Friends with cookies: hosting a holiday cookie swap


Ah, cookies.

For me, they’re part of what makes the holidays so wonderful. Each year my sister and I bake dozens and dozens of cookies, from traditional varieties like gingerbread and sugar cookies to new favorites like Magic in the Middles and Chewy Coconut Chocolate Chunks.  We take time off from work just before Christmas to make, bake, and decorate everything, turning my kitchen and dining room into Cookie Central for a few days while we finish the cookies and package them up into gifts for family and friends.

It’s a lot of fun. And a lot of work. And frankly, with a new baby at home this year, I’m not sure I have the time, energy, and space to make it happen. So thank goodness for the cookie swap!

A cookie swap is a great way to have an assortment of cookies on your holiday table (or to give as gifts) without having to bake them all yourself – not to mention that it’s a fun way to gather friends together. And since everyone leaves with a tasty contribution for their celebration, it’ll be one holiday party your friends look forward to!

Doris Barton, a reader of Baking Banter and a member of the New York KAF Baking Enthusiasts group on, gave us the idea with a question about how to host a cookie swap. “Why don’t we host one here and blog about it to offer tips to readers who might want to give it a try this year?” we thought.

The first thing we did was consult Martha Stewart. Her tips on hosting a cookie swap were helpful, and we used them as a guide to plan out the big picture and remember all the little details. But we simplified a bit, too. Here’s what worked for us.

First, pick a date, time, and location, and decide whom you want to invite. Send out invitations – we emailed ours – a few weeks in advance. We invited more than a dozen people from our customer service area, and ended up with 10 guests and 11 different kinds of cookies. It seemed like a good number of both!

Kelsey is one of the newest members of our customer service team. She’s a great baker!

We asked our guests to RSVP and let us know what kind of cookies they planned to make so we could make sure we had a good variety (and so we could make place cards with cookie and baker names!). We asked that each person bring several dozen cookies – a batch or two – so there would be plenty to sample and take home. Martha suggests that each person bring a dozen for every guest, but that seemed like a lot to us; we figured we’d all be happy if we got a few of each variety. But when you host, it’s up to you!

Next, plan for wrapping the cookies to be taken home. You can ask each guest to bring something – decorative bags and ribbons, gift boxes, paper plates, labels, tissue paper – or you can gather it all yourself. Depending on what wrapping you choose, don’t forget scissors, tape, and the other tools you’ll need. (Of course, Martha has many great suggestions for making your packages pretty, so check her site for more ideas.)

Liz found that our paper-lined wooden bakers are perfect gift containers for cookies.

All she had to add was an overwrap of plastic, and a bow.

Once party day rolls around, set up your space. Make sure you have tables for displaying and packaging the cookies. Brew some coffee or spiced cider, turn on some seasonal music, and get into the holiday spirit. Enjoy your company and some great cookies!

We took a little mid-day break for our swap and sampled some great baking.


Clockwise from the top: Salty-Sweet Butter Pecan Cookies, Vanilla Dreams, Fudge Drops, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Vanilla-Scented Madeleines, Magic in the Middles, Flourless Fudge Cookies, Chewy Coconut Chocolate Chunks, and Fruitcake Drops.

What if you want the variety of cookies without having to coordinate a cookie swap at home? If you’re lucky enough to live near our headquarters in Norwich, Vt., sign up for the Holiday Cookie Swap class at our Baking Education Center — you’ll go home with an assortment of tasty treats, and we’ll clean up the mess!

Please bake, rate, and review our recipes for Magic in the Middles, Fudge Drops, Vanilla-Scented Madeleines, Chewy Coconut Chocolate Chunks, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Vanilla Dreams, Flourless Fudge Cookies, Fruitcake Drops, and Salty-Sweet Butter Pecan Cookies.

Allison Furbish

Allison Furbish is a native of the Upper Valley, where King Arthur Flour is based, and an avid lifelong baker especially enthusiastic about anything chocolate.


  1. nikzup03

    not a traditional cookie swap… i’m hosting a baking party! we’re just going to bake all day long… mmmm, then divvy up the cookies! and if two of the women are still pregnant, we’re hoping all the baking will induce some labor! but you can never have too many recipes for a baking party!

    A baking party – that sounds like so much fun! I was quite pregnant when my sister and I did our cookie-baking marathon last year, and I must say it was exhausting. Make sure you all take breaks and eat plenty of cookies for energy! :-) -Allison

  2. Mary in VA

    It seems that most ‘traditional’ cookie exchanges ask or require each person to bring a wrapped plate of cookies for each guest … what my women’s group always does is just have everyone just bring a large platter or tin of cookies, along with an empty tin or container to take cookies home in. We use the cookies as refreshments and then just divide up the remaining cookies to take home. This way, someone like myself (where the household is just my husband and I) might select fewer cookies than someone with a larger family. Also, if there’s a non-baker who might be interested in coming, encourage them to bring festive plates and napkins or some beverages (coffee, tea, lemonade, eggnog, etc.) to share. I’m looking forward to trying at least a couple of the KAF recipes within the next couple of weeks!

    Yes, I like the approach your group takes – making the pretty cookie packages together is part of the fun! And I love the idea to involve non-bakers. Happy holiday baking! -Allison

  3. clifcon11

    Your cookie exchange party sounds like so much fun, something I will definitely do next month. Wouldn’t it be great though, if everyone brought some copies of their cookie recipe. More often than not, I’m always asking someone if they would share their recipe with me. I have tons of cookie recipes myself and I’m always willing to share. I think I am going to make a double batch of “Carol’s Caramel Corn” and give it as little gifts to each of my friends who come to my cookie exchange, as a special thank you for all their hard work in making my party a success.

    Oh yes – the recipes! I didn’t have folks print them out for our party, but it’s a wonderful idea. What’s better than tasting some great cookies is being able to make them yourself! I love the idea of the caramel corn party favor. I was fortunate enough to be working in the right building this year and got a little bag at Halloween – YUM! Have fun with the cookie swap! -Allison

  4. foxfemme1

    I went to a Christmas Cookie Party one time, and haven’t been to one since. Why? (Please tell me if I’m wrong!) I spent hours baking and decorating cookies, when most others brought bars (cop-out: easier than cookies) or everyday cookies, such as chocolate chip. Also some tasted like they were made with margarine, rather than butter, or low-fat ingredients — like sour cream. C’mon! It’s Christmas! Live a little!

    You’ve got to get in with a group of more ambitious (decadent?) bakers! Or host your own – that way you set the parameters! :-) I’ve been to some wonderful parties with all kinds of creative cookies and desserts, so I think it just really depends on the crowd. Hope you had fun baking and decorating, anyway – I always enjoy that part, but it helps that I have good company! -Allison

  5. patneia

    Hi Carol!!!

    I have made a whole bunch of new friends and even gotten a marriage proposal (couldn’t accept–already “hitched”!) by serving your delicious caramel corn. Everyone loves it and it makes people happy! Maybe if served at the UN–well–the possibilities are endless! Peace! your fan, pat

    I will tell Carol! She’ll be tickled. :-) -Allison

  6. jessmar

    I’ve been doing them every other year since 1997. Why every other year? I don’t want people to take them for granted! They are awaited with great anticipation and the turn out is great – both the people and the cookies. I will host them for as long as I am able!
    Best to all,
    What a great idea! That way no one gets too burned out and everyone is more excited when the big day comes. Thanks for sharing Jessie. ~ MaryJane

  7. bikingchef

    I love cookie swaps!!! I live in New Boston,NH & live in a really great neighborhood!! We do a cookie swap every year!! We have some very good bakers!! I also do a cookie swap with my Moms group as well..We can’t do our annual Christmas cookie swap this year so we have decided to make it a Valentine’s Day cookie swap!! Looking forward to it!! I love hosting cookie swaps at my house!! They are so much fun!! My two girls now love them as well!! Thanks for the great tips & recipes!! Debbie

    Great idea to host a swap at another time of year, Debbie! The holiday season can be such a busy time for folks – and I bet a Valentine’s Day cookie swap would be a welcome distraction during the long late-winter here in New England! -Allison

  8. ciagrad82

    I just sent out invitations to my 7th annual cookie exchange to 30 neighbors. Sometimes I think I want to take a year off, but i fear revolt in the neighborhood if I do (and the revolt would be from all their kids)! I send out “guidelines” that state basics such as no chocolate chip cookies, flour must be a main ingredient and cookies must be baked (not no-bake). Every year it seems that someone doesn’t follow the instructions; I do find it frustrating but remind myself that not everyone is as enthusiastic a baker as am I, and that part of the reason for the exchange is to socialize with friends and neighbors, may of whom I don’t see frequently. I guess if I was concerned about having cookies that are exactly what I would bake, I wouldn’t have the party, but then the selection in my house would be pretty limited. I collect everyone’s recipe in advance and put them in a “cookie book” that I email to my guests after the party. A couple of years ago, I also implemented voting for serious and fun categories, like “best looking cookie,” “even better than it looks,” “most sinful” and more. This has become serious competition!

  9. suzienutmeg

    I would LOVE the recipe for Kelsey’s cookies! They are absolutely show stopping! I am posting a cookie swap on facebook for my friends and I…thanks so much for the wonderful idea. Happy Baking and make it a great one!
    The recipe for those Linzer cookies that Kelsey is holding is coming in a blog soon! ~ MaryJane

  10. bakinginoregon

    Am I missing something here? What are the cookies at the front of the photo with the multi-colored sprinkles? Are they a basic sugar cookie? There also appears to be 2 different batches of chocolate chip cookies – are they both from the same linked recipe?

    The cookies with the sprinkles are the Vanilla Dreams; the chocolate-chip-looking cookies are the Chocolate Chip Cookies and the Chewy Coconut Chocolate Chunks (which are amazing, by the way). Hope that helps! -Allison

  11. tsteven1

    Does anyone know what kind of cookie Liz is putting into those paper-lined wooden bakers? It is the 4th picture from the top. They look so yummy!
    Yes, I am pretty sure they are the Sweet and Salty Butter Pecan cookies fond on our site using the butterscotch chips. I went to that swap and they were one of my favorites! Elisabeth

  12. suzijo

    A group of friends and I have been getting together for a day long baking party the last several years. We start with champagne as it’s usually on my b’day. Sometimes the baking and decorating can take a downward slide, but we always have fun, although it’s a lot of work for me to set up. Everyone takes some home and the rest we used to package for my husband to take to his office. He is asked every year when the cookies will arrive. Last year we took them to a local animal shelter bake sale. We made sugar cookies in different animal shapes.

  13. meganchromik

    All of the cookies look fabulous! I think it’s so fun that you guys are having a cookie swap class. My family makes tons and tons of cookies every year so what with all of those I don’t usually have the energy (or room in my stomach!) for a cookie swap too, but sometimes I’ll participate in one at work. Some friends and I are thinking about doing one this year.

  14. lily2497

    I am hosting my 19th annual Cooking Exchange in December. I feel like I have it down to a science, although every year there is something different with some new and old friends. I have learned to let people know how many guests will be coming (usually around 12-18) so they can wrap cookies in decorative bags so they are easily distributed. After people arrive we have homemade soups and goodies and talk. Then each person shows a sample of their cookies and talks about the recipe, whether it is an old family recipe, from a magazine, or any hints or suggestions. Following that we have a rich, yummy dessert and coffee so we don’t eat the cookies! The idea is to take them home and have them for the holidays. Before they go, they gather round the table and take a bag of each kind if they want them. Any leftover or extra cookies I bring to a local shelter for battered women. The shelter looks forward to this every year. I always have some kind of remembrance for my guests too. A little gingerbread ornament or cookie cutter…

    I love the idea of sharing each cookie’s “story”. I’m such a baking nerd and would want to hear all of them! kelsey

  15. carollevin

    Holiday cookie insanity! For more than a dozen years (but who’s counting?) we get together for a cookie party that has friends begging to be included.
    Everyone brings a tin full of cut out cookies, and as many other cookies as they feel like sharing. One of us prepares the frosting (lots of colors in squeeze bottles) and heaps of decorations. The hostess has a huge table, around which 10 of us can visit and decorate for hours. We’ve come to expect, and love, the product of each others’ cutter collections, and now we are three generations of crazed cookie women.
    At the end of this marathon, we have soup, wine, and go home with an amazing booty of whimsically decorated shapes and a beautiful assortment of additional sweets. Wish I could share a picture with you all…

    Sounds like an incredible evening. What a perfect tradition! kelsey

  16. Jennifer

    Traditionally I’ve spent a day baking with my sister and Mom lots of Cookies and we always have the cut-out cookies ready for the kids to cut-out then decorate. I started doing this with my sister-in-law several years ago but our schedules got too busy to continue.

    Now I do something small with friends (who don’t have the space) and I help my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop.

    The Girl Scout Troop has a Cookie Camp-out every year. The girls submit a recipe and then bring the dry ingredients and over Friday evening and all day Saturday we bake those cookies. Each girl brings and empty decorated Tupperware/Rubbermaid style container and as the cookies cool we add them to each container. We highlight any girl with a food allergy so we know when to skip that box. Last year I spent all day Saturday in the kitchen helping the girls. Several of them had never baked before. It was so nice and I look forward to this years camp-out.

  17. Baker

    Anyone have an out-of-this world delicious no-bake cookie recipe? I’m participating in a cookie swap but the oven in the house we’re temporarily renting while our house is being built is not very reliable, so I’m looking for a no-bake recipe this year. Any help would be appreciated! Thank you!

    1. Susan Groom

      Grandma Swan’s Special K Bars
      1/2 cup of white Karol syrup
      1/2 cup of sugar
      3/4 cup of peanut butter ( I like smooth, but my mom uses chunky)
      Heat first 3 ingredients to boiling, pour over cereal
      3 cups of Special K Cereal in large bowl, mix well

      6oz of chocolate chips
      6oz of butterscotch chips
      ( I usually double the recipe because I like my bars to be thick)

  18. brazilpeg

    Kelsey’s cookies look like stained glass cookies. Are you going to post the recipe? Hope so. Merry Christmas everyone! Peggy

    Funny you should ask, Peggy – the blog post for those cookies is going live tomorrow morning. Enjoy! PJH

  19. gobluem82

    One additional idea to consider when hosting a cookie swap: My husband’s office has hosted one for the last few years. Everyone is asked to bring a dozen or so extra–the extra cookies are used to make cookie trays for the local children’s home and food pantry.

    GREAT idea – bake and give, the real holiday spirit. Thanks so much for sharing. PJH

  20. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez FMP-FASE - Petrópolis, R.J.- BRAZIL

    Well i believe in any kind of cooperations such this one with Christma´s biscuits…nice and good way to celebrate God´s life!!

    I only think you must try another assortments of biscuits with less sugars and with grains and whole wheat flours added. I bake here some wholewheat buttered biscuits with rolled oats in dough, finally filled with homemade jams from dried fruits like figs, apricots, prunes…all DELICIOUS…

  21. Mmotherof2

    our church is doing a version of a cookie swap where everyone brings in cookies to donate on Friday or Sat a.m. then on Sat noon everyone that wants to participate can buy an assortment of cookeis by the pound! Its a great idea for a fundraiser and you get an assortment of Church ladies cookies! What could be better!! yummy -cant wait, its the first weekend of December!

  22. sjk

    Have you published the caramel corn recipe?

    You’ll find Carol’s Caramel Corn in the recipe section of our website! Happy Munching! Irene @ KAF

  23. nbm

    I’m interested to see how many different ways of running a cookie swap there are, from those who bake together to those where the guests arrive with the cookies already packaged, and everything in between.

  24. isewnbake

    Has anyone ever hosted a party where they assigned recipes to each guest? I read this somewhere that one way to do it is to give out a cookie recipe with each invitation and say “please bring 6 dozen of this recipe”. I have hosted many parties, and yes, we always get a lot of duplicates or people that don’t follow the no chocolate chip or no bake rule. I was thinking of trying it this way this year but don’t want to offend anyone by assigning a recipe. Maybe I could say it’s okay to bring your specialty cookie in addition to the assigned one?

    I think you are right. I think people like to bake what they think of as their specialty or whatever seems easiest for them at the moment. By assigning a recipe, it may both offend and intimidate. Maybe you could say, please make a cookie that is chocolate, or that has almonds, or that has raisins, or that has cinnamon, etc. to avoid many duplicates. Have fun! Elisabeth

  25. cr8zyamy

    I don’t get to swap cookies with anyone, but I don’t let that stop me from baking up a storm. This year my daughter and I are planning 12 different kinds of cookies not to mention both pumpkin and egg nog quick breads. I make trays for various departments at work and for my individual coworkers. There is even one department that starts asking if I’ll be baking in early October. It is always so much fun to see peoples faces light up when we show up with a cart of goodies. I have tossed around idea of making cinnamon rolls to give but just not sure. Wish me luck with getting it all done. 4 different doughs mixed and ready to bake now. Peanut butter and peanut butter kisses baked and ready to go.
    Wahoo! I can just smell them from here! Elisabeth

  26. rudolphia

    I love to bake, but need more mouths to help me eat, so my annual Cookiefest offers 12 different kinds of cookies, all made by me and my boys. It’s a great time, but new invitees are invariably confused and want to know how many dozens they’re required to bring.
    How great that you found such a creative way to share your love of cookies. I’m sure everyone who gets invited counts themselves lucky indeed. ~ MaryJane

  27. catseye

    I too bake many kinds of cookies .I usually mix up all the different doughs in one or two sessions and freeze the dough.This way,you have all the mess in one or two sessions and you can thaw and bake as time permits.I usually start early and have all my baking done before the holiday rush begins.This allows me to bake more kinds of cookies without the hassles.

  28. Baker Debbie

    I guess I am my own cookie swap. A few years ago I started sending cookie boxes to customers as a thank you and it has gotten to be a real tradition with me baking at least 20 kinds of cookies. One customer moved to a new company and wanted to know how to get back on the cookie list! I start in October making refrigerator cookie dough and freezing it. This year I had 13 kinds done before it was time to start the actual baking. It’s so great to get the thank you from people and see how everyone has a different favorite.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That’s ambitious! What a great tradition you’ve started! Happy baking- Laurie@KAF

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