The smell of fresh baking in the kitchen is a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season and while baking is as much a holiday tradition as stockings and carols, it can be time consuming. This year, invite family and friends to a low-key, high-payoff cookie swap where everyone will reap the sweet rewards with an array of delicious desserts for a fraction of the effort. In the meantime, you’re Signature home fills with laughter, holiday spirit and sweet-smelling desserts. Now that’s a sweet deal. Here are a few tips for throwing a festive holiday shindig that’s anything but cookie-cutter.

Set the Date, Send the Invites: You will want to have the party close enough to the holidays so the cookies will last, but not so late that you get caught up in the last-minute rush. Each guest will walk away with a stash of assorted cookies and plenty of new recipes. Shoot for 8 to 10 friends who like to bake and who will have fun spending an evening together. Typically, guests bake a dozen cookies for every attendee. But a half dozen would work if the party is large. In the invitation, ask each guest to bring their favorite holiday cookies, and to send you the recipe ahead of time.

Ready, Set, Go: Set a large table with festive bowls and platters to hold each guest’s contributions. Mixing in a few elevated stands will help maximize table space and visual appeal. Make place cards and set them in front of the platters for easy identification and selection. You can provide paper bakery boxes and festive twine for guests to package and take home their cookies or ask each guest to bring his or her own plastic containers or cookie tins. Gather all of the participant’s selected cookie recipes and print copies of them for each guest to take home.

Provide Bites and Sips: Be sure to offset all those sweet treat samplings during the party by serving simple savory foods to your guests. Consider non-sweet dishes like vegetable dips or finger sandwiches. Sips pairings like hot spiced tea, egg nog, coffee, festive punch and sparkling wine will compliment your cookie tasting. 

Include the Kids: A little advance thinking and prep for the kids can go a long way. An easy to prepare cookie-decorating station will keep them happily entertained. Set out cooled, undecorated gingerbread people or sugar cookies in festive shapes and an assortment of frosting, candies, and sprinkles. Disposable, personalized paper aprons and chef’s hats will allow them to decorate in style. Snacks and cold milk or even a hot cocoa bar are perfect cookie pairings for the little ones. Jazz things up with a peppermint or Mexican hot chocolate recipe.

Winner, winner: Select a small prize for the best tasting cookie recipe, and the best presentation for your guests. Let everyone vote for their favorites!

Sweet Inspiration: Gingersnaps, macaroons, snickerdoodles, shortbread, no-bake cookies – how will you decide? Here are a few delicious festive cookie recipes fit for your cookie exchange and any holiday celebration.

Brown Sugar Butterscotch Cookies

Chocolate Almond Meringues

Pecan Lace Cookies

Cinnamon-Spiced Hot Chocolate Cookies

Raspberry Sugar Cookie Sandwiches

Chocolate-Mint Cookies

Follow these steps and you’ll enjoy a party with friends, food, festive cheer, and enough sweets to last you the rest of the season. Plus, plenty of new recipes to test out when your stash of sweets runs out. Visit our Signature Homes Pinterest Boards with more pins on our favorite winter things including more recipes to fill your table.

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