"The Rules of the Cookie Exchange
by Robin Olson ©1997

  1. All cookies should be homemade, baked and main ingredient must be flour.

  2. No plain chocolate chip cookies, cookie mixes, no-bakes, meringues or bars.

  3. Please bring 6 dozen total cookies.

  4. The theme is "Christmas Cookies" (You can make any theme you like.)

  5. Arrange cookies in a basket or platter and be creative! Bring a large container to carry away your cookie, (or the hostess can provide a take away container.)

  6. Email a copy of your recipe before the party (or bring recipe to the party)

  7. Christmas (or party theme) attire is encouraged!

  8. RSVP as soon as you can and let me know what type of cookies you are planning on baking - no duplicate recipes are allowed.

  9. There's a prize for the best Christmas outfit. (Give prizes!)

  10. If you don't have time to bake, or have burnt your cookies, but still want to attend, you must go to a real bakery and buy 6 dozen yummy cookies.

Go here for a simple text version of the rules to copy and paste. Modify to suit your needs and include on a separate sheet, with your invitation.

(aka Cookie Exchange Rules, Cookie Swap Rules)

Robin L. Olson, Copyright 1997

Copyrights notice: "The "Rules of the Cookie Exchange" are for your personal *offline* use, feel free to change items to suit your needs and no acknowledgments are needed.

If you're a writer, journalist, blogger or posting to message boards (ie; anything online or in print publication) using the CE rules, (in part or whole) please give credit where credit is due, and create an active link on the bottom of the same page that says:
"Some content courtesy of Robin Olson, Cookie-Exchange.com."

"The Rules of the Cookie Exchange" were written by me and uploaded to the internet on October 10th, 1997 at www.robinsweb.com/cookies

Since that time, the CE Rules have been widely adopted, adapted and most often, miscredited.


Why you need them: To ensure high quality cookies for everyone that participates.

Our main job as hosts of this party is to set some ground rules, in the hopes that the majority of guests will follow them - so that the few 'rule breakers' can get lost in the shuffle without major consequences. The people that spent significant time baking need to go home with cookies as good as they bought. It's not fair for them to go home with burnt, low quality, no-bakes or store bought cookies. Simply, the rule limit disappointment.

Even though I post all these rules on my website, in my book and in my party own invitations, people don't always pay attention and bring items that they shouldn't. I never say anything to them at the party. It's not my intention to make my guests feel badly since people are the reason for the party.

Balance, fairness, value.
You want people to try and bring their "A game" or at the very least, just try.
Five minute Rice Krispie Treats are not an even trade for hand decorated gingerbreads.  The CE Rules level the playing field to ensure quality for all participants. Many people who come to my party, only bake once a year to attend it, I want them to be proud to share what they swapped at my home with others.

Lastly, you can call The Rules - "Guidelines"  if you wish, however I like the word "Rules" better, because it's more 'attention getting'.

The lack of rules becomes a problem if attendance goes down over time (instead of up) and/or people go home and immediately throw away all of the CE cookies. (Yes, that does happen, I've heard that said too many times to count.)

Also, the stories shared at the party are not nearly as interesting as with the "real" cookies anyway. The value of your party is directly affected by the time and effort made by your guests. I truly believe any non-baker can follow one simple cookie recipe. Now go forth and have a fun, high quality cookie swapping party!  

The Rules of the Cookie Exchange - Explained

There's reason for everything

1 & 2. All cookies should be homemade, baked and main ingredient must be flour. No "no-bake" cookies.
The "must be baked and use flour" rule was started when three participants brought no-bake and odd ingredient cookies to one exchange. Most of them were terrible and were just thrown away. The main ingredient in one of the cookies was saltine crackers, another was potato chips. The 3rd item, one mom proudly proclaimed; "My kids (ages 3 & 5) helped roll these (no-bake) cookies"... With all that in mind, another attendee (a mom of three who works full time) spent three days making cookies which were a multi-layered, apricot filled, delicacy.

Another pet peeve is "Forgotten Cookies", aptly named. While I enjoy eating a meringue every now and then, I don't care for meringues at a cookie exchange, because they're too simple, as well as delicate and not very transportable. Heat oven, beat egg whites, add sugar, plop on baking sheet, turn oven off and leave overnight.

The above items were from one particular cookie exchange that I remember getting negative comments back on from my family and some of the attendees. I decided that if I was going to continue to spend the time to create this party, I needed to create some rules so that everyone would feel like they went home with good quality, baked cookies.

The party is about "the people" but when people go home to their families, you don't want to hear that the families thought the cookie were awful and that they got tossed.   Even if you're good friends with people, you'll lose them forever from your party, if they get the idea that the cookies at your party are gross and should be tossed. Christmas is a busy time for everyone and people have to make choices about what they want to do. Make your party something they want to do and look forward to.

Lastly, if you decide to have no-bakes at your party, no-bakes are not really cookies, they're more of a candy. Call your party a "Cookie and Treat Exchange". This gives your guests the heads up that there will be non-baked items. Information is key, it lessens disappointment.

3. Please bring 6 dozen total.

"Why 6 dozen? I went to an exchange where we only had to bring 1 dozen."

Answer: My primary reason? I knock myself out for this party. Not only is my house completely decorated by the first week-end of December, but on top of baking cookies for the exchange I also make hot and cold hors de oeuvres and usually spend a lot of money on the food and drinks, plus I love buying decorations and party stuff.  (Yes, I do this to myself.) I'd rather not go to all of this effort for only 12 cookies. I don't think my guests would be so excited about making childcare arrangements, getting all dressed up and driving to my house for 12 cookies either. (You decide what the right amount is for your party. 6 dozen is the norm.)

The table would look so sparse with only one dozen, the party is a feast for the eyes --as well as taste! (We don't eat the cookies at my party, we only swap. Some parties do.)
Six dozen is only one batch of a large yield recipe, or two batches of a smaller one.

The only time I would suggest one dozen is if:

  • You were doing an office cookie exchange and the cookies were only going to be eaten by the attendees.

  • A Children's Cookie Exchange

  • The attendees do not have children or others to share their cookies with.

4. The theme is "Christmas Cookies" - no chocolate chip cookies allowed - unless they are really different. (Credit to my original co-host Holly for that one!)
I wouldn't want 7 types of chocolate chips showing up, as much I love them! Story time would be pretty boring, don't you agree?

5. Arrange cookies in a basket or platter (be creative!) and bring a large container (i.e., Tupperware, basket, tin, box) to carry away cookies. (or hostess can provide trays, tins or pans.)
Think "portability" when deciding what cookies to bake. Have you used gooey icing? Cookies with icing need to air dry and harden before a Cookie Swap.

Hostesses can can provide baggies to separate cookies or tell guests to separate the cookies as soon as they get home, so the flavors don't mix. Hostesses that do pre-packaged swaps don't have to worry about this. However, I love the open platter method, it's the highlight of the party!

6. Email a copy of your recipe before the party or bring recipe to the party. Decide how to handle recipes. Some hostesses have everyone bring hard copies and leave next to the cookies and people can take what they want. Or you could request to gather the recipes by email and print and bind little cookie recipe cookbooks as a parting gift.

7. Christmas attire is encouraged! (Or particular party theme.)
This helps sets the mood. Or the dress theme of your choice.

8. RSVP as soon as you can and let me know what type of cookies you are planning on baking - no duplicate recipes are allowed.
No duplicates are allowed because invariably one person baked a better version of a cookie and then another person feels bad. No one wants to find out that their cherished family recipe is being done better by another family somewhere else, plus we like variety!

9. There's a prize for the best (most outrageous) Christmas (or theme) outfit.
This encourages people to dress festively. The person with the light up earrings usually wins!

10. If you don't have time to bake, or have ruined your recipe, but still want to attend, you must go to a real bakery and buy 6 dozen really yummy cookies.
What you lack in time spent baking --you must make up for in expense!

To get more Cookie Exchange ideas,
log into the Cookie Exchange Message Board.

If you are using these cookie exchange guidelines/rules
for your online invitation, please link back to this page
and give credit where credit is due:

Cookie Exchange Rules and/or Invitation Verbiage Courtesy of
Robin Olson, Cookie-Exchange.com

Or, if you take the basic rules and change them; add:
Some content on this page is courtesy of Cookie-Exchange.com

Permission required for reprint for reasons other than hosting your own party.
Example: Using this copyrighted information for an online article or as the basis
of your own cookie exchange blog or website.


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Copyright©1997 Robin L. Olson, Robin's Web, All Rights Reserved.