Illustrations and photos via CakeSpy unless otherwise noted
Here’s a topic which will make your entertaining top-notch: how to make a cookie table.
In case you’re not familiar with the phenomenon: at weddings, oddly enough especially in the Pittsburgh area, it’s not unheard-of to have what is called a “cookie table.” The reality is just about as magical as it sounds: A table completely dedicated to a bounty of hundreds of cookies of all types, which are enjoyed at the banquet. Leftovers are then taken home by guests, in a deliciously grown-up version of a party favor bag.
But why limit the cookie table to just weddings? A tradition this sweet can be enjoyed year-round. The holidays are a perfect time to incorporate a cookie table in your entertaining, since it can so easily be combined with another great holiday tradition, the cookie swap!
Here are some awesome cookie table ideas to get you in a party mood.
Tip #1: It takes a village…
Candy cane cookies via Craftsy
You don’t have to do all of the baking yourself. A cookie table can be a collaborative effort, with guests bringing their favorite cookies and contributing display stands if needed. If you are going to ask for assistance, be sure to coordinate with everyone who is baking to make sure that they make a consistent number of cookies and that there isn’t too much overlap with recipes.
Tip #2: Bake in advance.
Don’t do all of the the baking the day before. Not only is it stressful, but it doesn’t give you much leeway if something goes wrong. Cookies tend to freeze beautifully, so you can bake them in advance and let them come to room temperature before serving.
Tip #3: Know your numbers.
A good general rule to figure out how many cookies to make is to multiply the number of guests times ten for each recipe. So, if you have ten guests and you’re making chocolate chip cookies, your yield should be 100 cookies. It might seem like a lot, but you can’t overestimate the fact that people love cookies, and that it’s nice to have extra so that they can each take a container home at the end of the party.
Note: If this seems excessive or you know from previous experience that this will simply be way too many cookies, you can scale down the amount to 6 cookies per person.
Tip #4: Size it down.
This tip goes hand in hand with the one above. Since you want people to sample cookies, be sure to serve them in small portions. While a saucer-sized cookie has its time and place, a cookie table is better suited to smaller bites so that people can try a little of everything. With bar cookies, this is easy: simply slice into smaller portions. If you are baking cookies smaller than the recipe specifies, keep an eye on the bake time, as they may be finished sooner.
Tip #5: Keep it classic, for the most part.
Pie crust cookies via Craftsy
It’s fun to have some new recipes in the mix on you cookie table, but be sure to have a strong representation of the classics. These are the ones that people gravitate toward and expect; plus, they’re the ones you’ve probably baked enough times that you’ve perfected the recipes.
Tip #6: Consider portability.
If your intent is to have guests take the leftover cookies, don’t stock the tables with gooey cookies that might be hard to transport. This doesn’t mean you can’t serve Nanaimo bars, but make sure that the harder to transport cookies are the minority on your cookie table. Make sure to have plenty of sturdier cookies which will pack well, such as butter cookies, drop cookies, and unfrosted bar cookies.
Tip #7: Display the cookies prettily
Be sure to have ample trays and display plates to make the cookies look pretty. You can reach out to guests to lend them if you don’t have enough. Choose plates of different heights and shapes to create a visual appeal.
Tip #8: Label the cookies.
Labeling the cookies with a name and any dietary concerns will help your entertaining go smoothly. It doesn’t have to be too involved, but if a cookie is gluten-free or vegan, identify it as such so that those with dietary restrictions know where to dig in. Plus, knowing the names of the cookies and who baked them can act as a conversation starter.
Tip #8: Provide printed recipes
It’s a wonderful idea to give guests copies of the recipes so that they can recreate their favorites at home.
Tip #9: Necessary extras
Latte via Craftsy
It’s only thoughtful to stock your cookie table with the necessary cookie-eating accessories. Coffee, tea, water, and other beverages are a must to accompany a cookie table. Be sure to have plenty of napkins, cups, and plates. Place a waste bin nearby so that guests can easily discard napkins, coffee stirrers, and other detritus.
Tip #10: Get containers for leftovers!
Have baggies, boxes, or tins available end of your event so that guests can take cookies home.
Bonus: Go designer!
To up your decorating ante, check out Craftsy course Decorating Essentials: Designer Cookies. Along with confectionary artist Autumn Carpenter, you’ll learn to design and decorate creative cookies that satisfy sweet tooths, ignite imaginations and amaze family and friends. From creating stylish patterns to embossing rolled fondant to even hand-painting, this course will teach you how to create elegant, showstopping cookies.