Cookie Swap Tips

My mom’s Christmas cookies are legendary. I mean, for real: generations of cousins, neighbors & family friends have come to equate the holiday season with the taste of her bright green, generously frosted, cinnamon-dot-bedecked almond butter Christmas tree cookies. The wails can be heard ’round the world the years that her schedule as a nurse has prevented her from baking the sleigh-load of cookies it takes to satisfy her fans. She’s always the belle of the ball at our church’s annual cookie swap, and if there were a recipe contest, she’d have a wall of ribbons. (Do I think it’s coincidental that my mom’s last name is the same as the woman who literally wrote the book on cookie exchanges, Robin L. Olson? Not one bit.)

Since we are The Swapaholics and all — and since we’re about to host a charity cookie swap with the lovely ladies of the Boston Food Swap — Amy and I thought it was high time we share these tips for hosting and attending a cookie swap or cookie exchange. We read seven cookie swap and cookie exchange cookbooks, endless magazine articles and blog posts, even watched a how-to-video (below), and the experts are unanimous: the same tried-and-true format that I grew up with is the best way to host a cookie swap. Sweet!

Invite your friends over and ask each one to bring a few dozen homemade cookies, all of the same kind, typically between 1 and 6 dozen. Display each tray of cookies on a buffet, dining table, or kitchen island, then have each swapper circle with a Tupperware or plate, picking a few of each of their favorites.  Everyone gets to stock up on a smorgasbord of cookies to serve at their own holiday parties (without having to actually bake all those different recipes). Turn it into a true party with savory snacks, festive punch, a holiday music playlist, DIY crafts, or a Secret Santa.

Sure, cookie swaps are about the cookies — and serious bakers have been known to get OCD about the “quality” of cookies at a swap — but they’re also a great excuse to get together and reconnect with friends (or make some new ones) before the holiday madness. Invite double the number of swappers that you feel you can comfortably accommodate:  December is the busiest time of the year, so — much as they would like — not everyone will be able to attend, and set the tone and expectations for your swap with the invite to keep everyone happy.

What kind of cookies? Get creative! One of the first rules of cookie swapping is no chocolate chip cookies, and, of course, they’ll need to be home-baked, not store-bought. Check with your swap host to determine how many dozen you’ll need to bring to the swap, and pick your recipe appropriately based on time, difficulty, cost of ingredients, portability, etc.

We crunched numbers and tips from all the top cookie swapper cookbooks, magazine articles, how-to videos and blog posts, for a fail-safe timeline for organizing a swap:

- Pick your date and your swappers
- Send your invitations with all the details of the party & the swap
- Create an online event page for your swap (Facebook works well for private swaps)
- Include: how many dozen cookies (and whatever else) swappers are expected to bring
- Ask swappers to bring one or more copies of their cookie recipe to share
- If you’re hosting at home, make sure you have enough surface areas for the number of dozen cookies you’re expecting. If not, borrow or rent extra tables and tablecloths
- If you have more confirmed RSVPs than you can accommodate at your place, find an alternate venue: church, synagogue, school, office conference room, local VFW, etc.

- Send a reminder to your swappers about the event, along with the details
- Ask swappers to post the type of cookie they’re planning to bake on your Facebook Event page, so there aren’t too many duplicates & everyone goes home with a variety
- Compile a music playlist. Ask your swappers for song suggestions!
- Save time & stress by baking and freezing your own cookies (or at least the dough)
- If you’re hosting at a venue other than your place, confirm all the details with the venue
- Also, confirm the details about extra tables, tablecloths, etc. (if necessary)

- Clean & fill your home, church basement, or cookie swap venue with festive decor
- Send a reminder to swappers with the time and address for the event
- Also remind swappers to label their trays & containers with their name & contact info (using mailing address labels is an easy fix that’s also easy to remove!)
- Make or buy your snacks, beverages, and crafting supplies (for DIY activities)
- Bake your cookies

- Prepare & arrange your snacks & beverages near your cookie swapping area
- Turn on music, light candles or a fire in the fireplace
- Get plates, cups, storage containers, and plastic wrap ready for swappers to arrive
- Set up your DIY activity area with crafting supplies & copies of project instructions
- Set up your cookie swap buffet, island, or table as guests arrive, placing a copy of the recipe in front of each swapper’s tray like a sign or place card
- Have extra reusable shopping totes available for swappers to carry their bounty home

If you’re looking for a new recipe to try out this year (or a guaranteed-to-be-popular one),  follow our brand-new Cookie Swap board on Pinterest for daily ideas.

If you’re looking for gifts (or raffle prizes), here are the top 5 cookie swap & cookie exchange cookbooks on the market, in order:

1. Gooseberry Patch Cookie Swap

2. The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Cookbook

3. The Cookie Party Cookbook by Robin L. Olson

4. Wilton Cookie Exchange Handbook

5. Cookie Swap! by Lauren Chattman

We also found this super cute video from the Good Housekeeping test kitchen:

  • Megfranz

    we have a christmas cookie party every year :) love it!! – meg

  • Bona fide city girl.

    I am doing a cookie swap at the organization where I volunteer! Greatest idea ever!

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  • FHS Tiger Lily

    I will be hosting my first Christmas Cookie Exchange and Holiday Brunch coming up the beginning of December for all of my classmate lady friends, better known as “The Tiger Lilies.”  Looking forward to the start of the holiday season with my friends!