The history of my Cookie Exchange cookie swap
In 1989, my friend, Holly Murphy and I decided to bake some cookies together so that we could bake twice as many and share them. I went to the bookstore in search of some new cookie recipe books for our little venture. I found one entitled "The Wellesley Cookie Exchange" and bought each of us a copy. "Why don't we do a cookie exchange like they do in this book". I suggested to Holly. "We can then sample dozens of cookies that we don't have to bake!" She loved the idea and now it's been many years and thousands of cookies later. At the time I lived in Santa Barbara, California and Holly and I co-hosted the exchanges together. When our family moved to Maryland, I knew this holiday tradition had to be kept going. Boy, would I have missed having everyone walk through the front door with all those cookies!
The Rules cookie swap
Everyone is entitled to make up their own rules, so here are mine :
Also, I host a "girls only" party -- no husbands or children are allowed! We don't eat the cookies, we swap them, eat hors d'oeuvres and buffet style food, drink adult beverages.
It's a nice break from the stressful Christmas season. I hold this party for myself as much as for everyone else, it really gets me in the holiday spirit -- and away from the malls, the traffic and the hustle bustle of being Santa's lil' helper. It's also makes me decorate my house early and then it's done!
How to do the Cookie Swap
After everyone has eaten and socialized a bit, I call the swap to order by ringing a bell and we gather into the dining room where the cookies have been laid out on the table as people arrived.
The table looks beautiful with all the colors, fragrance and arrangements of the cookies. **We take turns and everyone introduces themselves and their cookies and any story that might accompany the cookie. For example; "My grandmother's, grandmother passed this recipe down. " or I burned the first two batches, then switched recipes. " or "When I was a child, my old next door neighbor, Bertha, used to make this for all the neighborhood kids. " This part is fun, it is my favorite time of the party --because there is always a story. and there's always a lot of laughter.
Swap 'til you drop!
When the actual cookie swap happens, we all get elbow to elbow with our empty container that we remembered to bring, and we slowly go around the table clockwise. Everyone grabs 3-5 cookies from each plate, depending on how many are in each dish.
Some recipes yield a lot, some a little. Some people have split their cookies into two different recipes. By the time we have rotated around the table 3 times, the cookies are gone. It "all comes out in the wash" as I am not going count cookies. Everyone goes home with approximately the same amount. I have never ever heard a complaint from anyone about how we do this. You arrive with 6 dozen, you leave with approximately the same amount. Don't
forget to take pictures of the table before everyone dives in!
Important Cookie Exchange Planning Tips!
1) Send the invitations out a month before the party. Everyone's calendar fills up fast in December! I hold my Maryland party on Sunday afternoon. All the dads can watch the kids from the sofa in front of the football game. (Except my husband, he has to the leave the house and entertain the kids, he traditionally takes them to the movies.) The California ladies prefer a week-end evening. For your first exchange, take a poll and see what your attendees prefer.
2) Tell everyone to bake their cookies at least three days in advance. The biggest reason for no-shows is that they didn't have time to bake their cookies. This is the busiest time of year. Don't be upset if people that rsvp and say they are coming don't show up. I always invite way more than I expect to show. The average number that usually shows up for me is anywhere between 13-20. One year I had 23 confirmed and only 12 showed up. Usually two or three days before the exchange I say to myself "If this wasn't my party, I probably wouldn't go, I'm too busy!"
Another reason to bake the cookies early is so that they can "dry out" a bit. A freshly baked cookie is not a good cookie to transport. When we're swapping, we're piling different types of cookies on top of each other and the fresh ones crumble terribly, especially if it's a fragile cookie to begin with. After the cookies have been baked, they should sit out all night on a rack to cool and lose their moisture, with a piece of wax paper over them. Then you can put them into a cookie tin, with wax paper under and over them and between the layers.
A note cookie swap
For all you high powered business women that think you don't have time for such domestic tomfoolery. It can be a great networking party and you will meet new people. Many of these women work and/or own businesses. Encourage people that say "I don't bake" to attend. They're the ones that seem to enjoy it the most!
We have a great time and I encourage you all to try it! Let me hear from you if you decide to host your own exchange. Good Luck!
About: Website, Newsletters, Message Boards and Book.
The majority of information on this site was written and posted in 1997, when my site was the first and only website on the internet regarding how to host a cookie exchange (and completely alone for the first two years). Back then, I'd been hosting for 8 years and had come up with some ideas on how to boost cookie quality and attendance, both worked.
Fastforward more than a dozen years now and viola: My book, The Cookie Party Cookbook, The Ultimate Guide to Hosting a Cookie Exchange was published by St. Martin's Press/Macmillan in 2010, it's 352 pages and I'm quite confident that it lives up to its name. The book is a culmination of my two decades of hosting, along with all the knowledge shared by thousands of women over the last 15 years, through email, responses from my newsletters, the message boards and now of course, Facebook.
If you love the Cookie Exchange, then you will love my book.