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How to host a memorable holiday cookie swap

Enjoying homemade Christmas baking is highlight of the season for many families, but making everything from scratch can be time consuming and a lot of work. So how does you stock your freezer with a delicious assortment of cookies and bars without spending several days in the kitchen? By hosting an old-fashioned holiday cookie exchange!

The Concept

Invite a group of bakers to come to your home and have each one bring 10-12 dozen homemade cookies. Bake up a big batch of your family’s favorite holiday treats and exchange baked goods together in a cheery, festive environment. Everyone leaves with a variety of goodies to stash away for Christmas entertaining – and perhaps a new recipe or two.

Is a swap really as great as it is made out to be?

A cookie swap is a social event with a practical side. For me, it marks the beginning of the holiday season and brings friends together for more than just cocktails and chit-chat.
A cookie swap also…

• Saves valuable time during the busiest season of the year. It is much faster to make multiple batches of the same cookie, than to track down ingredients for 7 or 8 different recipes and prepare each one.

• Provides you with a wonderful selection of homemade baked goods to serve your guests over the holidays.

• Introduces new types of cookies to your palate and unique recipes to your repertoire.

• Provides a fun, casual social event that is easy to host – the guests bring the goodies!

Offers opportunities for a charitable outreach. Guests can be asked to bring non-perishable food items to donate to a local food bank.

What are you waiting for? Pull out that organized holiday calendar and pencil in a tentative date. Then use these simple and fun steps to plan a festive cookie swap your guests will remember well into the new year.

How to Host a Cookie Swap

christmas cookie variety
All photos are by Aimee

1. Invite Guests

Go digital to save time, effort and money. I typically use evite or Facebook for my invitations.

• Invite double the amount of guests that you feel you can accommodate. This is the busiest time of the year and not everyone will be able to attend.

Ask invitees to prepare 6-10 dozen of their favorite or ‘most requested’ cookie or bar to swap, and an extra dozen for sampling pre-swap.

Suggest that the cookies be well suited for traveling and freezing; meringues may not make it home, let alone being jostled around in the freezer.

Request the swap be ‘nut free’, if this is a concern for you. I have done this in recent years as so many of my girlfriend’s children have severe allergies.

2. Bake Cookies!

christmas cookie piping

Prepare a tried-and-true, favorite recipe. You probably already have a family favorite in mind as you read this post. You know, the one that garners the most requests for the recipe, the one you couldn’t imagine celebrating Christmas without.  Now you can share it.

• Make them pretty! Don’t be shy about showing off if you are gifted with decorating skills. Maybe you have a bit more time on your hands than some of your guests and the opportunity to exercise a piping bag. Trust me; guests will appreciate you making the extra effort to dress up those gingerbread men.

Store the cookies in an airtight container in the freezer if you have made them in advance. Try and maintain their freshness until the big day.

3. Prepare to Host

christmas cookie swap

This may be the easiest party to host over the holiday season; the guests bring the treats; all you have to do is put on a pot of coffee and open your home! Sounds simple? It is! If you’re the Martha Stewart type, here are a few extras touches you can add to make the event even more special:

Plan a door prize. A cookie cookbook, a pretty apron, or a cookie jar — you decide how simple or elaborate you want it to be. One year I asked each person to bring a cookie cutter. They showed up with all different sorts of shapes –mittens, stars, and angels—which I placed together in a gift bag. At the end of the swap, I drew a name and one lucky lady went home with the whole collection of cookie cutters.

Provide tea, coffee, and a festive drink such as hot cocoa or mulled apple cider. My guests have come to expect a pot of apple cider and spices simmering on the stove and it’s my most requested beverage.

• Make labels for the cookies. This is a practical ‘extra’ that identifies everything on the table and can inform guests who contributed which cookie.

Set up a packaging station where guests can assemble and wrap small boxes of goodies to give away as presents. Provide Chinese take-out boxes (available at craft stores) for holding the cookies and items for dressing up the boxes such as tags, ribbon, and felt-tipped pens.

4. 1-2-3 SWAP!


christmas cookie tray
Once all the guests have arrived and the table is laden with hundreds of cookies, invite guests to enjoy a hot beverage while you prepare a tasting tray. If each contributor brought extra cookies for tasting, you should have ample baking to serve up to your guests –and any husband that may have ‘happened’ to stroll through the kitchen.

I love the stories that emerge during this time of sampling and socializing; tales of failed batches of cookies, recipes handed down from grandmothers, and confessions of having felt the need to impress with their cookie contribution!


The formula to actually exchange cookies is simple, with guests taking home as many cookies as they contributed. Start by everyone taking a dozen each, rotating around the table so everyone has a chance to access all the cookies. Continue with another dozen and another until all the cookies are gone. This usually takes about two minutes!


Observe and enjoy the smiles all around as guests cradle tins stuffed with gorgeous baking; baking which they in turn will bless others with. It’s the holiday event that keeps on giving!

Do you burn out over the holidays trying to get everything accomplished? How important is homemade baking to you?

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Angela Mills

    Also…be sure to invite people who actually want to take cookies home! I hosted a swap a couple of years ago, but it was all my aunts and grandmas and they didn’t want the sweets in their house. I was left with trays and trays of cookies! We gave most away, and the party was still fun. I’m guessing too many people won’t have that problem 🙂

    I LOVE the packing station idea!!!
    .-= Angela Mills´s last blog ..SpellQuizzer Winner… =-.

  2. Micha

    Homemade baking is very important for me. It is one of my best childhood merories and I’ll give it to my kids, too. We have all years favourites like “Vanillekipferl” and always try something new.
    .-= Micha´s last blog ..Biologie – Projekt / learning about plants =-.

  3. Lisa @ WellGrounded Life

    Oh this sounds like a blast– I’ve never been to a cookie swap before (and though it sounded simple enough) having these instructions and ideas explicitly set out is a great motivator to getting something started!
    .-= Lisa @ WellGrounded Life´s last blog ..Five Lives {The Artist’s Way: Week 2} =-.

    • Aimee

      Jamie, they do!
      Don’t lump them all together, as those spicy gingerbread boys will perfume the whole tin and quite diminish the flavor of something more delicate, such as a lemon lace cookie. Instead, store each type of cookie in is own smaller, individual air-tight container, dividing each layer with wax paper.

      Store cookies up to 6 weeks, with wonderful results, or up to 3 months in a deep freeze.
      .-= Aimee´s last blog ..The Beef Chronicles: Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Purée =-.

  4. Amanda Evans

    Jamie – I’ve frozen cookies with success. It depends on the cookie’s make-up.

    I hosted a cookie swap two years ago, and it was a delightful time! There’s something about baking that brings us together, and the stories we shared are still in my memory. I also had a little contest to award the door prizes – prettiest cookie, cookie with the most ingredients, cookie made using the oldest recipe….it was interesting to hear all the stories behind the cookies.
    .-= Amanda Evans´s last blog ..My "bumper sticker" for these baby-years =-.

  5. Karey

    Love this idea! I’m putting it on the calendar and sending out an evite today!
    .-= Karey´s last blog ..Coupons are Awesome =-.

  6. amy

    This is so so awesomely amazing:)

  7. Christina

    This is great! I have actually been thinking about doing a cookie swap this year, and this post has given me a jumping off point. Thanks so much!
    .-= Christina´s last blog ..50 More Photo Cards for Free =-.

  8. Greta @ Mom Living Healthy

    Great idea! In our family the girls have our own version of a cookie swap. We get together and bake TONS of cookies. This way we get to spend time together baking and then we all get to take lots of cookies home with us. It’s a great time and I’m really looking forward to it this year.
    .-= Greta @ Mom Living Healthy´s last blog ..Homemade Pizza Night =-.

  9. Angie @ Just Like The Number

    This was a timely post – I’m hosting my first cookie exchange in a few weeks! Do you have the guests e-mail or bring copies of their recipes to share? I’m trying to think of a cute, but not overly complicated way to share the recipes with my guests. Great information!

    • Aimee

      Angie- Try requesting invitees to email their recipes to you in advance and then print up copies for each guest. Or you can wait until the swap and ask people if there are any recipes they would like to have. Then afterward, connect with the baker for the recipe and distribute it via email.

      Not every person will want every recipe. There are usually 2 or 3 *hot* cookies that garner the most requests!
      .-= Aimee´s last blog ..The Beef Chronicles: Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Purée =-.

  10. Trudy G.

    I participate in a couple of cookie swaps – one through my sister and her acquaintances and one through work. They are great as you get such a variety and the opportunity to try new things.

    I love to bake cookies this time of year so I also make a bunch of different kinds of cookies for my daughters and their families that they get as gifts for Christmas. It works wonderfully as I am able to make all the different kinds I love but don’t have them left in the house where I feel I have to eat them all 🙂

  11. Kim

    Love the snowflake cookies….. reason enough to inspire me to host a cookie swap! 😉
    How fun!
    Thanks for the step-by-step, too ~ makes it so much less intimidating to get the ball rolling and ‘just do it’.

    Love your wonderful ideas – thank you for sharing

  12. Aaron Shaw

    I want a cookie party at my house! I don’t think I could use the pounds, but it would be yummy!
    .-= Aaron Shaw´s last blog ..Baby Animal of the Day! Kiwi! =-.

  13. Kristia@FamilyBalanceSheet

    I just went to a cookie swap last night that my LLL leader was hosting. We do it a little differently though. We pre-bag the cookies with a set amount. There were seven of us participating so we each brought six bags of six cookies. It works out for us, because I only had to bake one batch of cookies and I even had a few left over of mine for my freezer. Everyone also brought a snack for the evening and the moms, dads and kids had fun.
    .-= Kristia@FamilyBalanceSheet´s last blog ..How to Roast Butternut Squash =-.

  14. Jamie

    I am doing a Cookie Exchange for the first time this year, but since most of my friends don’t have children yet, we are going to make gift boxes for a local Community Pregnancy Center. We will taste and take a few cookies home of course, but we don’t need dozens and thought some single mothers could be blessed by homemade treats.

    I am definitely going to use your cider recipe, yum!

  15. Jimmy Flores

    I am Jimmy, president of a new non for profit asociation in Madrid, Spain and find this idea amazing. My wife and I are planning this event on a slightly larger scale to try and build community, experience sharing and tasting 🙂 In addition to raise funds for our asociation.

    Wonderful idea, will blog about and be back to share. Cross our fingers that it gets accepted here 🙂


    • Suzie Acree

      Jimmy, I see that you made your post about hosting a cookie swap for your non-profit several years ago, but I am curious how it worked out for you? Have you made it an annual event? We are thinking it would be a fun idea for our Literacy Center. We usually host an open house, but the cookie swap sounds more fun, and may get more people involved in coming to our center, which is a win-win for everyone. I’d love to hear from you about what worked, what tips and tricks you have, and if you continued doing it. Thanks! Suzie

  16. Bobby

    Cookie exchanges are alot more than about cookies.They are an opportunity for friends to get together and gossip and re-connect with one another. They talk about childcare and women’s issues and everything that reaffirms their frienships that may have lasted a life time.

  17. Deidra

    My husband and I host a neighborhood cookie swap every year. It’s a time for all of the neighbors get together and just hang out. All of the husbands come and some of them even do the baking. We go out on a Sunday afternoon and deliver the invites…usually with a small favor attached – last year it was a wooden spoon, but we’ve done cookie cutters in the past. Everyone looks forward to it and we have a blast! Last year the neighborhood children performed an impromptu holiday skit for us.

  18. Shannon @ AnchorMommy

    You really covered all the bases here! Thanks for laying out all the steps. Love the extra “Martha” tips, too. 🙂
    .-= Shannon @ AnchorMommy´s last blog ..Sick and tired =-.

  19. Melissa

    Thanks for the tips! I’m hosting my first ever cookie exchange next month and these tips will come in handy for sure!
    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..Fun At The Movies =-.

  20. Amanda

    I really love this idea – a great way to share recipes and a great excuse for a get together with friends.
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Relaxed and Cosy Lounge Room =-.

  21. Jennifer Tankersley

    Thanks, Tsh! I am hosting my first cookie swap this year (I really haven’t been to many either) and needed a little direction. This is great! I originally sent out an evite to my friends saying 12 dozen (I’d seen that amount somewhere) and I didn’t get any response. So I talked to a few of them and they all said that 12 dozen was overwhelming so I changed it to 6 dozen. I figure that will work for our first. I’ll give you an update later on how it went 🙂

    .-= Jennifer Tankersley´s last blog ..list of items to keep in your desk at work =-.

  22. Liv

    Forgive my ignorance, but… how do you thaw the frozen cookies?

    • Aimee

      Liv, good question! I recommend you pull them out of the freezer a few hours before you wish to serve them. Thaw them at room temperature and don’t try to microwave them!
      .-= Aimee´s last blog ..UtHC Bulletin: Cookies, Conditions, & Cupcakes =-.

  23. Melissa

    I love cookie swaps! Something that I have done in the past is request my non-baking/cooking friends to provide the gift wrap for the wrap station. It edges off their anxiety of baking for other people yet they contribute to the party in some way!
    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..One Box of Puff Pastry, Dinner and Dessert for Six =-.

  24. Melodie

    When I do a cookie exchange with friends we always try to get an exact number of people who are coming so we know exactly how many dozen cookies to make. This way everyone makes the same number and gets the same number and no one is left with an extra four dozen cookies. Which I suppose by your rules everyone just gets more cookies but the time that happened I think the baker who made them felt a little resentful of all her work. Even though it’s the season of giving it can still make for hard feelings so I think the best thing to do is get your numbers solidified by the week before.
    .-= Melodie´s last blog ..I Had A Bad Day: Sympathy Welcome =-.

    • Aimee

      That’s a good way too,Melodie! Sometimes, though, not everyone wants the same amount of cookies. The single girls bring 5 or so dozen while the mamas of three elementary school aged kids bring 10 dozen.
      With everyone leaving with the same amount that they brought, no one feels resentful, and everyone has the right amount of cookies to suit their needs.
      .-= Aimee´s last blog ..UtHC Bulletin: Cookies, Conditions, & Cupcakes =-.

      • Emily

        I love hosting a cookie exchange! We have done it a couple different ways. I agree with Melodie, on the headcount! What we like best is to get a “count” per person. The count is currently set at 6 cookies, but could be more or less. We have about 10 women who participate and most only go in as 1 “count” but some go in as “two.” My sister always goes in as two, because she has a large family and they make lots of cookie trays to give away. Because she goes in as a double “count” she has to make twice as many cookies.

        I always set up a couple long folding tables (decorated, of course) and each guest has a designated area to place their prepackaged cookies along with their recipe. When it’s time to swap, simply walk the line and take one package from each. (Unless you’re my sister, then you take two.) =)
        I also like to know what they’re making upfront. I had a couple people bring the same thing one year, and that just defeats the purpose. We also serve h’orderves.
        I have not done a door prize yet, I really like that idea! I think I will this year!!

  25. Erin B

    Just a little question. I’m a bit confused. In these tips are you recommending that the number of cookies baked links to the number of participants? Or only that if everyone brings 6 dozen cookies they’ll go home with 6 dozen?

    And, I’ve also heard of this being extended to a ‘grub swap’ so that you aren’t surrounded by cookies. Things like spiced nuts are a nice change from cookies….

    • Aimee

      Mmm! Good idea on the spiced nuts. We did a ‘Cookies & Confections’ Swap one year for Valentine’s. People brought hand-rolled truffles, fudge, caramel corn and other sweet treats. It was an impressive spread and shows that these swaps certainly aren’t limited to just cookies.

      In answer to your question, the basic rule that makes the swap ‘fair’ is that each guest takes home as many cookies as they contributed. It doesn’t matter how many guests you have, or if some made 6 dozen and other 8, if you leave with as many as you brought, no one gets short changed.

      Note: if one guest bakes, like, three times as many as anyone else, they will be taking some of their own creations home, that’s all!
      I always recommend guests bake 6-8 dozen and everything works out fine.
      .-= Aimee´s last blog ..UtHC Bulletin: Cookies, Conditions, & Cupcakes =-.

  26. Andrea

    love love love it… and am already en route to planning my own swap a couple weeks before the holidays hit. I’m officially adding a door prize… or maybe a draw (I can sell tickets and give the proceeds to a local charity)… we’ll see how many RSVPs I get and go from there. Thanks for introducing me to cookie swaps Aimee!
    .-= Andrea´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday – Fun at the Park in November! =-.

  27. Pepper

    What time of day do you usually host the party? I always have difficulty trying to plan a good time to host a party like this and make it so I don’t have to worry about feeding people a meal. Would you suggest afternoon or after 6pm?
    .-= Pepper´s last blog ..Remember the Milk Part 2: Smart Ad =-.

  28. Monte

    I’ve been to some fun cookie swaps in years past, but then, honestly, I stopped going because mine were the only homemade ones! Maybe it’s poor spirit on my part, but I didn’t really want to go home with dozens of store-bought cookies … Now what we do is host a “drop in and decorate” party. I bake tons of cookies in all sorts of shapes and get icing and decos ready. People drop by, open house style, to decorate a couple (or a dozen) and then we donate all the decorated cookies to a shelter that has a big Christmas dinner. It’s tons of fun and amazing how many adults haven’t decorated cookies in a long time!
    .-= Monte´s last blog ..thanksgiving =-.

  29. james

    great advice and beautiful post! the pictures look fabulous!
    this article also has some pretty cook ideas on the topic.

  30. Cyndi

    When is everyone having their party?? I want to have one this year and I realize that I need to get those invitations out, but I have no clue when people would prefer to (or prefer not to) come. Thoughts??

    • Aimee @ Simple Bites

      Cyndi, it totally depends on schedules. I usually go with the first weekend of December, because often the others are already booked up. I also go with a Sunday afternoon as more ppl are available.
      Good luck and happy baking!

  31. Melissa

    Home baking is VERY important to me at all times, but especially during the holidays. I just posted on this exact topic last Monday (though yours is much more extensive & informative)…great minds…

  32. Mary Jane

    I would like to a DRY INGREDIENT Cookie Exchange. I have heard of them before and unsure of how to go about doing one. Help!

  33. Genvieve

    I’m doing a cookie swap and following this is making it easy–I’m loving the printable forms. It’s called The Cookie Swap – Create a Christmas Tradition–One Cookie Recipe at a Time. I’m holding a cookie tasting exchange for the simplicity..we are going to bring an extra dozen for sampling and I’m just serving beverages. Entertaining fears and budget concerns were my biggest challenges and this book helped me determine I could do it and how I could on my budget. is the link

  34. Megan

    Thank you for the ideas! I love the door prize idea. I’m going to host my first swap party this season for my neighbors in my new development, and add in my book club. It should be a fun way for women to meet other women in the community.

  35. Janet

    I have never done a cookie swap before. This year at work we are planning a cookie exchange instead of Secret Santa gifts (easier on the budget). I love the idea and hopefully carries on as a tradition at work. 🙂

  36. Wanda

    I host an exchange every year. This is my 4th year. We try to limit the guests to 15. Every year I try to do something different. First year I served brunch, 2nd year was appetizers, 3rd was soup and sandwich and this year it’s wine and cheese. We vote for the best presented cookie (best looking) and the best packaged. We also do one fun game and give prizes to the three winners. We have some rules that they must be cookies (baked, homemade, no candies or cakes).

  37. Teena Stewart

    Great input. I am looking forward to doing this so I don’t have to bake a ton this year!

  38. Ann Edel

    I am hosting a
    I am hosting a “Cookies and Champagne” party tonight! We are all elementary school teachers, so are exhausted by this time of the year, so I only had people bring 3 dozen. I am providing C’mas baskets (1/2 price at Michaels) with a red checked napkin inside to cover cookies to take home. Since everyone has small children I am making lots of snacking food so we can count that as dinner. I am serving champagne and also grape juice for those who don’t imbibe!

  39. Jeanne

    I am having a cookie swap with friends tomorrow night. The hostess put on a light supper with appetizers. We use the extra cookies people bring as the dessert. It makes for a relaxing and fun evening. We ask guests to pre wrap one dozen of cookies per guest so it makes it so easy to pick up their allotted cookies to take them home. Our group packages their cookies in creative and holiday packages. This is our eighth year with six friends.

  40. Conni

    We have an annual Cookie Swap and this year will be our 7th year with 10 people. We do a few games but I always make sure there is one game where everyone wins. We all go home winners. Everyone prepackages a dozen cookies for each guest and I serve Appetizers as well. We don’t label the Cookies because one of the games is to guess who make what Cookie. The beverage that gets served every year is a Poinsettia, which is given to each person when they come in. OH I cannot forget, the attire are your favorite Jammies!

  41. Angie

    This year will be my 6th annual cookie exchange. We always have so much fun with all the games, prizes, contests, food, and COOKIES. One extra thing I do is ask everyone to bring at least one non-perishable food donation for our local food pantry. For each donation they bring, they receive a raffle ticket and at the end, I pick one raffle ticket from the bunch and that person wins a small gift basket or cookie jar as a thank you. Love these ideas – always fun to come up with new things!

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