Plan a party and share a bounty of baked goodies.
Host a Cookie Swap
Credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner

As holiday traditions go, attending or hosting a cookie swap is a great way to multitask–offering a chance to get together and exchange tokens with friends during the busy season, as well as a way to shortcut your holiday baking.

All you need to do for a successful cookie swap is prepare a bunch of your favorite cookies and then exchange them and the recipe with other partygoers who have brought their own favorite treats. It's an easy party to throw, especially when you follow our tips and advice. We have a variety of tasty recipes for portable, packable cookies that are ideal for this type of party, plus some ideas for nibbles to serve guests.

Five Steps to Hosting a Cookie Swap

1. Plan early. People are more likely to attend if you give as much advance notice as possible and schedule your party early in the season.

2. Track guests' responses. Invite friends, relatives, neighbors, coworkers, or anyone who loves cookies. In this case, more is better–you'll have that many more kinds of cookies to swap. Ask everyone to tell you what type of cookies they'll bring. It's the host's job to keep a running list to avoid duplications. Remind partygoers to bring a few extra empty tins or zip-top bags to take their cookies home in.

3. Determine the number of cookies guests should bring. One suggestion: Ask each guest to bring six dozen cookies from a single recipe–about two to three batches of an average cookie recipe. If you opt for this approach, each guest should leave with six dozen cookies, no matter how many people attend.

Or you can base the number of cookies to bring on the number of guests, and be sure to account for yourself, the host. For example, if you expect 12 guests, ask each person to bring 13 dozen cookies. The advantage to this approach is that everyone will leave with a full dozen of each cookie. Regardless of which strategy appeals to you, ask each guest to bring an extra half-dozen to enjoy during the party.

4. Get copies of the recipes. Each guest should go home with a copy of all of the cookie recipes. Ask guests to bring enough copies of their recipes for all. Or, for a more creative approach, ask each guest to email you a copy of his or her recipe a few days ahead of time. Print the recipes on recipe cards. For a souvenir, bind them into a cookie swap cookbook complete with the year and date.

5. Prepare some savory snacks. You and your guests will be sampling lots of cookies, so it's nice to offer some savory snacks and drinks to balance the sweets.

Variations on a Theme
Try one of these ideas to focus your swap.

Cookies around the world: Have each guest bring cookies from an international recipe and explain its origins.

Pretty presentation: Everyone brings cookies that are creatively wrapped or packaged. Inform each attendee how many cookies to assemble for each guest, and ask everyone to bring the appropriate number of prepackaged cookies. The advantage to this strategy: Guests leave with presents wrapped and ready to give. (See below for packaging ideas)

Cookie decorating party: Everyone brings "bare" cookies like sugar cookies, shortbread, or gingerbread. The host provides decorations, such as frostings, sprinkles, melted chocolate, toasted coconut, or chopped nuts, and guests decorate their own custom cookies.

Offer prizes: For example, offer a prize for the best cookie display, best packaging, or most original cookie recipe. Prizes can include measuring spoons, baking sheets, and cookie cutters.

Packaging Panache
If you decide on a packaging theme, try some of these ideas for your treats.

• Heap cookies into inexpensive tins lined with tissue or parchment paper–retro tins with holiday scenes, galvanized tins, or red and silver tins.
• Stack cookies onto a pretty saucer from a flea market, wrap with cellophane, and tie with a ribbon.
• Pile a wide juice glass high with cookies, and remind guests that they can fill the glass with milk for dunking.
• Use colorful takeout boxes.
• Place cookies in glassine bags, and tie with colorful ribbon.
• Put cookies in a paper bag, fold over the top, punch two holes, string ribbon through the holes, and tie a bow.
• Line a small basket with a holiday napkin, and fill with cookies.
• Stack cookies in a colorful café au lait bowl, and wrap with cellophane.
• Wrap cookies in wax paper, secure with a ribbon, and tie a cookie cutter to the ribbon.
• Package cookies in small wooden boxes lined with colorful tissue paper.