For years, I have been dreaming up my ideal holiday girls' get-together. I'm convinced I not only found the solution, but I discovered my new annual holiday tradition—The Caramelized Cookie Swap!
A few weeks prior, I sent a cookie-swap themed invitation, on which each guest was asked to bring a dozen homemade cookies made with her favorite recipe. Though I was a bit anxious that I had no control over the menu, I couldn't have been more impressed with my friends' creative array of cookies, which ranged from lemon-pistachio to oatmeal-cherry-toffee.
The twelve of us gathered on a late Sunday morning to share sweets, sip mimosas, decorate shortbread cookies with playful holiday sprinkles, share a top-your-own oatmeal bar, and catch up on our crazy-busy lives.
For the tablescape, my dining room table was transformed into the ultimate cookie presentation platform. A chalk paper table runner provided the foundation for pops of white plates and colorful cookies. I used a chalk pen on the table runner to label each cookie flavor as my guests arrived. An especially appropriate centerpiece was a chocolate ganache "naked" cake with vanilla bean frosting from Smallcakes Bakery in Collierville, Tennessee. Its gorgeous presentation literally heightened the occasion— on a stack of my favorite baking cookbooks—while complementing the party's sweet-tooth theme.
Stainless steel baking equipment and accessories dotted the tabletop, adding texture and structure to the otherwise simple white dessert plates. I especially loved how cooling racks anchored our cookie options, while icing tips and cookie press molds studded the display, just like ornaments on a Christmas tree!
On one end of the table, an interactive cookie-decorating station gave each guest a chance to ice and sprinkle an oversized shortbread cookie. Hanukkah and Christmas colors were available, as well as snowflake and gingerbread-shaped mini sprinkles. The girls loved being able to customize their own treats amongst the already-prepared cookie choices.
Cara Greenstein is author of the award-winning, Memphis-based food and lifestyle brand Caramelized. A bonafide foodie and entertaining expert, Cara shares a wealth of inspiration for the kitchen and home, as well as guides for outings in Memphis and across the South. Her latest venture, the Caramelized Supper Club, offers a "dinner party in a box" subscription service for convenient and creative at-home entertaining.