How to Host a Cookie Exchange or Swap

The purpose of a cookie exchange is that you bake one kind of cookie and, through swapping with friends, end up with an assortment that will last you a while. Here’s how to organize a cookie swap for you and your friends.

Cookie exchange rules and ideas - how to have a cookie swap
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One Month Before

  • Invite friends.

    Remember, you'll be baking enough cookies for every guest to take home, so don't invite the entire neighborhood. Shoot for eight to 10 friends who like to bake and who will have fun spending an evening together—consider the same group you'd include in a white elephant gift exchange.

  • Determine how much everyone will make.

    Typically, guests bake a dozen cookies (whether they're Christmas cookies or another type of cookie) for every attendee. But a half dozen would work if the party is large (say, more than 10 participants) or if you just want a sampling of treats, not enough to feed an army over the holidays.

  • Set ground rules.

    Yes, it's a party, but if you slave over homemade rugelach, you may not be happy when a friend shows up with slice-and-bake. Let guests know what the cookie exchange rules are—such as, cookies should be made from scratch and holiday-themed.

Two Weeks Before

  • Check RSVPs and ask who's making what.

    Make sure you don't have three identical shortbreads; kindly suggest someone switch if there's an overlap. (Pick the most experienced baker, who won't be frazzled by a change in plan.)

  • Decide on your cookie and shop for ingredients.

    You'll be making a large amount of one cookie, so you may be able to buy ingredients in bulk.

  • Set a menu of other snacks and drinks.

    Have some simple appetizers and beverages on hand during the cookie swap. Consider non-sweet dishes like vegetable dips or finger sandwiches, since you'll probably be nibbling on cookies.

  • Make sure you have a large table.

    Be prepared to clear off the dining room table, or gather a few folding tables to make a long buffet where guests can spread out their treats. Consider it practice for any gift exchange ideas you plan to try later.

One Week Before

  • Gather serving trays.

    Have platters to display the cookies, or alert your guests to bring their own.

  • Buy extra plastic wrap and storage bags.

    In case a guest forgets to bring a large container for toting home cookies, have supplies on hand.

Two Days Before

  • Bake the cookies.

    If you have time to make the cookies more than a couple of days before the party, freeze them. With some recipes, you can even prepare the dough well in advance—it will keep for up to three months in the freezer.

The Day Before

  • Set up the room.

    Decorate the table with a festive tablecloth or a holiday centerpiece, and push other furniture aside so that people can easily cruise through the cookie buffet.

  • Prep appetizers.

    Have the non-cookie food ready to go.

  • Thaw any frozen cookies.

    If you baked ahead and froze the cookies, bring them to room temperature overnight.

The Day of the Party

  • Set up drinks.

    Have cocktails or coffee ready when guests arrive.

  • Put out cookies and food.

    Finish any last-minute decorations.

  • Make a plan for how everyone will move around the room.

    And be sure to have guests tell everyone about their recipes.

After the Party

  • Collect the recipes.

    Have guests e-mail their delicious cookie recipes afterward. You can compile a master list of them and e-mail it to everyone at once.

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