Taste is most important, but Southern bakers know presentation also matters.

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Truth be told, when you pry the lid off a tin of homemade chocolate chip cookies, you really aren’t too concerned with how those sweet treats are arranged. The idea behind a cookie tin is, after all, to simply package and transfer delicious cookies to the lucky recipient. But Southern bakers all agree that when baking, presentation is often just as important as the quality of the baked item (hence the number of epic come-aparts we have when our pound cakes fall apart even though they still taste delicious). Like unlocking Grandma’s heirloom jewelry box, opening a holiday cookie tin should elicit exclamations of wonder and excitement.  If you go to the trouble of baking cookies to give to friends and loved ones, follow these unofficial rules for building a better cookie tin.

Choose the Right Mix

A tin filled with just one type of cookie is always welcome, but a tin filled with an assortment of holiday cookie favorites is always a crowd pleaser. Avoid any gooey bars, sticky frostings, or candy-coated goodies that could melt and cause a mess. Instead, select a mix of butter-based cookies, thick, chewy bars and squares, or crunchy biscotti. A variety of textures makes for an interesting tin, so add cookies with eye appeal. We like Linzer cookies and thumbprints with jewel-toned jam filling, pecan sandies with toasted nuts, and literally any cookie sprinkled with colored sanding sugar.

Design Your Own Packaging

Whether you use a metal tin or a sturdy, decorative box, you want to arrange your cookies so that nothing breaks while in transit. If your tin or box is too big or deep for the number of cookies you will be packaging, line the bottom with sheets of crinkled tissue paper. Always line cardboard containers with parchment or waxed paper and, to make an airtight tin more interesting, line the bottom and sides with corrugated paper.

Protect Your Baked Goods

Similar to packing clothes in a suitcase, there are different ways to package cookies too keep them safe and to maximize storage space. Layer cookies between sheets of waxed or parchment paper to keep them from sticking together or losing crispness. Envelop your cookies in tissue paper or buffer them using dividers made from short lengths of corrugated paper. Holiday-themed cupcake liners are great for stacking and separating different types of cookies. You can also tie a stack of cookies together with baker’s twine or colorful ribbon.

WATCH: Slice-and-Bake Cookies for Easy Holiday Baking

Novel Packaging Ideas

Sometimes in the case of a housewarming, you may want to give a little extra gift along with the cookies. Kitchen molds, utensil crocks, cake or loaf pans wrapped with colorful ribbons make attractive gift containers, and they serve the recipient long after the cookies are devoured.