How to Host a Cookie Exchange

Tips, recipes and the history behind the beloved American tradition

by Abbie Pumarejo | Thu, December 08, 2016

As we enter this festive season, and more emphasis is placed on time with family, enjoying delicious seasonal food and drinks, what better time to host a cookie exchange? Considered an American holiday tradition, the cookie exchange is a wonderful way to get into the spirit, while building your recipe repertoire. Although it’s unclear when cookie swaps officially began, according to Robin Olson, author of The Cookie Party Cookbook, the earliest documented event happened in Syracuse, New York in 1936 during a town meeting. However, Olson goes on to state on her website,, that more information has been found to indicate that cookie swaps can be traced as far back as the late 1800s. Hanady Awada, our Food File columnist, is a big fan of the tradition, and recently hosted her Second Annual Cookie Exchange, complete with prizes and a festive house full of laughter among neighbors and friends. She was kind enough to share some tips on how we can host our own party.

Some Guidelines to get you started:

  • The more the merrier! There is no limit to the number of guests, and it is highly recommended to invite your international friends and neighbors for a larger variety of unique recipes. Hanady’s 20 invitees hailed from Canada, Denmark, Germany, Lebanon, Sweden and the US.
  • Send out the invitations at least two weeks in advance. While it’s tempting to host the party on a Saturday, opt for a weeknight instead, so guests can bake the cookies on the weekend and they’ll be ready to travel on the day.
  • Plan to have a co-host. That way you can divide and conquer on the night. While Hanady organized the invitations, prizes, plates and speech, her co-host, Lisa Algstam, helped make the house festive and greeted guests. They both agreed that keeping wine and water glasses full was an essential part of the role.
  • Provide place cards or labels for guests to write down the names of the cookies.
  • Don’t forget the music. Make sure to keep it low so people can talk, “ooh and ahh” over the delicious cookies and mingle.
  • Cookies mean sugar! To avoid a sugar high and subsequent crash, provide some light snacks like chips, cheese and crackers, vegetables and dip for people to cleanse their palate from all the sweets.
  • Make sure to offer drinks like tea, coffee, milk, wine and plenty of water.


Hanady's sweet swap lasted from 8pm-10:30pm and was highlighted by prizes given for cookies in three different categories. While guest mingled and sampled each other’s creations, they also voted for their favorite recipe. The prizes included a snowman cookie jar, a Santa cookie plate and box of delicious treats worth ¥300 from Sugar Mamas.

Best Taste: Raspberry Caves with Meringue (recipe to follow)

Most Unique: Gingerbread Truffles

Most Creative: Panda Cookies


“It was a great way to get to know new neighbors better, and laugh with old friends,” said Awada of the evening. Her suggestions for guests who are new to the idea but want to create a successful event would be to offer a helping hand during clean-up or bring the hostess a small thank-you gift.


Winning Cookie Recipe: Raspberry Caves with Meringue (Makes about 20 cookies)

Dough Ingredients:

1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
130 gr butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar 
1 egg yolk 
1 jar of raspberry jam

Meringue ingredients:

2 egg whites 
3/4 (heaping) cup of granulated sugar
Chopped almonds for decoration 


1. Heat oven to 175°C. Combine the ingredients for dough in a food processor or by hand. Don’t over work the dough. Let it rest in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 
2. Roll the dough into a "sausage" with a diameter of approximately 3cm. Cut in 1cm thick pieces.

3.Place on un-greased cookie sheet and make a hole with your thumb (without punching through the dough completely) and fill it with raspberry jam. 
4. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10-15 min or until light golden.
5. While cookies are pre-baking, make the meringue. Whip the egg whites into hard foam and carefully add the sugar while whipping on high speed until you have a firm merengue.
6. When cookies are ready, pipe the meringue onto the cookies and sprinkle the almonds on top.

7. Put back into the oven and bake for 5-10 minutes or until the merengue has a hard surface and is turning light brown.