How to Host the Perfect Cookie Swap
If there's a dessert that speaks most to the holiday season, it's cookies. That's likely part of the reason why cookie swaps—or small event that involve getting together with family members and friends to test and exchange your best recipes—are so popular during the winter months. Instead of getting invited to one this season, consider hosting your own. If you aren't already hosting a main holiday event or dinner, this is a fun, alternative way to contribute to the festivities and spread a little more cheer during the season!
Hosting the perfect cookie swap doesn't have to mean adding to the stress of your already-overwhelming holiday to-do list: It's as simple as inviting a few friends over for light snacks, bubbly beverages, and plenty of cookie tasting. And while this list includes everything you need to make your party run smoothly, from sending out paper invitations and preparing appetizers to coming up with theme ideas and executing festive décor, the end result—you and your favorite people carving out some time during the busiest month of the year to slow down and celebrate together—is what really makes your swap a sweet success.
Ahead, everything you need to know about holding a cookie swap that will undoubtedly be one of the best, low-stress events of your holiday season. After all, this party requires very few of the components that make seasonal entertaining tricky; you won't need to curate a menu, prepare the ultimate party favors, or worry about gifts. The only thing item truly required? A delicious roster of holiday cookies.
Make Your Guest List
Experienced cookie swap hosts generally cap their guest list at around eight people, which results in a satisfying variety of treats to enjoy at the party as well as a manageable amount for everyone to take home at the end of the night. Most cookie swaps ask that guests bring one dozen cookies for each person at the party, but scaling down would be fine, too. Some hosts invite only the most passionate bakers they know to create a table of intricate, gourmet-level cookies; others include friends who might just whip up something from a boxed mix at the last minute. In short, the rules are entirely up to you.
Decide on a Theme
While "cookie swap" is an appropriate theme for your party, you can further put a personalized spin on the typical swap by asking guests to bring treats that all have something in common. That might mean asking everyone to use the same main ingredient (chocolate or peppermint), bake cookies in the same color (red or green only!), or give everyone a more general similarity to follow (family favorites, quick-and-simple, or easy to freeze).
Emails and texts don't have the same festive feel as a paper invitation, which cuts through holiday calendar clutter to earn your party a spot on your friends' full schedules. Download editable files online or buy pre-printed invites with your party details. Make sure you give guests plenty of notice so they have time to plan and prepare their cookies.
Set the Menu
Some cookie swap hosts assign each guest a specific cookie (sugar, iced, or butter, for example) or category (brownies, bars, no-bake)—which prevents accidental duplicates; others set no guidelines at all, assuming the surprise is part of the fun. You can compromise by asking guests to sign up for a certain treat, which gives you more control over the menu but still offers them the freedom to choose something they enjoy making. (Remember to let participants know about any dietary restrictions, too, so they can choose recipes that work for everyone.)
Dress Up the Table
A cookie swap doesn't usually include a sit-down meal, so you won't need formal seating arrangements. But you do need a long table—or several smaller ones—with enough space to display each person's dessert. Create a cohesive look by showing off the treats on coordinating white dishes, or create a cozy, vintage atmosphere by using mismatched holiday serving platters and cake stands. Include place cards with the name of each treat and the baker who brought it (you can print these in advance or leave them blank for guests to fill in as they arrive).
Offer Pretty Packaging
Holiday treat bags, inexpensive tins, pretty paper sleeves, and ribbons or bows add a seasonal touch to your party—and are cheerful alternatives to the plastic zipper bags and Tupperware containers most hosts send their guests home with. Order a set of custom stickers that include the date of your party and the name of each cookie to keep guests organized.
Prepare Snacks and Drinks
Balance out the sweets with a selection of light bites, like parmesan-pepper breadsticks, garlic herb pinwheels, antipasto skewers, or a platter of fresh fruit and cheese. Offer favorite winter beverages—think cider, cocoa, and hot toddies—alongside more celebratory drinks, like eggnog, juniper Champagne cocktails, or cranberry Moscow mules.
While your guests are swapping, snacking, and sipping, a few low-key activities can keep the conversation flowing. Set up a station with plain sugar cookies and provide icing and embellishments for your friends to DIY their own decorated goodies, or create a craft station where guests can other seasonal keepsakes, like festive ornaments.
Share the Recipes
Before the party, ask each guest to send you the recipe for the cookie they plan to make—assuming it's not a family secret!—so you can provide copies for each guest. Combine all the recipes into a book for each attendee to take as they leave; leave a stack of individual sheets so guests can take only the ones they want to recreate; or print each recipe on its own card and collect them on binder rings to help your loved ones start a cookie recipe collection they can add to every year.
Start a Tradition
After your cookie swap is undoubtedly a huge success, plan to incorporate it into your annual holiday schedule (or set up a hosting schedule with your friends). Don't feel like you have to limit it to the winter season, either: Treat yourself to your favorite out-of-season cookies in the summer with a Christmas in July swap; share spring-themed desserts in April; or break out your best spooky Halloween-themed goodies in October.