Friday, December 16, 2011

A Love Birds' Guide to a Christmas Cookie Exchange

As a follow-up to yesterday's post I wanted to share more details about throwing a Christmas Cookie Exchange and my all-time favorite Christmas cookie recipe.

I vividly remember the first cookie exchange I went to as a child. It was actually a party my mom was invited to, but I came along. I remember seeing piles and piles of cookies everywhere and being completely excited and overwhelmed at the same time. I think this was one of the first times I tried buckeyes, an Ohio specialty, and I soon became obsessed with them.

The first cookie exchange I hosted was in 2007 when I first moved to NYC. I didn't have a lot of attendees and in 2008 when I was living in Queens while engaged I skipped having it and picked it back up when I returned to Harlem in 2009 after I got married. That time I did it as a brunch and made homemade buttermilk waffles topped with fresh whipped cream and blueberries but again had a poor turnout. Finally in 2010 I think things started going better because Lil Love Bird arrived and everyone was excited to see her! Having a prize for best cookie helped too. I repeated the prize this year. 

So quickly (before we get to the amazing recipe!), here are my basics for throwing a Christmas Cookie Exchange:
  • Timing - do it mid-afternoon so people have time to sleep in and it doesn't interfere with brunch or dinner; also 2nd Saturday of December tends to work for me and my friends
  • Balance - make sure to offer salty/healthy snacks to balance all the sugar; I like low-salt pretzels, potato chips and veggies and dip
  • Allow store-bought cookies - so many people are deterred because they don't bake so I reiterate in the Evite that store-bought cookies are ok (in fact a store-bought cookie won this year; it was a "monster cookie" from here)
  • Provide take-home containers - I think it's best to have the cookies laid out either in original packaging (if guests bring cute containers) or arrange them on your own tiers/cake stands with labels for guests to take at will (not everyone likes every cookie!); one year I used tins from Michaels but as the attendee list has become longer I do winter-themed bags and boxes from either there or The Container Store
  • Entertain - have fun music from Pandora and/or streaming Christmas movies in the background to add to the festivities
Now on to the recipe . . .

When I was a teen my mom made these Buried Cherry Cookies (her recipe was via a BHG cookbook, but I found the same recipe at My mom's always had the most elaborate assortment of Christmas cookies she'd bake every year that I remember from when I was little, but the later-introduction of the Buried Cherry Cookies stopped me dead in my tracks - they were life changing! SERIOUSLY. The best part about the cookies is the cherry in the middle. I know not everyone likes maraschino cherries but something about the fudginess of the cookie and the chocolate spooned on top (flavored with cherry juice) makes them so delicious.


1 (10 oz.) jar maraschino cherries (about 48)
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 (6 oz.) pkg. semi sweet chocolate pieces
1/2 c. sweetened condensed milk
Drain cherries and reserve juice. Stir together flour, cocoa, soda, powder and salt. In a large mixer bowl beat butter until soft. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Add flour mixture and blend well.

Shape dough into 1" balls. Place about 2" apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Press down center of each with your thumb. Place a cherry in each cookie.


In small saucepan combine chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk. Cook over low heat until chocolate is melted. Stir in 4 teaspoons of the reserved cherry juice. Spoon 1 teaspoon frosting over each cherry, swirling to completely cover cherry.


Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Remove to racks and cool. Makes about 48.*

*In my experience this recipe never yields 48 - I have to double it to get that many!

If you end up making them please let me know how you like them! 

What is your all time favorite Christmas cookie?