The year was 1990, and we had just moved to Minnesota. As a way to get to know my new neighbors, I hosted a cookie exchange. It was great fun as the women walked into my home with all those cookies—a true bonding experience—and we formed many lasting friendships that evening.
Cookie exchanges have been around for at least 70 years, as documented by a 1936 newspaper article about women getting together to swap cookies. These events are still primarily “ladies only” events, hosted by relatives, friends, neighbors, women’s groups, social clubs, churches and schools.
Having moved four times during the 20 years we have lived in Minnesota, I’ve hosted many cookie exchange groups, and our “cookie exchange” has changed. We now get together and actually mix, bake and then divide the cookies we make that evening. One of the women attended my very first exchange 20 years ago! It’s a fun night of catching up and learning new baking and decorating techniques. And it is such a wonderful way to share good food. Here are some tips to help you have a fun cookie exchange:
- Set the date early, before holiday schedules become too hectic.
- Invite 4 to 10 cookie bakers. Remember, the more people you invite, the more cookies everyone will have to make. However, the more guests, the greater variety and quantity of cookies you’ll receive.
- Ask participants to bake one dozen cookies for each participant, plus extra cookies for sampling at the exchange.
- Avoid duplication by having your friends tell you in advance about the cookies they’ll bring. Encourage them to choose a family favorite or one specific to their family traditions. Ask participants to make copies of their recipes to share.
- Suggest that cookies be placed in see-through containers or packages, so the contents can be viewed easily. Recommend guests bring an empty container for taking cookies home. All containers and lids should be marked with the owner’s name to prevent mix-ups with look-alike containers.
- Select a recipe that makes a large quantity. Choose a festive recipe that tastes and looks special.
- Choose a cookie that travels and holds up well, since participants will have to transport the cookies to and from the exchange.
- Bar, drop, slice and bake, and cutout cookies are the best “travelers.” Tender, fragile cookies are apt to crumble when transported.
- Make sure that cookies are thoroughly cooled before packaging.
- Wrap cookies individually, in back-to-back pairs, or in small stacks.