The Great Cookie Caper

The Great Cookie Caper

By Kathryn M. D’Imperio

The holidays are edging ever-closer and you know what that means – it’s almost time for Christmas cookies! Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, butter, sugar, gingerbread… it’s tough to find a cookie you don’t like, at least in my family. Still, it can be a challenge to find enough time and energy to make all the different flavors of cookies you love, regardless of the season. For this very reason, cookie exchanges (and social cookie bakes) can be the perfect solution to getting the variety without the stress.

A cookie exchange can be as simple as each friend in a group whipping up a batch of their favorite cookies and sharing them out by the dozen in exchange for a set of everyone else’s cookies. It can also be a bit more complicated where cookie flavors are assigned or claimed among friends, coworkers, or family. The most important part of the cookie swap is probably the actual handoff. Some cookie exchange participants might wish to swap cookies quickly on the fly amidst the busy holiday season while others may want to make a fun festivity of it, planning a true cookie extravaganza with plates of all the different cookie flavors set out for everyone to sample and enjoy.

A cookie bake, or holiday baking party devoted to mixing up as many cookie batches as possible, can be a wonderful holiday tradition for family and friends of all ages. Such an event can accommodate just a few guests or bakers by the dozen, leaving little room in the kitchen, but certainly maximizing your cookie output potential.

Should you choose this route for your cookie exchange party, have everyone bring a pack of quart or gallon size zip storage bags so they can take home a variety of all the cookies your group chooses to make. It can also be helpful to choose the most organized person of the bunch to figure out the baking order of the intended cookies based on oven temperature and whether or not the dough needs to chill in the refrigerator.

Part of the beauty of a cookie exchange is that you can focus on your favorite cookie and make it as beautiful and amazing as possible, and still come home with half a dozen or more other cookie varieties. You may find it helpful to assign some ground rules for the cookie party. For example, tell guests how many dozen cookies they need to bring and be very clear that cookies must be homemade – none of this store-bought or premade cookie mix nonsense.

You might want to order food or make some hors d’oeuvres and easy entrees in slow cookers ahead of time so that you and your guests can keep the cookies in pristine condition until you are ready to exchange them. Or, you can always just get right to it and let everyone dig into the cookies Cookie Monster style. After all, when else do you get to enjoy dozens of different cookies as far as the eye can see?

Fun Cookie Recipes for Your Next Cookie Exchange

No matter if you plan to host a cookie baking party or simply take in a few batches for your office cookie exchange, there’s something to be said for the soothing benefits of baking. In groups or in solitude, you can really find a love of mixing, combining and decorating the cookies, ending up with lovely, edible snacks everyone is sure to love.

You’ve probably already got a favorite chocolate chipper and sugar cookie, so consider these cookie flavors as new additions for the holiday section in your recipe box.


A popular Lehigh Valley favorite, these Hungarian cookies take some time but can be a fun group cookie to make. The dough is very easy to make; it’s the rolling, cutting, filling and sprinkling that seem to take the most time.

1/2 lb. butter, softened
2 c. flour
1/2 lb. cream cheese

1. Cream together the butter and cream cheese.
2. Add the flour and mix until dough is smooth.
3. Chill the dough overnight.
4. Roll the dough in powdered sugar and cut it into two-inch squares. (You can also roll the dough into a circle and cut it like a pizza if you prefer crescent-shaped cookies.)
5. On each square, add a spoonful of jam, preserves or filling containing prunes, apricot or walnuts.
6. Roll up the squares or pinch in the centers so some filling is still exposed and colorful.
7. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown.
8. Once the cookies are cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Candy Cane Cookies

The candy cane cookies are a longtime favorite holiday cookie recipe in my family. I make them every year around Christmastime and they always go fast. It’s a fun cookie to make with friends or family, and the rolling and twisting of the dough is quite therapeutic.

1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. margarine or butter, softened
1/2 c. shortening
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red food coloring
1/2 c. granulated sugar


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Mix together powdered sugar, margarine, shortening, egg, almond extract and vanilla.
3. Stir in salt and flour.
4. Divide dough into halves.
5. Tint one half with food coloring.
6. For each candy cane, shape 1 tsp. dough from each part into a four-inch rope.
7. For smooth, even stripes, roll back and forth on a lightly floured board or one dusted with powdered sugar.
8. Place one red and one white strip side-by-side until you run out of room.
9. Press together lightly and twist.
10. Curve the top down to form the handle of the cane.
11. Complete the cookies one at a time and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.
12. Bake until set and very light brown, about 9 minutes.
13. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with granulated sugar.
14. Remove from cookie sheet, cool, and enjoy.

This recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies.

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