Throwing Your First Cookie Exchange

– Kathleen Jenkins, November 28, 2017

Yes indeed friends– it’s that time of year again! The time to run around looking for the perfect gift, the time to be double-booked, the time to bust out all things sparkly in the name of holiday spirit! It is certainly, the most wonderful time of year. There are almost too many things to do during the holiday season here in Chicago. However, many of us spend hours decorating our apartments, and for what? To just post cute photos on Instagram? No way. Tis’ the season to host a holiday gathering for friends, co-workers, and family. Let’s revamp the classic Cookie Exchange in just a few short steps;

Step 1: Invitations

Approximately 30 seconds into researching Cookie Exchange parties I noticed there are tons of cute (and some free!) invitation templates out there. Find a fun and pun-tastic template that suits your style. Invite a mixture of new friends, a few old pals, maybe a coworker or two. Whomever you choose to invite keep the guest list to 8-10 people. After all, there’s going to be a ton of cookies in your future. I love the idea of hand delivering invitations (if possible) by attaching a simple invitation to a holiday inspired cookie cutter. On the backside of whatever invitation you choose make sure to include a few rules which leads me straight onto Step 2.

Step 2: Cookie Exchange Rules

I’ve always thought of cookie exchanges as something “grown-ups” did with their friends, therefore, I’ve never actually attended one (now accepting all invitations). Setting a few perameters not only helps you set the scene, but also gives your guests a few suggestions so they don’t go completely overboard. Disclaimer; I would totally be the person to show up with 6 dozen of three different flavors of cookies. People like me need rules. Start your list with the quantity of cookies you would like each guest to bring. I recommend keeping it to two dozen per guest. Instruct guests how to display cookies as well as if they should bring their own vessel for a “doggie bag.” Another thought; have your guests email you a copy of their recipe for you to compile and send out in a “thanks for attending, happy baking” email after the party. Finally, decide if holiday treats, other than cookies, are acceptable. I say the more the merrier but this is your party, not mine!

Step 3: Insta-Worthy Table Decor

I assume as the host of said cookie exchange your halls have certainly been decked. Now, let’s talk about this cookie table. If you’re alive in 2017 you know that all of your guests will be ready to Snap, Insta, and Tweet about you party. This is the time to completely go nuts with festive decor. First, pick a linen color you love (I’m obsessed with burgundy and emerald green this time of year) and maybe a runner or two if you have. Then pull a variety of cake stands, baskets, wooden planks, and large jars for the cookies to be displayed. Do not go crazy buying these online. Two rocks glasses and a platter work perfectly. A better idea; ask your friends to bring a display for their cookies (add this to the rules, of course).Next make sure you have blank menu cards for guest to fill out upon arrival, this ensures everyone knows what they are about to eat. Finally, the cheapest and easiest way to add holiday sparkle; candles. Tall candles, short candles, whatever you’ve got. My own recommendation is to keep the candles to one holiday scent in an effort to not completely knock out your guests upon arrival. If you have extra holiday lights, garland, loose ornaments, or pine cones by all means scatter these around the table for a little something extra. 

Step 4: Not-So-Sweet-Snacks-and-Sips

What does “not-so-sweet-snacks” mean?! I mean have a few savory appetizers for guests to munch on upon arrival. Everyone is going to leave with a sugar high so we may as well start of the evening with simple savory snacks; cheese and charcuterie, hummus dip with veggies and pita chips, warm spinach dip, these sorts of things. Just enough for everyone to have a snack but not a meal. Who wants to fill up on savories when there are mounds of sweets to get to?! To go along with the savory snacks offer one signature cocktail for the evening. Maybe a large festive bowl of punch or even wines that pair well with dessert. Either way, keep it simple, after all New Year’s Eve is just around the corner with plenty of opportunities to overindulge on alcohol. 

Step 5: Bake What Your Momma Gave You

I tend to panic when I bake Holiday cookies. I mean come on, there are too many options! I say go with what you know (and love). I can almost guarantee there is a cookie your mom, grandma, aunt, etc. made every holiday season that you simply cannot get enough of. Call up said family member and grab your apron! No need to reinvent the wheel, bake something you know and love. My mom makes these insane Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies that us kids still fight over (we are all in our 30s might I add). I love a homemade slice and bake. I made these Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies a few times last year and they were a hit.

Step 6: Make it a Contest

While preparing for your Cookie Exchange, think of a few fun categories and have guests vote for their favorites. Something as simple as a jar with raffle tickets or a scorecard can do the trick. Hand each person a scoreboard sheet upon arrival with categories like “Best Taste, Best Looking, Most Festive, Most Unique, Best All-Around.” Guests will then fill in their favorites and you can issue prizes at the end of the night. Pick-up a few Spatulas-for-a-Cause from Williams Sonoma as gifts for each category. You could also give out cookie cutters, holiday scented candles, bottles of wine, whatever you think will be enjoyed most by your guests.

All in all, the best part of your cookie exchange is well, the cookies! Sure you may need to hit the gym in the morning and wear your stretchiest pants, but either way you’ve thrown a party that’s sure to be a hit and possibly the only cookie exchange your friends have ever attended (again, here I am, fishing for an invitation). Whatever you do make sure to take a few photos and share them with our hashtags; #NorthernFork #NFcookieexchange #NFblog .


Skip the hassle this season–

here are 3 easy cookie recipes for your Holiday Cookie Exchange.