How to Host a Cookie Exchange Party This Holiday Season

Updated March 15, 2022
cookie exchange assortment in tin

A Christmas cookie exchange party offers a fun way to celebrate the holiday season while sharing your favorite treats, recipes, and traditions. If you are looking for a holiday party idea to spend time with family and close friends or reconnect with old ones, a holiday cookie swap will do the trick.

Cookie Exchange Basics

A cookie exchange party is a great event that not only brings friends and family together to share delicious recipes and cookies, but also provides an opportunity to share precious time together during the start of the holiday season. At a cookie exchange, guests are asked to share their favorite recipe and baked goodies during a cookie swap. Guests go home with a variety of holiday cookies to enjoy or share with loved ones.

Planning a Cookie Exchange

plan cookie exchange cookies in take home boxes

As with any party, the size of the party is best decided by the host. Some people might prefer a more intimate party and choose only to invite a few select, close friends, and family members. Others live by the rule "the more, the merrier" and opt for inviting additional guests. The host has a better gauge as to what she feels will be manageable for her to be able to accommodate all her guests. Six to 15 guests is optimal. Organizing thirty different types of cookies and having guests make thirty dozen is unreasonable.

Cookie Exchange Invitation

Invitations should be informative, and ground rules should be set for guests to make the cookie exchange party fun for all. Essential information includes date, time, place, a brief description of the event and a list of what guests should bring. You can also print the above invitation and personalize it. If you need help, use the Guide for Adobe Printables.

  • Number of cookies to bring: Six dozen of their favorite holiday cookies.
  • Containers for taking home treats: A large tin to keep the cookies fresh is ideal.
  • Printed copies of recipes: Confirm with guests the number of people attending at least a week prior to the event and what type of cookies each guest is bringing to avoid duplicates.

Other Baked Treats

cookie exchange baked mini pies

Cookie exchanges can certainly include other baked treats like bars and biscotti. However, this is the host's decision and should be communicated to the guests. The host should inform guests which treats are acceptable to prevent any disappointment. For example, are bakery treats allowed or only homemade? Should the baked goods be holiday-inspired, or are classics like chocolate chip or oatmeal welcome?

Party Preparations

Remember that others will be taking your cookies home, so one thing to keep in mind is safe transport to the party. Guests might want to consider pre-packaging, as it ensures that cookies retain their shape and taste. Guests can use their imaginations to create festive packages using colored plastic wrap or parchment, ribbon, or dimensional stickers.

Here are some transportation tips:

  • Bake cookies two days before the exchange.
  • Always cool before packing to prevent sticking.
  • Line cardboard containers with foil or plastic wrap to keep cookies fresh.
  • Place sheets of parchment between layers of cookies, especially those which are iced or decorated with royal icing (remember that cookies iced with buttercream do not stack well).
  • If cookies are delicate, pack them into shallow containers in a single layer.
  • Wrap cookies singly or in pairs, and group wrapped cookies in a pretty box, bag, or basket.

Party Supply Checklist

To make sure the cookie exchange runs smoothly, you as the host can make a checklist to keep yourself on track and guide you for weeks prior to the event to the actual day of the cookie exchange. Among the party supplies that a host will need are:

  • Festive holiday decorations
  • Invitations
  • Snacks and drinks for guests
  • Place cards to label cookies
  • Footed dessert stand and trays for displaying cookies
  • Tongs
  • To-go cookie boxes
  • Plates and napkins

Cookie Swap Table Set Up

cookies on decorated table

Display guests' cookies contributions on footed dessert stands and trays to add height to your set up and maximize table space. Use place cards to label each type of cookie and have printed recipe cards readily available for guests to take home. Make sure essentials, such as tongs, napkins, plates and to-go cookie boxes, are included.

Kids Cookie Decorating Station

kids cookie decorating table

If you are having kids in attendance, set up kids a cookie decorating station in which the kids can get creative. Supply baked sugar cookies in cute cutouts along with decorative items like icing, sprinkles, and small candies.

Holiday Drink Station

cookies and milk

If you are feeling extra creative, consider a drink station your guests can enjoy along with their assortment of cookies.

  • Milk: Nothing like a good cup of milk to pair with delightful cookies. Set out cups, napkins and labeled milk carafes, such as 1%, whole milk, skim milk and oat, coconut or almond milk to accommodate guests with dietary restrictions.
  • Coffee: If you own a Keurig, set out holiday blend and original coffee pods along with mugs and essentials, such as milk, coffee creamer, sugar, and sweetener packs.
  • Hot cocoa: No holiday party is complete without hot cocoa. Set out hot cocoa packs, marshmallows, cinnamon, whipped cream, and other fun fixings for guests to customize a hot cocoa to their liking.
hot cocoa for cookie exchange

Cookie Exchange Party Printables

Party printables make planning easy and take the stress away from trying to find someone to design invitations and other coordinating stationery to go with the style of your event. Opt for a Cookie Exchange Party Pack that includes everything you need for a successful party.

  1. Invites: Fill out the date, time, place and number of cookies they should bring. Send invitations at least 3-4 weeks in advance to allow people to plan.
  2. Cookie place cards: Place a labeled card with cookie type and name of the person who baked them so they're easily identifiable. List any allergies (gluten -free, nut free, dairy free)
  3. Recipe cards: Email the editable recipe cards to your guests ahead of time and have them bring printed copies to share.
  4. Voting ballots: Have everyone vote on the top cookie by handing out printed voting ballot cards during the party.

Additional Tips

cookie sheet on table
  • If you will be inviting a guest with special dietary constraints, remember to get specific details from that guest. You can do some research and share any substitutes you might have found with your other guests, and ask if they are willing to be accommodating. Make sure all guests know about the constraints.
  • Share with family members. Some cookies freeze well, while others should be stored in a sealed container along with like cookies. That is, hard with hard and soft with soft, or all of the same kind in a single container. This extends the "cookie eating period" over a longer time frame.
  • Communication is key. Make sure that one week prior to the party, you reconnect with your invited guests to double-check that they are planning on attending. If the number of expected guests changes, you will need to adjust the cookie count and inform your guests.
  • Cookies should be baked from scratch, preferably seasonal flavors.
  • No burnt cookies.

Get Your Baking On

Planning a cookie exchange party does take time and lots of preparation, but it really pays off in fun and, of course, in cookies. Whether you are hosting or attending one, nothing compares to a fun-filled time spent with special friends to kick off the holiday season.

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How to Host a Cookie Exchange Party This Holiday Season