Web Exclusive: The Cookie Crunch

Our guide to a festive (and budget-friendly) cookie-decorating party.

December 2008

Downtown twinkles with lights, and the presents are tucked away. The only thing left to do is bake the holiday cookies and connect with close friends before family officially lays claim to your time. But don't compromise here. Simply combine the two for a festive afternoon (or evening) of mingling and cookie decorating. (You make the cookies and invite your friends over to decorate.) No need to wring your hands planning this shindig. The invites, recipes, decorations, music, snacks, and cocktails have all been selected for you—with a tight budget in mind. All that's left to do is pick a date.

The Cookies:
Make all of these inventive cookie recipes up to two days in advance. But wait to prepare the finishing touches—icing and sprinkles—until about an hour before your guests arrive. (See each recipe for pre-party and day-of instructions.)

Hot Cocoa Swizzle Sticks
Eggnog Sandwich Cookies
Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
Holiday Wreath Jumbles

The Menu:
With cookies and frostings galore, guests won't have room for a huge meal. Instead, serve a few sweet and savory appetizers—plus festive cocktails to really get the creative juices flowing.

Orange Pecans
Gruyère Puffs
Pomegranate Sparklers
Chai Eggnog with Rum

Tip: If you want to serve dinner, consider a simple soup, like butternut squash, with a side of crusty French bread. Make it yourself, or (even easier) put a call in to Platt Park's Pajama Baking Company (1595 S. Pearl St., 303-733-3622). With a few days notice, the shop will whip up a tasty order for pick-up.

The Invitations:
E-vites are so passé. Send invitations by post for a personal touch. Scribbles stationery store in Lower Highland (2368 15th St., 303-477-1677) sells invitations that are perfectly themed for this occasion ($1.60 each, pictured).

Tip: Look for an invitation—like those at Scribbles—with a detachable recipe card. Ask each guest, prior to the party, to fill out the card with a favorite cookie recipe. Make a dozen photocopies. At the cookie bash, set up a separate table, or "recipe station," with the copied recipes, a hole punch, and a selection of holiday ribbon. Guests can grab the recipes they like and put together a take-home recipe book.

The Decorations:
A traditional cookie party wouldn't be complete without an old-fashioned gingerbread house as a centerpiece. But no need to make it yourself. Place an order with the acclaimed Elegant Bakery (3278 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Unit 3, Lakewood, 303-322-7708) for a sugary structure that's made to order and sure to please.

The Party Favors:
In this case, the cookies themselves are the favors. But don't just wrap them up in plain-old tinfoil. These treats deserve more love than last night's dinner. The Container Store (2500 E. First Ave., 303-336-0909) has a plethora of holiday-fabulous boxes, tins, tubes, and gadgets for packaging the cookies. Our favorite is the vintage-inspired Deer & Snowflakes tin ($6.99). For a special touch, buy one for each guest and personalize it with a name. At the end of the party, guests can fill the tins with their favorites.

The Playlist:
An upbeat mix of holiday classics and sugar-themed oldies will get everyone in the cookie-decorating spirit.

Sugar by Louis Armstrong
Linus and Lucy from A Charlie Brown Christmas
A Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives
Sugar, Sugar by The Archies
Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! by Harry Connick, Jr.
Santa Claus is Back in Town by Elvis Presley
It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas by Perry Como
Sugar by Stevie Wonder
White Christmas by Bing Crosby
Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones

Party Tips:

  • Make enough of each recipe so that everyone can bring home at least one dozen cookies.
  • Encourage foodie friends to bring their own homemade cookies to decorate, too. The more the merrier.
  • Be sure to have plenty of plastic wrap, wax paper, and tinfoil on hand for the take-home wrap-up.
  • For a kid-friendly party, set up a separate, kids-only decorating table. Load it with sugar cookies, colorful frosting, sprinkles, red hots, gumdrops, and chocolate chips, plus aprons for messes and spoons for spreading. This should keep the little ones busy for hours.