I went to the sweetest little holiday party at my friend Caley’s house last night – a cookie exchange! I had never been to one before and I had such a good time. I grew up with my mom going to them most Decembers, and I fondly remember being quite excited about the big tray of festive goodies she’d bring home for us to share. While I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and find myself sneaking spice of some kind into most things I make, I whipped up a really delicious batch of candied ginger snap molasses cookies to take along and they were a hit. I am notorious for mixing up baking powder and baking soda, and for misreading recipes and doing steps too soon, but this time I read everything twice before beginning and the cookies turned out better than expected. And chewy! The true mark of a good cookie, if you ask me. For those wanting to know how a cookie exchange works, here’s how Caley organized everything, along with the recipe I followed.
How to Host a Holiday Cookie Exchange:
- Send the Invites | The hosts used Paperless Post to send out evites which included the following bits of information:
- RSVP details.
- Make a batch or two of your favorite holiday cookies to share.
- And don’t forget to bring along the recipe.
- Keep the Guest List Small | There were nine of us total and it was the perfect amount of gals to gather and chat over mulled wine and sweet treats. We sat in a cozy circle in Caley’s living room, and went around sharing favorite holiday traditions along with stories about motherhood. When hosting an in-home party, you may want to consider creating an intimate environment for your guests, so more than 12 or 15 might be too large to really get to know everyone attending. Caley and her friend Holly hosted this party together, and each host invited several guests. This made for a really fun dynamic because not everyone knew one another. It was refreshing to meet new people and mingle!
- Share a Christmas Tradition | When my turn came, I shared my love of ornaments and how I would get one every Christmas when I was little, usually the annual Hallmark daughter ornament with the year on it. When I moved away from home I got to take the box of all my childhood ornaments with me, and now they hang on our family tree next to the small ornament collections we are growing for each of our babies. We let them pick theirs each year, and I mark them with the date on the bottom. They are treasures and I love that we are continuing something I grew up with and hold dear.
- Offer Mulled Wine + Charcuterie | For food and drinks mulled wine was offered, as well as a simple spread of meats and cheeses. Since the party was in the evening, this was the perfect. Guests filled plates with nibbles, along with cookies of course, and sipped wine spiced with orange and cloves. See recipe below.
- Decorate With Lights and Candles | Decorating for your holiday cookie exchange depends on the time of day you host it, but if you choose to do so in the evening, which I think you should, twinkle lights and candles are the way to go. I came over early to help set up and we put candles everywhere to create a warm glow throughout her home. It was really beautiful and added a charming surprise when guests walked through the door.
- Give Some Goodies | After siping and sharing, guests were given a goodie box to create their own assortments from the different cookies brought. The hosts also gave recipe cards for guests to copy down recipes they loved, with a cookie cutter to pick out and take home.
- Keep it Short and Sweet | The whole evening lasted about two hours and was just the perfect little party to kick off the holidays. I got to spend time with new friends and get to know old ones better. It was a mid-week treat and something I hope becomes a new tradition for me! As soon as I got home I heard little feet running down the hall upstairs. Stella came down in her red fleece robe and had to see what cookies mama brought home. I let her choose one, even though it was way past bedtime, and then the two of us sat in the kitchen cookies in hand with warm milk. Each of the kids had a cookie for breakfast this morning, which probably wasn’t my best idea, but that’s what the holidays are all about!
Chewy Candied Ginger Snap Molasses Cookies
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup cane sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ cup molasses
- 2 drops food-grade orange essential oil (optional)
- 2 eggs
- 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1/8 cup chopped candied ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt
To prepare, whisk together dry ingredients (without sugars): flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. Using a separate mixing bowl, cream the softened butter and both sugars until well mixed. Add in the eggs, molasses, candied ginger, and essential oil (if using) and mix until each is combined. Gradually add in the dry ingredient mixture and mix until it is evenly incorporated. Transfer dough to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2+ hours. Preheat oven to 350°F and either roll the dough into small balls about 1-inch in diameter or mold into a large square about 1/2 inch thick and cut with cookie cutters. Roll or dip in cane sugar until completely coated. Place dough balls or shapes on prepared baking sheet, and bake for 8-10 minutes (less baking time if making smaller shapes or cutouts). Transfer to wire rack to cool. Will keep stored in airtight container for one week, or will freeze for up to 3 months.
*recipe adapted from Gimme Some Oven
Simple Mulled Wine
- 1 bottle of red wine
- 4 cups apple cider or apple juice
- zest and juice 1 orange
- 2 star anise
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
To prepare, gently simmer all the ingredients (except for the wine) on the stove for 30 minutes. Stir in the wine and heat through. Serve warm in mugs with a dried orange slice.
Here are a few other kinds of cookies guests made…
There was a wide range of everything, from talented meringues to cute little bears with bowties. I didn’t get too creative, but ginger molasses cookies are by far my favorite cookies, and I especially love them with the chewy candied ginger inside. They are delicious year-round, and extra special when cut into fun shapes for the season like stars and moons to symbolize these darker months of winter. These are going to be my cookie party staple from here on out, and I have a feeling I’ll be making many more this season to share with friends! I hope you enjoy them. xx Amanda