This past weekend, I hosted my first ever holiday cookie exchange. I’ve always been a little intimidated by organizing one of these because they seem awfully complicated. For one thing, there’s math involved. Math and I haven’t always seen eye to eye.
Despite my initial anxiety, all came together without a hitch. And, more importantly, we had a ball! Want to plan an easy cookie exchange, too? (I think this would be fun for a Valentine’s Day party or a spring fling.) Here’s how it all went down:
1.) Decide on the number of guests. I invited my book club, which is about 18 members. I would recommend keeping the party maximum to 8-12 guests to make it easier on your participants. (The more guests you have, the more cookies they have to make–5-6 dozen for 12.)
2.) Schedule well in advance. I scheduled our cookie exchange about three weeks in advance.
3.) Be flexible. I asked everyone to email me their cookie recipes. My plan was to put together a cute little recipe book for everyone. That ended up being too difficult for everyone (we’re busy moms after all) so I changed course and had everyone print off their recipe and include it in their cookie boxes.
4.) Crunching the numbers. We ended up with a total of 6 participants (including myself.) I had everyone put together six boxes–one box would be opened and put on trays for sampling during the party. I loved seeing the different containers everyone arrived with. Each of us made three dozen cookies, dividing them into six per box.
5.) Serve simple appetizers. I served savory appetizers to counter some of the sweetness of the cookies, including brie with crackers, bruschetta, nuts, spinach artichoke dip, fresh veggies and tortilla chips. (Hint: Check your local supermarket or bulk store for pre-made dips. Cut up the veggies in advance and store in plastic bags until you are ready to get them out. The only appetizer I made from scratch was the Pioneer Woman’s bruschetta. That’s easy, too. Here’s the recipe.) And, of course, no party of mine is complete without red and white wine!
6.) Share stories. After catching up with each other for awhile, we circled around the table and we each shared a story about the cookie we prepared. Here’s one of my favorites from the evening:
After a challenging week with sick kids, one friend finally had an afternoon to bake. She settled her two-year-old into his high chair with play-dough to keep him busy while she made her cookie dough. Next thing she knew, she was dodging blue play-dough balls! Her afternoon project ended up getting completed over the course of two days, but she stuck it out and the cookies turned out beautifully!
6.) The table of treats. Snickerdoodles, soda cracker toffee candy, classic sugar cookies, peppermint candy cane kiss cookies, peanut butter balls and Rumchata truffles.… Cutting back on sweets can wait until the new year, right?!
5.) ‘Tis the season for giving. Because one friend was unable to take home any cookies due to family food allergies, we donated the extra boxes to our local fire/police department. Even if you don’t have this issue, I would recommend having everyone prepare an extra box to give away. I think it added a nice touch to the event. (Thank you to Sarah and Karen for delivering the goodies!)
The cookie exchange wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be–the numbers worked out–and no one even noticed that I had yet to put up a Christmas tree. We all gathered in the spirit of fun and friendship. What a sweet way to connect with friends during this special season!
*Many of my ideas about how to plan a cookie exchange, I borrowed from Ann Pearlman’s novel “The Christmas Cookie Club.”
What is your favorite holiday cookie?