I love December. So many activities, so many parties… so many excuses to bake! A cookie exchange combines my three favorite things: baking, throwing parties, and Christmas! How can I NOT throw a cookie exchange?!
December is busy for everyone, so I tried to give people as much notice as possible and chose a Friday evening for the event rather than a weekend night. I found a whole collection of really cute free printables from a fellow blogger that included invites, labels, recipe cards, and awards. You can print these for your party and save time and money spent on buying invites! I wrote notes for my guests to bring three dozen homemade cookies, fill out the recipe card provided, and to RSVP with which cookie they will bring; to make sure we don’t end up with ten versions of a chocolate chip cookie. I tied the invitation, recipe card, and note card with matching twine and sent it out in a black envelope to really make a statement.
The Food and Drinks
Once people RSVP’d for the party, I started narrowing down which cookie I wanted to make and settled on these delicious brownie buckeyes. The prep work for this party was minimal since I wasn’t cooking a big meal, just jalapeño poppers for an appetizer and the cookies. The appetizers are definitely optional but I have a few friends who can’t eat sweets without the salty in between and some of us (including me) skipped out on dinner in anticipation for this get together. I set out a bowl of multi grain chips and garlic hummus in addition to the jalapeño poppers for the ladies to snack on as we were waiting for everyone to arrive. The guests had a couple different options for drinks since we needed something to wash the cookies down with– we had a huge dispenser of milk, hot chocolate sticks, and a sparkling juice cocktail with cranberries and rosemary.
The hot chocolate sticks I made ahead of time by melting chocolate and pouring it into a silicone ice cube tray to harden. (I used semi sweet chocolate chips and melted them in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds.) Once you pour the chocolate in the mold, insert a popsicle stick (don’t make my mistake and use the colored ones because they will bleed under the hot liquid) in the middle and sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy. Let harden and pop out for hot chocolate on demand. Just add hot milk or water!
Isn’t this sparkling juice just gorgeous?! I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the display! I used fresh rosemary sprigs, fresh cranberries and a couple of sugared cranberries as a garnish for each of the glasses. The colors just scream Christmas and they look so elegant in the tall champagne flutes (plus the sugared cranberries look like they are covered in snow!!). All the instructions I read for the sugared cranberries say to let the cranberries soak in the simple syrup overnight but if you are short on time (like I was) you can soak them for 2-4 hours and they will be just as good.
The Take-Home Boxes
To make things easier on the guests, I bought cute little boxes at Dollar Tree for $.50/each, lined them with decorative wax paper and set them out for all the guests on the table. This way no one had to worry about pre-packaging their cookies in advance like normal etiquette for cookie swaps (and gave them less excuses not to make it to the party!). At the end of the evening, each guest filled their take-home box with a few of each of the cookies we had out.
After we sat around the table chatting, laughing, and filling up on seconds and thirds of cookies and milk, we proceeded to the voting ballots that were found with every place setting. Categories included in this voting ballot were “Most Creative”, “Best Looking”,”Most Unique”, and “Best overall”. However, we felt most creative and unique were too similar so we opted for “Most Creative” and “Best Tasting” categories instead. “Half-the-Guilt Gaia cookies” won the “Most Creative” category. Nicole originally found the recipe in one of the books we read as a book club, “Bread and Wine“, and then tweaked the recipe to make it gluten free and more calorie friendly. These were filled with mini chocolate chips, walnuts, dried cranberries, dried apricots, shredded coconut, and sweetened with maple syrup. Way to go, Nicole! These little cuties won the “Best Looking” category almost unanimously. Natalie specializes in baking and decorating sugar cookies… both kids and adults go crazy for these at parties! They were almost too pretty to eat! Almost…. Yuli won the “Best Tasting” category with her amazing Sea Salt Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. It may sound like a mouthful but it’s only fitting because you will be stuffing your mouth with these once you try just one bite! I had like five of these, and I don’t regret it for a minute. They were absolutely worth it. And last but not least, were my Buckeye Brownies that won the “Best Overall” Category. I felt so honored to have won! Honestly, this was my first time making these cookies, but it most definitely will not be my last. I found the recipe on this blog and I knew right away that I had to make them. You start with a brownie base, top with a peanut butter ball, and coat with chocolate. Yum, Yum, and YUM!
But I think my personal favorite cookie was Kristen’s White Chocolate topped Gingerbread Cookies. I absolutely loved how soft and chewy these were. Not to mention cute! They are rolled in granulated sugar before baking so they come out with a little bit of a glittering shimmer. I saved four cookies for my husband to try the next day, but unfortunately he never got the chance to try them because I polished them off first thing in the morning. I just couldn’t resist. I kept coming back for one more bite and before I knew it, they were all gone. Sorry, not sorry. Ok, maybe only a little sorry that I didn’t save a couple more for myself. You can find the recipe Kristen used here.
The Cookie Exchange
Once we ate all the cookies we could, we filled our take home boxes with our favorites to take to our families (or eat ourselves the next morning). Everyone brought back the recipe cards that were provided with the invitations so guests were able to snap a photo or copy down the recipe for the cookies they wanted to make at home. What a great way to sample eight different cookies in one night and pick up a couple new recipes!
We finished off the night by spreading out and relaxing on the mile long sectional we have downstairs and watching a Christmas movie together. Just what we needed after stuffing our faces with so many delicious cookies!
I hope you have the chance to get together this holiday season and have a cookie exchange as well! It’s a great way to see the ones you love, catch up, and share your favorite cookie recipes. Because, lets face it, we’re always looking for a great cookie recipe!
*In the invitation notes, guests were told which categories we would be voting on and that prizes would be awarded as a fun way to get people in competitive baking mode, but you can just skip the gifts, it’s fun nonetheless!
*I chose to make this an all-girls event and the ladies took boxes of cookies home to their husbands and children but feel free to make this a family event! Have plain cookies ready for kids to decorate with frosting and sprinkles as a way to keep them busy while you are taste testing all the other cookies.