How to Host a Virtual Cookie Swap
This holiday season, bake and ship all of your favorite recipes to share with friends and family.
To keep loved ones safe from COVID-19, you may decide to host your favorite holiday gatherings virtually this year, including your cookie swap. But don't fret: You and your guests can still enjoy all the deliciousness of your favorite holiday cookies—from warm German spice cookies to easy-peasy peanut butter and jelly thumbprints and everything in between—digitally. Here, experts share how you can host an entertaining and pandemic-safe virtual cookie swap this year.
Make a guest list, and check it twice.
Just as you would an in-person swap, you'll need to formally invite your guests. Make it easy for guests to sign in by sending a digital invitation with the log-in information for the virtual event. Pastry Virtuosity pastry chef Jimmy MacMillan suggests sending your invitations two to three weeks in advance, "so everyone has plenty of time to purchase ingredients," including shipping materials—so that you and your guests can send off your yummy creations in time for the swap.
Send off your swaps.
Choose cookies that will hold up in the mail, and make sure guests bake and ship them in time for each guest to receive their baked goods ahead of the swap. "Everyone loves getting packages and presents during the holiday season," says Kim Kornfeld, co-owner and baker at The Kookie Jar LI. "Wrap your cookies in twine, fun holiday wrapping paper, or themed crinkle paper."
Create a collectible recipe book.
In your invitation, consider asking guests to submit their favorite cookie recipe—then compile them into a digital recipe book that guests can have as a keepsake, suggests Tracy Wilk, the lead chef at the Institute of Culinary Education. At your virtual event, you can trade tips and tricks for making the cookies, says Wilk, such as, "this cookie does really well if you let it rest overnight or tastes best right out of the oven. This will foster conversation—not just staring at a screen."
Pick a party theme.
Select a theme or color scheme for the virtual party, then invite guests to dress accordingly. For example, "ugly holiday sweaters or glam and glitzy are great for the holidays," says Suzanne Halperin, vice president of catering and banquet brand operations for Kimpton. She also suggests that you send themed backdrops or celebratory banners for guests to hang in their background. "That way, they can hang them up and feel more like they're in the same room," adds Halperin.
Put together a playlist.
Reach out to guests and ask for their favorite festive songs. Then, build a playlist for the event. "Email the link to all the attendees so they can listen along during the holiday party," Halperin says, adding "maybe even plan for karaoke as a group with all or some of the songs."
Enhance the experience with activities.
In addition to gabbing about your gingersnaps and peppermint spritz cookies, plan activities that will make the virtual party more fun. For example, "if there is a savvy baker or two in your group, consider staging a 'cooking show' where the baker walks the group through key steps of the recipe," suggests MacMillan. Or play games such as cookie-themed bingo, Halperin says.
Do a little good.
Consider encouraging guests to use the cookie swap as a chance to give back: bake a few extra dozen of your cookies, then give them to neighbors, a local fire station, or a first responder, says Wilk. "These communities have been working extra hard since March and a box of homemade, assorted cookies will truly be in the holiday spirit," she says.