Holiday Cookie Exchange Recipe

Holiday Cookie Exchange Recipe

Candy-Cane-Cookie-My friend Amy invited to my first Cookie Exchange. I’m excited to experience this first hand, but I can’t decide which recipe to use. This holiday tradition is a great way to have multiple kinds of holiday cookies to eat and share, without having to do all the baking yourself. The guests of the party have been asked to each bring 3 dozen cookies and I presume we’ll leave with 3 dozen different cookies. Over the next few blog posts, I’ll share a few of my favorite cookie recipes and you can let me know which one or two I should bring to the party. I’ll share photos and maybe you’ll be inspired to have your own exchange.

Every since we were little kids, my mom, my brother and I would make a double batch of sugar cookies a few days before Christmas. We’d use our favorite cookie cutter shapes, frost them with food coloring added to store bought vanilla cake frosting and decorate them like the great artists we thought we were. We’d make crooked, slightly burned, and overly frosted cookies w/ garish colors that only a mother could love. It never dawned on us to take pictures of them –we just gobbled them up! I’ve improved a bit since those grade school days and I’m sure you have too. Get your kids to help you with these or make them yourself. If you’re not too frazzled by the holidays and can devote a few hours; it’s really fun!

Iced and Decorated Sugar Cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest


Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Beat the butter and both sugars in another medium bowl. Use an electric mixer on medium-high speed just until light and fluffy, about 30 seconds. Add the egg yolks, vanilla, lemon zest and mix well. Slowly add the flour mixture, and continue beating until the dough comes together, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Divide dough in half, pat into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Roll out dough on lightly floured, clean counter, until about 1/3-inch thick. Lightly flour each cookie cutter before use, shaking off the excess and cut into desired shapes. Place them on parchment paper lined baking sheets, leaving about 1-inch between cookies. Gather the dough scraps together, pat into a disk, chill and repeat until all the dough is cut into shapes. Refrigerate cookies while preheating the oven to 375 degrees F, for at least 30 minutes.

Bake the cookies, until the bottoms are golden, about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool a few minutes on baking sheets before transfer to a rack to cool. Wait until cookies completely cool or the frosting will melt and slide into a big mess. Decorate as desired. Make your own frosting or use store bought.

Experiment with store bought frosting:

  • Put ½ cup or so of frosting each into several small bowls. Have one butter or palette knife ready for each bowl to keep colors and flavors separate.
  • Try adding flavorings such as peppermint or orange zest.
  • Make different colors by using a few drops of food coloring and stirring well to fully incorporate the color.
  • After frosting the cookies, get creative with colored sprinkles MM’s or crushed candy canes. Draw initials, faces, patterns; use multiple colors or make them solid – have fun with it!
  • Let frosting set about an hour before storing cookies so that they don’t smear all over each other when storing.
  • Place a few in cellophane bags with holiday themed labels and bows for gifts.
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