Skip to Content

10 Tips for Hosting a Cookie Exchange – Fun Ideas for a Cookie Swap

A cookie exchange is not just for Christmas. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s day and Easter are also popular times for cookie swaps.

This type of party is a fun way to share your favorite cookie recipes, since many holiday gatherings include a party dessert table.

December 22 is recognized each year as National Cookie Exchange Day. To celebrate the day, let’s get some tips that will make sure your cookie swap is a great.

From now through the end of the year, there are so many holidays, and such fun to be enjoyed with friends and family.  One of my favorite traditions is to host a cookie exchange.

Do you find that you run out of necessary ingredients when making cookies?  If this happens to you, check out my food substitutes page to find out what you can use instead.Rolling pin and cookie cutters with words 10 tips for hosting a cookie exchange.

What is a cookie exchange?

A cookie exchange is a party where your friends or family all come with a box of their favorite cookies. Often they will bring the recipe on printed cards so friends can try to bake the cookies later, at home.

Everyone swaps the cookies around and the guests end up going home with a box of mixed cookies, instead of the single cookie that they brought to the party. 

One of the best things about a cookie exchange, particularly during the busy holiday season, is that it shortcuts your own cooking tasks.

You can bake a few dozen of one variety of cookie and end up with several types of cookies in your home after the party.  

This gives you the variety of cookies you want in your home without the task of having to make them all yourself. Win-win in my book. Plus, a cookie exchange is a lot of fun too.

Tips for hosting a cookie exchange

Here are some simple tips to make your holiday cookie swap one that will be a big success.  Be sure to check the bottom of the article for some great cookie recipes, too.

1. Cookie exchange invitations

Send out invitations for your cookie swap early. Give people about 4 weeks to prepare.

The cookie exchange invitation wording is important. Be specific in your wishes.

You don’t want to send last minute invites where the only option is to go to the local grocery store and pick up a box of store bought cookies.

What you are wanting is a nice variety of homemade cookies and these take time to prepare, especially around the holiday time when there is so much to do.Cookie swap invitation with RSVP

2. What are the cookie exchange rules?

Be clear in the invite what you expect each guest to bring to the cookie swap. A good rule of thumb for a party of about a dozen is 3 dozen cookies.

This gives 1-2 dozen to share at the end of the party and one dozen to sample during the party.  

Of course, no guest will eat all 12 cookies, but it will give variety for the most popular ones and will allow each guest to return home with close to 2 dozen cookies that are assorted. 

Of particular importance is whether you ask people bake from scratch (yes please!). Otherwise someone who slaves over homemade cookies will take home slice and bake and will not be very happy with this.Thumbprint cookies with words - 2-3 dozen for each guest to bring

3. Set limits on who is invited to the cookie party

You can do this anyway you would like, but I like to limit it to girl friends or mums. 

If you allow people to bring husbands or children, guess what will happen to the cookies during the party?  My guess is that their probably won’t be many to bring home! This is a cookie exchanged party, not a cookie tasting party.

Since it’s so busy this time of the year, invite more people than you think will attend. It is not uncommon for those (even if they have sent an RSVP!) to not show up.

A successful cookie exchange has a lot of types of cookies and that means plenty of guests.

It is best to limit cookie exchange guests to ladies only

4. Should I include cookie labels?

The answer depends on how crafty you are. I think that it is helpful to label the cookies as you put them on the table, particularly if you have a lot of guests.

This will allow guests to know just what the cookies are made of.

If you only have a few guests, you can do this verbally during the party instead.  One idea that I like is to have each party goer print their recipe out on a card and place it next to the cookie.

This labels the cookie and allows people to copy it if they would like to make it themselves.Cookie exchange label on a blue background with words chocolate chunk on it.

5. When to bake the cookies for a cookie swap party

Ask guests to bake their cookies 2-3 days before the cookie swap.  Freshly baked cookies don’t transport very well and you’ll end up with a bunch of broken cookies, if they are “fresh from the oven!” 

Cookies a few days old will have time to dry out a little and will keep their shapes.Finger pressing into a freshly baked cookie.

6. Preparing for a cookie swap

On cookie swap day, brew some coffee and tea and clear off a few tables for sampling, swapping and also for packaging to take home.

If you want to get fancy, have a table with some decorative ribbons and plain white gift boxes or clear cellophane on hand.

This allows guest to wrap the cookies before leaving the party if they wish to do so.Cookies in cellophane bags with a striped ribbon.

7.  Prepare your food and drinks for a cookie swap

Most guests won’t want to just load up on sweets during the cookie exchange.

It’s a good idea to have a few non sweet choices, such as chips, vegetables or crackers and dip, or small finger sandwiches on hand to eat if they don’t want to sample a lot of cookies.Chalkboard with a cookie exchange menu on it.

8. Decorations for a cookie exchange. 

You don’t have to go all out for this. Something simple like a festive tablecloth or holiday centerpiece will be plenty of decor.

If you are using just one table as a buffet, clear chairs and other furniture away so that people can cruise the cookie table easily.Cookes and fruit on a red cloth.

9. Recipe cards for a cookie swap

Ask guests to email you their recipes a week ahead of time if possible. That way you can print them out and have them on hand to give to party goers.

It also gives you an idea of what will be coming so that you can make labels if you want to. You can even email guests ahead of time with these recipe cards. 

They can print them out themselves and copy the recipe on the cards. Have guests fill out as many recipe cards as the number of guest and then display them next to the cookies at party time. Download the recipe card here and print it out.

Recipe card printable.

10. Serving platters for your cookies.

Be sure you have enough serving platters for the cookies that will be coming. If you don’t, ask friends to bring along a decorative platter to help out.

Serving the cookies on pretty platters or plates is much nicer than using paper plates.

Don’t worry about them all matching.  Mix and Match platters are just fine.

There is no reason to purchase holiday theme serving dishes.Holiday serving dishes with Christmas patterns.

Cookie exchange recipes

Cookies in a collage with words 23 recipes for a cookie exchange.

Now that you know what to do to host a cookie exchange, here are some ideas for cookie swap cookies to bake for your party, or another cookie echange that you may be planning on attending or hosting.

Share on Social Media

Donna Marsh

Monday 28th of December 2015

I went to a cookie exchange at a friends house. It wasn't a holiday. It's a good way to meet neighbors and friends. Lot of fun.


Tuesday 29th of December 2015

Glad you enjoyed it Donna. Hope you got some good cookies too!


Monday 16th of November 2015

I love the idea of heading home with a variety of cookies you didn't make


Monday 16th of November 2015

Great tips!!! Planning is the key to a great event like this.


Tuesday 29th of December 2015

It's worth it for the fun time!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."