Cookie exchange! 10 ways to plan a fun and delicious holiday cookie swap
Cookie exchanges and bake days are a special holiday tradition for many families and friends. Some people bake festive goodies at home and bring them to swap. Others get together for a baking party, leaving with a plate of assorted treats for Santa—and gift to neighbors and co-workers.
We’ve had our fair share of bake day successes and fails. Here are some ways to assure your cookie swap is extra sweet this year:
Plan ahead. No need to go overboard (we’ve all got enough to do this time of year), but a little party planning can yield better results. Make sure you know what each guest will be baking so there is a good assortment of colors and types and no duplicates.
Consider logistics. You will need to stagger your baking if you only have one oven, so don’t pick 10 recipes that all need to be baked. Consider no-bake recipes, such as Rice Krispie snowmen and Ritz crackers dipped in melted chocolate.
Try it out first. Best not to show up to a bake party with a completely foreign recipe. Give new recipes a trial run at home first to work out the kinks before you’re in a new kitchen with plenty of distractions. And wine.
Take inventory of supplies. Ask each person to bring their own supplies, so you don’t run short. We’re talking trays, parchment paper, bowls, spoons and napkins. If you are a guest, consider bringing dish soap and extra napkins to leave with the host to replenish what was used.
Provide “real food.” You are going to snack on cookie dough and candy canes and marshmallows. You will want to try those brownies and sugar cookies and that frosting will end up in your mouth whether you intend it or not. So make sure there is enough real food to offset your sugar buzz—healthy options like veggie trays, but also some substance, such as green chili in a crockpot and a plate of sandwiches.
Create a festive atmosphere. Turn on the Pandora Christmas station, flip on the tree, light some candles or the fire and set the tone for your special event.
Set aside a table for kids. Sure, Martha Stewart style is impressive, but there’s something especially adorable about cookies decorated by kids. Plus, you don’t want kids tearing through the kitchen past the hot oven. Plan some activities for them. Make snowman sugar cookies first and set up a frosting and decoration station for kids. Also think about non-foodie activities, such as ornament decorating. Set up toys in another room, in case the kids get antsy (or they can’t keep their fingers out of the dough).
Don’t forget the transport home. In the excitement of preparation, it can be easy to forget that you have to get all this stuff home, too. The least expensive and easiest way to get your cookie stash home is in large zipping baggies. Ask each guest to bring their own, but pack some extras in case you make more cookies than you planned for.
Don’t leave a mess. Don’t forget to set aside time for everyone to help with the kitchen clean up. Leaving the host with a mess is a pretty rotten gift.
Organize gift plates right away. As soon as you get home, divide up the cookies in gift boxes or plates, and set aside a few for your family to enjoy. If you delay, you’ll end up eating all the best cookies (probably more than you want to eat!), and it’s easy for the cookies to get broken and for frosting to smear in the shuffle of snacking. Preserve the beauty of your creations by tucking them away before midnight hunger strikes. Tip: Pack your cookies in extra-special boxes, like this holiday cookie jar. And tape the lid shut. Trust us. We’ve been there.