


Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine 8 ounces softened cream cheese, 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese, ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, 1 can finely chopped artichoke hearts, 2 cloves minced garlic, 12 ounces lump grab meat, 2 sliced green onions, and 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer mixture to an oven safe casserole dish. Sprinkle ½ cup shredded Monterey jack cheese on top. Bake for 15-20 minutes until warm and bubbly.


Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Tortilla Chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Dice a mixture of seasonal fruits. Good options are kiwis, strawberries, raspberries, apples, and mangos. Mix these diced fruits together in a bowl. Add 2 Tablespoons of white sugar and 3 Tablespoons of your favorite flavored fruit preserves. Set fruit mixture aside. Use a pizza cutter to cut 10-inch flour tortillas into wedges. Arrange tortilla wedges on a baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle wedges with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Serve toasted cinnamon tortillas to be dipped into fruit mixture.


French Dip Crescent Ring


Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in ½ sliced onion and 1 sprig of thyme. Stir and cook until the onions soften and turn golden. Season with salt and pepper to taste and reduce heat to medium. Continue stirring and cooking until the onions are caramelized. Remove from heat. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unroll 2 rolls of refrigerated crescent rolls, separating each triangle. Arrange in a sunburst pattern with the pointed ends of the triangles facing outward. The base of the triangles should overlap. Spread 1/3 cup grainy mustard on the dough. Top with 9 slices of provolone cheese, 1 pound deli roast beef, and cooked onions. Fold the triangle tips over the filling and tuck under the base to secure. Brush the top with an egg wash. Sprinkle with parsley and garlic powder. Bake for 15-20 minutes until dough is golden. While that bakes, make au jus. Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in 1 tsp garlic powder. Add 1 cup beef stock, 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, and 1 sprig of thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve French dip ring hot with au jus.


Time For Activities!


Once you have your menu set, determine if you want to have any other activities during your party. Encourage guest involvement by everyone bringing copies of their cookie recipe with them. They can easily type and print their recipe onto a 3X5 card. During the party, have everyone pick up a copy of each recipe. Have index card boxes for each guest to decorate and take home.  Supply markers, paint, and glitter.  Guests can store their newly acquired recipes inside their personalized boxes.


Another suggestion is to provide cookie boxes for each guest to decorate. Provide plain white boxes to hold the cookies themselves.  Also give a variety of ribbons, markers, scrapbooking stickers, and stamps.  Your friends will have a blast decorating their containers.   Many people will use these boxes to gift some of the cookies from the exchange.  Their friends and loved ones will enjoy the unique and personalized containers.  


All Set!


Once the day of the party has arrived, you’re ready to go! You have all your cookies on a decorative tray. You’re wearing the perfect outfit adorned with your glitzy apron. Sequins absolutely belong with an outfit like this! You deserve to show off all your hard work putting this fun night together. As guests arrive, direct them to the exchange table. Arrange the trays in an aesthetic way.  Make sure to still provide access for people to be able to easily reach each type of cookie. Remind guests to bring large containers to carry their cookies home in.


Once everyone has arrived, create a line by the cookie display table.   Everyone walks around the table, taking two or three of each type of cookie. If there are cookies left afterwards, you can choose how to distribute the remainder.  Guests can go around the table again or sample the cookies right there!  Make sure the drinks are flowing and the bellies are being fed.  Then sit back and smile at your successful cookie exchange!


I leave you now with some great cookie recipes to get you started in planning your cookie swap. You’ll have so much fun with this type of party that you’ll keep the fun going all year long!


Orange Creamsicle Cookies


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat ½ cup butter until light and fluffy. Add ¾ cups sugar, 1 large egg, ½ cup Tang drink mix, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add 1 ¾ cups white flour, ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon baking powder. Mix well. Add 1 ½ cups vanilla baking chips. Roll heaping Tablespoons of dough into balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, about 12-14 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to wire cooling racks.


Oreo Truffles


Place 36 Oreo cookies into food processor and crush finely. Mix 3 cups of crushed cookies in separate bowl with 8 ounces softened cream cheese. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls. Melt 16 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate in double boiler or microwave. Dip each ball into melted chocolate and place on baking sheet covered with wax paper. While chocolate is still hot, sprinkle balls with remaining cookie crumbs. Refrigerate for one hour. Store refrigerated in covered container.


Marshmallow Thumbprint Cookies


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Mix ½ cup sugar, ½ cup dark brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon baking soda in bowl. Use electric mixer to add 1 cup peanut butter. Add 1 large egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Use heaping Tablespoons to form balls. Place on cookie sheet and flatten slightly with your hand. Bake for 8 minutes. Once removed from oven, make an indentation in the top of each cookie with your thump. Place three marshmallows in each indentation and return to the oven until lightly browned, for 2-3 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire cooling rack.

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A stack of delicious homemade cookies with the words "Hosting the Perfect Cookie Exchange"

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