Cookie exchange parties have been a popular (and delicious!) winter tradition. Guests gather to share favorite cookie recipes and swap their best cookies for the holiday season. These are the top tips for hosting your own cookie exchange party this year!
This article was originally published on November 19th, 2020 and has been updated and republished with a new date.
Hosting a Cookie Exchange
Holiday parties and a Christmas cookie exchange are one of the most festive ways to gather during the winter season! Hosting a cookie exchange takes just a little bit of planning but the payoff is big. Guests bake and share their favorite cookie and best recipes…yum!
A successful cookie exchange allows your guests to share their own cookies by swapping with a group of friends. The annual tradition is a great way to get into the holiday spirit and is a fun community gathering.
Throwing the Best Cookie Exchange Party
If you’re ready to take on hosting a cookie exchange, there are several ways you can throw one this year.
Indoor parties can be restricting, depending upon the size of your house. If you don’t have the space to display all the holiday cookies in a single location, spread out the platters throughout different areas in the home. This will encourage guests to mingle and move outside of a single designated area if cookies are located in other spots.
If you live in a warmer area, consider hosting an outdoor gathering. Set up tables on a patio or driveway.
Whether you choose to host an outdoor or indoor party, there are a few things you’ll need to do before you start baking. Here’s your checklist for hosting a perfect cookie exchange!
Gather the Bakers
Send invitations – During the busy holiday season, plan to send digital invites early. Allow your guest list 3-4 weeks advance notice of the cookie swap party date. These people should be local and willing to drive.
Start a Group – Start a Facebook group or other social networking site where you can gather participating friends and state the cookie exchange rules. You’ll want to have those with specific allergies noted in the group.
The online group is a perfect place to share other details, like the most requested recipes! Include a link to a sign up sheet with your specific party needs.
Cookie Exchange Date – Set a specific time and location in which everyone will arrive to set up their cookie displays. Remind guests to bring large enough platters or cake stands to enhance the display.
Hosting a Cookie Exchange – Rules to Abide By
When hosting a cookie exchange this year, having these rules laid down is important. Post the rules in the group and ensure that the event works well for all attending!
How Many Cookies to Have? – There’s never such a thing as “too many cookies”! Ensure you have enough cookies by requesting that each guest bring a determined number of cookies with them. 3-5 dozen cookies per guest could be a good number to consider.
Kind of Cookie to Bring? – Encourage guests to share in advance which types of cookies they will bring to the Christmas cookie exchange party. As the host/hostess you could set up a sign up sheet if you wish to avoid duplicate recipes.
READ MORE: This article of the 100+ Christmas Cookie Recipes is a must read when planning which treats to bake this season!
How Many Cookies to Take Home? – Set up a rule on choosing cookies so that everyone gets their fair share of cookies. Establish a number of treats each guests will bring, then designate how many to choose when picking out the desserts. This will ensure everyone leaves with the same amount of cookies they arrived with.
What Supplies Are Needed for Hosting a Cookie Exchange Party?
Depending upon the size of your gathering, you may need to request that your guests bring extra set up supplies. Create a sign up sheet on your event page to allow guests to fill in the gaps for party necessities.
Tables & Chairs – Plan out the tables you’ll need to set up displays. Don’t forget about seating for every guest. Request that guests bring a folding chair if you’re short on seating.
Potluck items – If you plan to serve food other than Christmas cookies during the event, request that guests bring potluck items. This could include appetizers, drinks, and a bag of ice. Don’t forget paper plates, napkins, cups and plastic flatware to make clean up easier.
Recipe Cards – Discover new favorites this Christmas season! Encourage guests to bring copies of their recipe to share during the gathering. Or have recipes shared on the online group cookie exchange party platform.
Displaying Holiday Treats
Set up holiday cookie exchange party tables that are not only pretty to look at but also practical and convenient. These ideas can help with setting up a functional display:
Display Tables – Use tables that can be accessed from all sides. This will create a flow of traffic that can move around the table. Also, it minimizes your guests having to reach deep across tabletops to get to the cookies in the back.
Serving Tongs – This mini serving tongs are a necessity to keep cookie displays sanitary.
Treat Bags – Some guests may prefer to bag their treats individually in a grab ‘n go style. For delicate desserts, consider bagging them into small cellophane holiday treat bags that are tied with ribbon.
Placards for Treats – Create a placard for each cookie stating the name and who made it. Try these reusable chalkboard signs as place cards to make note of the type of cookie on display.
Best Dessert Displays When Hosting a Cookie Exchange
With a variety of heights on the table, you’ll be able to fit more treats. Add taller stands and trays in the middle of the table, with lower tins, baskets or platters at the edges of the table. These are the top dessert displays to add to your holiday cookie tables:
3-tier dessert stand – This versatile porcelain tiered dessert stand looks great for any party!
Cake stands – A sturdy cake stand can make displaying flat platters easier. Ensure that the platter is sized appropriately to the stand and that it won’t tip off balance. This adjustable height cake stand creates a multi-level table display.
Wooden Crates – Use rustic wooden crates that lay either vertically or horizontally to hold cookie platters.
Tiered serving tray – The multi-functional tiered serving tray can hold appetizers, finger foods and small desserts.
Wrapped boxes – On a budget, use Christmas paper to wrap sturdy, empty boxes. Use the boxes on the tabletop to display cookie platters. Or wrap the outside of a shoebox, then stuff with food-grade tissue paper and fill with a display of cookies.
Baskets or Cookie Tins – Line a basket or tin with tissue paper or a cloth napkin, then display cookies within.
Set the Holiday Mood
Get your guests in the Christmas mood with seasonal decorations throughout the house. Play classic Christmas music softly in the background. And of course, extend your decorations onto the holiday cookie tables.
Decorative Tabletop – Spread a festive tablecloth across large folding tables. Inexpensive Christmas wrapping paper can create a fun holiday table runner.
Use the kitchen countertop or dining room table for setting out cookie displays as well. These are a few easy ways to decorate the surface for a celebratory look:
- Wired ribbon stretched out between cookie platters
- Pine branches
- Holiday placemats under trays or stands
Once all bakers have dropped off cookies in their designated areas at the tables, set a time to have guests line up for the exchange. Walk along the tables and choose a pre-designated number of each cookie type that you wish! Here are a few ideas:
- Set up a rule on choosing cookies so that everyone gets their fair share of cookies. Establish a number of treats each guests will bring, then designate how many to choose when picking out the desserts. This will ensure everyone leaves with the same amount of cookies they arrived with.
- Have multiple rounds of cookie swapping. Allow guests to pick 10 total cookies in each round, or pass around the table.
- Allow each guest to choose one of each cookie type, no duplicates.
Packaging Cookies to Take Home – Each guest should bring their own containers to fill with their chosen variety of cookies.
Suggest that guests bring cookie tins or other airtight containers lined with parchment paper. Have extra plastic wrap on hand to cover platters.
Allergy Friendly Holiday Cookie Exchange
It may be difficult to ensure that homemade cookies are completely allergy friendly. But if you’re baking certain desserts that are egg, milk, nut or gluten free, you could make note of this for those choosing your treats.
Have an Allergy-Friendly Table – Clearly post signs on tables with notes in regards to allergies. Instruct those making treats to put their nut-free, gluten-free and dairy-free treats in the corresponding locations. Consider wrapping allergy friendly desserts into individual plastic bags to prevent cross-contamination.
If your treat contains a known allergen, make a bold note of this on the tag. Consider implementing a colored dot system for quick info during cookie pick up (ie: “Contains Peanuts” could have a bold blue dot on the tag, “Includes Dairy Products” could have a bold red dot, etc.)
Kids or Adults Only?
When hosting this cookie exchange party, establish from the start whether kids are welcome or if you’d like this to be a grown-up only event.
Hire a teenager to watch over children while adults mingle! If you want to include children when hosting a cookie exchange, here are a few ideas to keep kids entertained:
Cookie-decorating station – Have each guest that brings a child to the party also bake a dozen sugar cookies. Supply squeeze bottles of royal icing and small candies or sprinkles to decorate cookies.
Set up a cookie table with a plastic tablecloth, chairs and plenty of space to decorate. Minimize the mess by setting this up in a garage or outdoor setting.
Coloring pages – Set up a coloring station with crayons and holiday themed coloring page printables for young guests.
Decorate a gingerbread house – The Candy Cottage has been a fun tradition at my friend’s cookie party each year. This plastic gingerbread house is easy to decorate with a can of frosting and inexpensive candies. The reusable Candy Cottage is perfect for those who want the fun of decorating but don’t plan to eat the “gingerbread house”.
Gather and Give to Charity
Set up a charity when sending invites. Request that party guests contribute to the chosen charity, by bringing something that will be donated.
As the party host, you’ll be in charge of getting those donations delivered to the appropriate destinations. These are some ideas for charity donations:
- Blankets, socks, warm hats and gloves or filled toiletry bags for local homeless shelters.
- Canned foods are ideal to refill the local food pantry.
- New and unwrapped toys are perfect for donation to children’s charities, like Toys for Tots.
Holiday Party Fun
Delicious cookies are only a small part of hosting a cookie exchange party. Round out the festivities with other snacks or meal items for guests to nibble on while they socialize. What about other seasonal activities? Here are a few ideas to add during the holiday cookie swap:
- Cheese board with crackers, olives and vegetables
- Finger sandwiches with pasta salad and chips
- Savory appetizers (these are easy to purchase frozen then heat the day of the event)
- Apple cider or hot chocolate bar with mix-ins like peppermint sticks and marshmallows
- White Elephant gift exchange