In 1989, my friend, Holly Murphy and I decided to bake some cookies together
so that we could bake twice as many and share them. I went to the bookstore
in search of some new cookie recipe books for our little venture. I found
one entitled "The Wellesley Cookie Exchange" and bought each of us a copy.
"Why don't we do a cookie exchange like they do in this book", I suggested
to Holly. "We can then sample dozens of cookies that we don't have
to bake!" She loved the idea and now it's been many years and thousands
of cookies later. At the time I lived in Santa Barbara, California and Holly
and I co-hosted the exchanges together. When our family moved to Maryland,
I knew this holiday tradition had to be kept going. Boy, would I have missed
having everyone walk through the front door with all those cookies!
The Rules cookie swap
Everyone is entitled to make up their own rules, so
Also, I host a "girls only" party -- no husbands or children are allowed!
We don't eat the cookies, we swap them, eat hors d'oeuvres and buffet style
food, drink adult beverages.
It's a nice break from the stressful Christmas season. I hold this party
for myself as much as for everyone else, it really gets me in the holiday
spirit -- and away from the malls, the traffic and the hustle bustle of being
Santa's lil' helper. It's also makes me decorate my house early and then
The Rules for Hosting a Successful Cookie
How to do the
After everyone has eaten and socialized a bit, I call the swap to order by
ringing a bell and we gather into the dining room where the cookies have
been laid out on the table as people arrived.
The table looks beautiful with all the colors, fragrance and arrangements
of the cookies. **We take turns and everyone introduces themselves and
their cookies and any story that might accompany the cookie. For
example; "My grandmother's, grandmother passed this recipe down...." or I
burned the first two batches, then switched recipes..." or "When I was a
child, my old next door neighbor, Bertha, used to make this for all the
neighborhood kids..." This part is fun, it is my favorite time of the
party --because there is always a story....and there's always a lot
Swap 'til you drop!
When the actual cookie swap happens, we all get elbow to elbow with our empty
container that we remembered to bring, and we slowly go around the table
clockwise. Everyone grabs 3-5 cookies from each plate, depending on how many
are in each dish.
Some recipes yield a lot, some a little. Some people have split their cookies
into two different recipes. By the time we have rotated around the
table 3 times, the cookies are gone. It "all comes out in
the wash" as I am not going count cookies. Everyone goes home with approximately
the same amount. I have never ever heard a complaint from anyone about how
we do this. You arrive with 6 dozen, you leave with approximately the
same amount. Don't forget to take pictures of the table before everyone
Exchange Planning Tips!
1) Send the invitations out a month before the party. Everyone's calendar
fills up fast in December! I hold my Maryland party on Sunday afternoon.
All the dads can watch the kids from the sofa in front of the football game.
(Except my husband, he has to the leave the house and entertain the
kids, he traditionally takes them to the movies.) The California ladies prefer
a week-end evening. For your first exchange, take a poll and see what your
2) Tell everyone to bake their cookies at least three days in advance. The
biggest reason for no-shows is that they didn't have time to bake their cookies.
This is the busiest time of year. Don't be upset if people that rsvp and
say they are coming don't show up. I always invite way more than I expect
to show. The average number that usually shows up for me is anywhere between
13-20. One year I had 23 confirmed and only 12 showed up. Usually two or
three days before the exchange I say to myself "If this wasn't my party,
I probably wouldn't go, I'm too busy!"
Another reason to bake the cookies early is so that they can "dry out" a
bit. A freshly baked cookie is not a good cookie to transport. When we're
swapping, we're piling different types of cookies on top of each other and
the fresh ones crumble terribly, especially if it's a fragile cookie to begin
with. After the cookies have been baked, they should sit out all night on
a rack to cool and lose their moisture, with a piece of wax paper over them.
Then you can put them into a cookie tin, with wax paper under and over them
and between the layers.
For all you high powered business women that think you don't have time for
such domestic tomfoolery. It can be a great networking party and you will
meet new people. Many of these women work and/or own businesses. Encourage
people that say "I don't bake" to attend. They're the ones that seem to enjoy
it the most!
We have a great time and I encourage you all to try it! Let me hear from
you if you decide to host your own exchange. Good Luck!
About: Website, Newsletters, Message Boards and Book.
The majority of information on this site was written and posted in 1997,
when my site was the first and only website on the internet regarding
how to host a cookie exchange (and completely alone for the first two years).
Back then, I'd been hosting for 8 years and had come up with some ideas
on how to boost cookie quality and attendance, both worked.
Fastforward more than a dozen years now and viola: My book, The Cookie
Party Cookbook, The Ultimate Guide to Hosting a Cookie Exchange was published
by St. Martin's Press/Macmillan in 2010, it's 352 pages and I'm quite confident
that it lives up to its name. The book is a culmination of my two decades
of hosting, along with all the knowledge shared by thousands of women
over the last 15 years, through email, responses from my newsletters, the
message boards and now of course, Facebook.
If you love the Cookie Exchange, then you will love my book.
2lbs of information!