Cookie Swaps: Amazing Tips and Recipes

Table layout with cookie box at top, wooden spoons, and cookie cutters
Photograph by Michael Piazza
Want to sweeten your holidays? Throw a cookie swap party! With these eight amazing recipes and step-by-step planning tips from the author of the blog Se7en, a mom of eight who's also a seasoned cookie swapper, it's not as crazy as it sounds. (You just have to make one batch.)
Photograph by Michael Piazza
Photograph by Michael Piazza

Crazy for Cookies

The holidays can be a hectic time for my family. We live in a seaside town in South Africa, so folks return here year after year to enjoy the warm weather of the holiday season. With friends in town, eight kids at home, and heaps of family visiting, it adds up to a lot of people to juggle. Our solution? We host one big party -- a cookie swap -- so we can see everyone we know all at once. The beauty of a cookie swap party is that each family makes just one big batch to share, but at the end of the party, they leave with a wide variety of treats. Although many cookie swaps are adults-only affairs, we make sure there are crafts and games for all ages. Here are my tried-and-true ideas for a family event that leaves my kids excitedly planning the next one as soon as it's over.

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Photograph by Michael Piazza
Photograph by Michael Piazza

Cookies to Make and Share

Santa Hat Macaroons
Coconut cones are decorated with melted candy to look like Mr. Claus's cozy cap.

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Photograph by Michael Piazza
Photograph by Michael Piazza

Cookies to Make and Share

Stained Glass
These show-stopping treats are made by placing a hard candy inside a cutout dough shape before baking.

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Cookies to Make and Share

Toffee Bars
Chocolate, pecans, and toffee candy cover a rich, buttery base. What's not to love?

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Photograph by Michael Piazza
Photograph by Michael Piazza

Cookies to Make and Share

Hazelnut Sandwiches
Two chewy yet crunchy, delectable cookies are held together with Nutella.

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Photograph by Michael Piazza
Photograph by Michael Piazza

Cookies to Make and Share

Chocolate Drops
Studded with chunks of chocolate, the super-easy drops have an almost brownielike texture and richness.

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Photograph by Michael Piazza
Photograph by Michael Piazza

Cookies to Make and Share

Mini Mice
These cute cookies, along with the Stained Glass and Icebox Rounds, are made with our egg-free basic dough.

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Photograph by Michael Piazza
Photograph by Michael Piazza

Cookies to Make and Share

Gingerbread Bars with Orange Glaze
The warming spices -- ginger, cinnamon, cloves -- in our bars are balanced by the citrusy sweetness of the glaze.

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Photograph by Michael Piazza
Photograph by Michael Piazza

Cookies to Make and Share

Icebox Rounds
Use whatever dried fruits and nuts you have on hand for delicious roll-and-slice cookies.

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Photograph by Michael Piazza
Photograph by Michael Piazza

Party Plan

Each family brings two dozen cookies in a box or on a tray, ready to be displayed. These are set aside for later. Consider putting up a sign saying, "Please Don't Snack on the Cookies." (One year, two grannies at our party quietly ate their way through a large portion of the swap cookies while everyone else was busy crafting.)

Artistic Icebreaker: As your visitors arrive, invite them to decorate a card stock cookie shape, such as a bell, star, or gingerbread man. Have a variety of coloring tools on hand (markers, crayons, gel pens) and include tacky glue and sequins, beads, and pieces of ribbon, if you like. When the cookies are finished, tie or clip them onto a string for a garland. Our guests, especially the younger ones, always love seeing their artwork become instant party decor.

Set Up a Decorating Station: The goodies on the swapping table are off-limits, but that doesn't mean you should ban cookies from your event! Before the party, bake a batch of Sugar Cookies (see our recipe below), and set up a decorating station. Fill small bowls with sprinkles, tiny candies, colored sugar, and dried cranberries. You'll also want to put out some basic icing (see below) in a few colors, in bowls with spoons for spreading, or in squeeze bottles for piping. We decorate our cookies on trays so that the excess sprinkles are contained and can be reapplied. Have a place for the cookies to sit while the icing sets.

My Favorite Icing: Mix 1 tablespoon melted butter into 1 cup confectioners' sugar. Add 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon boiling water and stir. If the icing is too thick, add water. Stir in food coloring, a drop or two at a time.

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Photograph by Michael Piazza
Photograph by Michael Piazza

Party Plan

Snack Strategy: Avoid cookie overload (and baking exhaustion) by serving simple snacks -- popcorn, chips and dip, hot chocolate with a toppings bar.

Matched Box: Have each family decorate a box for taking cookies home. We buy unfolded boxes from a local bakery supply store (major craft stores carry similar ones in the baking section). Put out a pile of stickers, markers, stamps and ink pads, and glitter glue, and let guests customize them to their heart's content.

Games Galore: While the glue dries and the icing sets, try holding a Cookie Olympics. Our games include:Pile Up: Who can stack the highest tower of cookie cutters?Cookie-Spoon Race: With a cookie balanced on a spoon, players must race to the other side of the room and back.The Delicious Discus: Who can throw their cardboard cookie the farthest?Pin the Bow Tie on the Gingerbread Man: A cookie-themed version of the classic Tail on the Donkey challenge.The Hands-Free Cookie-Eating Race: My kids' favorite. Players stand at a table and eat a cookie from a plate, no hands allowed. Whoever finishes first, wins.

The Grand Finale: When everyone is nearly tired out, it's time to gather around the cookie-swap table, decorated boxes in hand. Have each family select two dozen cookies, so that they leave with the same number they brought. They're now ready to gather their crafts and head home, where, we hope, they'll enjoy some milk and (more) cookies before calling it a night.

Se7en blogs about her life and times as a homeschooling mom at se7en.org.za.

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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