Have you ever been to a cookie exchange? It’s a gathering organized to exchange cookies, primarily around the holidays. For those of us who love to bake and have a sweet tooth, these parties are heaven. Hosting a cookie exchange seems like a great idea in theory, but planning it might be overwhelming. These tips will help you plan a successful cookie exchange without losing too much of your most precious resource: time.
Planning is Key
Create a plan for your cookie exchange well ahead of the date. You’ll need to consider a number of things before settling all the details. First, the guest list – which of your friends like to bake? Inviting friends who have no interest in baking probably won’t result in a successful cookie exchange. Choose the majority of friends who are seasoned bakers, and consider adding a few newbies who are developing an interest.
Give your guests at least 3-4 weeks advance notice, so they can plan for time to shop, prepare and bake their cookies. Although you can invite as many guests as you’d like, limiting your party to 10 or 15 guests will provide more intimacy and keep cookie-baking duties reasonable for everyone. Six dozen cookies per guest is a good maximum, and you can reduce that number if guests don’t want to go home with a ton of cookies. Try to plan your party close to the holidays, but not so close that it is bumping up to our massive influx of holiday events. The first week of December may be a good fit.
Establish rules for baking
In addition to the date, time, and number of cookies, give your guests some parameters around what they should bake. Common rules for cookie exchanges are that all cookies must be homemade, cookies need to keep for at least several days after the party, no burnt cookies, and no duplicate cookies. You may want to decide that guests have to send you their cookie choice ahead of time so you can make sure everyone is baking a unique cookie.
You might also consider other rules like only seasonally appropriate cookies, or ruling out more common cookies like sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, and peanut butter cookies. Also let your guests know if you’d like them to bring paper copies of their recipe, or if you will print or email all the recipes out to guests.
Set up your cookie-tasting area
If you’ve got a good number of guests, you’ll probably need access to a large table (hopefully your dining room table) to display the cookies. Pull out all manner of plates and platters of varying heights to display cookies. When guests arrive, they can put their first dozen on display at the table and place the others in the staging area where they can make take-home boxes. Print out place cards with each cookie’s name and baker, and consider having each baker tell a little bit about their cookie and the significance of it. Is their cookie an old family recipe that goes back generations, or did they end up going on a city-wide hunt for an uncommon ingredient? You’ll remember these stories for years to come. If you’re feeling really ambitious, allow guests to vote on the best cookie at the exchange and give out small door prizes for the top 3 winners.
Don’t forget the beverages and savory snacks. You might be laser-focused on the sweet side of your cookie exchange, but don’t neglect the savory. Guests may arrive hungry or just need a little nourishment that isn’t loaded with sugar. A sampling of beverages like iced tea and milk and light, savory snacks like finger sandwiches and quiches will do the trick.
Set up an area for guests to make their own take-home boxes. When your guests are done tasting, they’ll want to choose some of each cookie to take home. Have an alternate area outside the path of the main cookie table with cookies and supplies for wrapping them up – paper boxes, Ziploc bags, and plates to cover with saran wrap, for example.
Enlist holiday helpers to get your house ready
A cookie exchange can be an intimate holiday event in among the blur of big holiday parties. If you need help getting ready for your party, remember that ABC Home & Commercial Services is here for you. We can help with holiday lighting, lawn services, pest control, and more around the home to get your home looking perfect for a party.