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cookies on a tray

How to Host a Cookie Swap Party

Get your crew together for some baking fun. These cookie swap ideas are perfect for entertaining at home, plus a recipe for beautiful, pansy-topped shortbread cookies everyone will enjoy.

6 min read

My family hosts a cookie swap party every year during the holidays. Ours is a whole-day baking extravaganza. Everyone gathers at the same house to bake, and then we taste test our treats afterwards. We always make a few tried-and-true cookies — chocolate chip, peanut butter — the basics you can easily cook with kids. But we also like to throw in some oddballs. My brother made fig-based cookies one year, and I made some that came out purple thanks to a secret ingredient (frozen blueberries). No matter what we bake, it’s always a good time.

But here’s the thing: A cookie swap party doesn’t have to be relegated to the holidays. They’re the perfect rainy day activity anytime of year or when you’re looking for a crowd-pleasing project to do with kids or the whole family. After all, who doesn’t love to swap sweets? Here’s how to plan your own cookie swap party:

cookie dough on cookie slicer and baking tray

Start with the Details

First things first: You’ll need to figure out the details of how you envision the party will go. Will you have an in-person cookie swap? Or a virtual party where everyone decorates cookies together and mails them to one another? Will you bake in the same house or will guests arrive with their cookies already made? Your answers will naturally depend on how many people you plan to invite, how long you have for the party, and any space constraints you have in your kitchen. Once you have a sense of how you want the party to run, you can create invites with detailed instructions so your guests know exactly how to prepare, what to bring, and how many cookies to make.  

Decide on a Theme (if You Want One)

If you can’t decide on cookie swap ideas for what to actually bake, a theme is a great way to go. Maybe you want to have a mermaid-themed swap, or a party highlighting a specific ingredient, like ginger cookies. You could even have a cookie swap party that restricts what guests can use, like a party that requires everyone to start with slice-and-bake cookies and get creative from there. Once you land on a theme, you’ll be able to come up with ideas for what cookies to make, how to decorate them, and how to decorate your house for the party as well.

decorated cookies on cookie sheet

Get Baking

Let the fun begin! If people are baking at your home, make sure you have all the necessary tools and utensils on hand (or ask people to bring some too). You may also want to let them know about any quirks of your stove. Everyone’s home is different, so providing guests with cookie baking tips for your specific kitchen will be appreciated. If everyone is baking in separate locations, you could consider asking them to do the decorating when they arrive, so the party still has a fun, hands-on component to it.

decorate cookies on tray

Separate Cookies Equally

Once the cookies are ready to be shared, split them up evenly and be sure to label each cookie type with a small card that lists out the name of the cookie and any allergens. Then let everyone sort out the amount on their own. Don’t like spritz cookies? No problem, swap those for your friend’s chocolate cookies. As long as everyone gets the option to try everything at least once, no one will leave disappointed. The easiest way to tackle this is to put all the cookies out on a big table and let everyone walk around to grab which ones they want. For added competition, you can have guests vote on their favorites and give out prizes to the winners. As the party winds down, provide take-away containers or paper plates with foil so everyone can safely cart their cookies home.

Looking for a cookie swap idea that will win everyone over? Try these pansy-topped shortbread cookies. They’re a gorgeous crowd-pleaser that are easier to make than they look. (Quick tip: If you’re short on time, mix the ingredients in a stainless steel mixing bowl — the dough will stay cooler and won’t need to chill for as long.)

jelly cookies with powdered sugar on cookie tray

Pansy-Topped Shortbread Cookies


Cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is fluffy.
Mix in the flour, salt if using, and extract until well-combined.
Roll the dough into a 2-inch-wide log and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Chill for at least one hour.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Once the dough is chilled, unwrap it and slice it into 48 equally-sized rounds, about a half-inch thick. Place the rounds on the parchment, with about an inch between each cookie. NOTE: You can also roll out the dough and use cookie cutters, or use a cookie press, which will be your best friend for making lots of cookies in a short period of time.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies just start to turn golden brown.
As soon as the cookies are done, pull them out of the oven and lightly tap a flower bloom onto the top of each one. The heat from the cookie will cause the flower to stick. Sprinkle a bit of sugar lightly on top of the cookies for added sweetness.


decorate cookies on tray
cookies on cooling rack

Looking for more cookie swap ideas? Head to the OXO blog for recipes, like ginger fortune cookies, lemon sandwich cookies, or salted chocolate chip cookies.


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