About two weeks before your party, you should have an estimate for how many people are attending and what cookies they are going to make. Once you’ve finalized your guest list, you can plan a simple food and drink menu and decide which cookies you want to make.
When sending out invitations, either online, mail or in-person, ask what type of cookie each person plans on making. At two weeks, there’s some wiggle room to change the cookie lineup in case a few people have responded with duplicate cookie types. In this case, it’s best to ask a seasoned baker to pick a different recipe—you don’t want to worry a new baker by changing up their plan too close to the party. Keep a tally of the number who’ve responded and reach out to those who are still unaccounted for.
Prep for the Party
Cookies will get all of the attention at your party. There’s no need to do additional decorating! Simply focus on providing ample space for displaying the cookies and making the tasting table super accessible. We also recommend having some easy appetizers on hand during your party. To balance out the sugary cookies, consider serving some savory dishes like dips, finger sandwiches, or easy 3-ingredient appetizers, like Bacon-Jalapeno Popper Pinwheels or Guacamole Crescent Cups. Make sure to have beverages on hand, too. Milk always makes a good cookie partner, but hot chocolate and spiced cider add some holiday spirit, too.
If you want even more ideas for bites at your party, we’ve got a whole list of appetizers for you to browse.
Plan the Cookie Exchange Games
While cookie tasting and trading baking tips may take up most of your time, there are several games you can play during your party if the crowd is up for it. Here are a few of our favorites.
Can’t Say “Cookie” Game
Using small candy canes and red ribbon, make a necklace for each guest. When everyone arrives, give each person a necklace to wear throughout the party and tell them they’re not allowed to say the word “cookie.” If a person says “cookie,” the person who catches them saying the word gets their necklace. At the end of the party, the person with the most candy cane necklaces gets a prize. (Optional prize: A decorated storage container for their take-home cookies).
Musical Ornament Game
The traditional Musical Ornament Game is an ornament swap game. Everyone brings a $5 wrapped ornament to the cookie exchange. As the host plays holiday music, the participants pass their gift around the circle. When the music stops, whatever gift each person has is the one they take home! Guests each take turns opening his or her ornaments.
Best Cookie Game
Indulge in a little healthy competition by letting guests vote for their favorite cookie. Number each cookie, and use scrap paper for ballots. Then cast your votes, tally and crown the winner. Prizes aren’t necessary; the win is glory enough.
Decide What Cookies You Will Make
When considering what type of cookie to make for your swap, the key is simplicity. You’ll want to consider ease, time you have available and flavors that will please a crowd of tastes and preferences. Cookies like dipped cookies, thumbprints, low-ingredient and low-prep time cookies are all excellent options. For example, our Peanut Butter Cookies can be dipped in chocolate for a festive holiday look. Or, consider these 3-Ingredient Holiday Thumbprints, which only take 20 minutes of prep per batch!
The Best Cookies for a Cookie Exchange
It’s no secret that cookies make one of the best gifts during the holidays (or really any time of year!). The best cookies to bring for a cookie exchange are cookies that will travel well. Choose moist, firm-textured cookies that will remain fresh and in one piece during transport. The best choices include drop cookies, unfrosted bars, fudgy brownies and other sturdy treats. Here are some recipes to get you started.