With the holidays just around the corner, the stress of finding the perfect gifts for friends, co-workers, family members, in-laws, acquaintances and everyone in between begins to creep up on us. Figuring out a budget, finding the perfect experiences or products to gift, deciding when to complete a gift exchange and finding the time to assemble everything for each individual can become a green and red frenzy for everyone involved.
However, this is just the time of year to show your love, appreciation and gratitude for those around you – and we all want to do our part to spread the holiday cheer, right? Simultaneously, this should be a time to enjoy good food and good times with those we love and not necessarily obsess about buying the perfect gifts. As it turns out, the perfect gift could be something you don’t buy at all, but rather, something that you make – cookie boxes.
Sure, many retailers specialize in dessert gift boxes that you can send anywhere in the country. But, what’s more fun – and personable – than making your own cookie boxes?
Homemade cookie boxes allow you to cater to different dietary needs while also baking what you know your companions will like. Plus, you get some leftovers to enjoy for yourself! Buying ingredients in bulk (many of which – like flour, butter, eggs, milk, salt, vanilla – can be used across different recipes) also makes this a relatively inexpensive gift to fit into any holiday budget.
Dedicating just one day to making up these cookie boxes will take care of gifts for everyone on your list. You can be as creative and festive as you choose by making smaller or bigger boxes that can easily be shipped. Plus, making something with your own hands shows how much you care. And you don’t even need to be a whiz in the kitchen to whip up something delicious and decorative.
What types of cookies are best for cookie boxes?
While you could just bake one type of cookie to fill up an entire box, it’s more in tradition to create many visually attractive treats using different holiday flavors within the cookie boxes you create.
Not every single fun ingredient or decoration can go into a single cookie. Instead, you want to hit different notes with different recipes so that your giftee can share with others and enjoy an assortment of special treats. Plus, it’s way more impressive to pile that box high with different types of exciting cookies – especially if they’re homemade.
Mixing and matching flavors, colors and textures is the goal with every box. Of course, not every cookie has to be Christmas-y, but you want some holiday representation in there, too. And you don’t want too many of the same type of cookie.
Here are some of the ideal cookie types you can try to include in your cookie boxes, but some can be omitted, switched up or combined based on tastes, dietary restrictions or if you’re working with a smaller box. A couple of recipes within the same category is perfectly fine, too. Plus, some cookies could count as fitting into more than one category.
- Frosted cookie – This could be a sugar cookie, a decorated gingerbread cookie, a lemon meltaway or an iced oatmeal cookie. Any cookie that requires the usage of a piping bag for decorating is your friend. Add some holiday-themed sprinkles for a wintry twist!
- Shortbread bar or cookie – Shortbread is a criminally underrated cookie-adjacent addition to any holiday package. Millionaire’s shortbread, shortbread logs and strawberry shortcake cookies all fall under the shortbread umbrella.
- Chocolate moment – This can be a peppermint bark brownie, a brownie cookie, a chocolate crinkle cookie, a double chocolate chip cookie, a hot chocolate cookie, red velvet cookie or really anything that’s fudgy, rich and indulgent. You may want to bake a couple of different chocolaty cookies; the possibilities here are endless!
- Self-decorating cookie – A self-decorating cookie looks “decorated” without requiring any actual decorating work after it gets out of the oven. Thumbprint cookies, peanut butter blossoms, pistachio pinwheels and Christmas crinkle cookies fall within this category. They’re so pretty and don’t require extra work to beautify them.
- Jammy/fruity cookie – Add a little brightness to your cookie boxes with a fruity cookie or two. Jammy cookies add a pop of natural color along with some tang and zest into the mix. A few great options are jam stars, raspberry white chocolate chip, frosted strawberry cookies, chocolate cherry cookies, Linzer cookies or orange spice cookies.
- A classic – This is when you want to break out the family recipe book. A snickerdoodle? Great. Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin or peanut butter cookies? Even a cheeky palmier? All familiar favorites.
- Holiday flavors – The best way to usher in some holiday fun is to make sure to include a few wintry flavors. Brown sugar chai cookies, gingersnaps, peppermint meltaways, double chocolate hazelnut cookies, eggnog cookies and white chocolate and cranberry cookies all hit the mark with holiday-related flavors.
- Non-cookie treats – Including something that’s not necessarily a cookie but still a treat will really round out your cookie boxes. This part can be as easy as throwing in a handful of Hershey’s kisses or something more hands-on. Popcorn ball wreaths, homemade pocky, chocolate dipped pretzels and peppermint bark are all fun little inclusions.
Of course, there’s really no wrong way to decide what to put in your box. Assembling a gift that plays with different flavors and looks, though, will really heighten this present from a “last-minute gift idea” to a “thoughtful holiday offering.” If wowing your friends is the goal, then variety is the key to achieving it.
We spoke with Petranka Atanasova, blogger and recipe developer behind the food blog Sunglow Kitchen, to get more insight into making the perfect cookie boxes. Atanasova writes about healthy, budget-friendly recipes with a focus on plant-based ingredients. She’s also a former chef at a local vegetarian restaurant, where she used to create seasonal menus and brainstorm and organize food events.
“When choosing the right cookies for a cookie box, it’s best to choose ones that will hold well when shipping and transporting,” Atanasova points out. “Try not to add cookies that are too soft or crumbly, they may fall apart.”
Before picking out the recipes you’ll be using, consider this advice – especially if you’ll be shipping your boxes by mail. “Variety is another thing you should keep in mind,” Atanasova adds. “It’s best to have at least three different types of cookies; it makes the box a lot more exciting.”
Catering to dietary restrictions
If you’re making more than one cookie box this year, which is ideal for this type of gift-giving, then it may seem a bit complicated to cater to different dietary restrictions. Being inclusive in your gift-giving, though, could be a major factor in how you plan out the holidays.
Some dietary restrictions to watch out for when baking cookies include: gluten intolerance/sensitivity, veganism and nut allergies. Of course, some of these are easier to cater to than others (nut allergies, for example). But vegans can still enjoy holiday cheer in the form of baked goods.
While it may seem like a good idea to make a separate box of cookies for your friends who have dietary restrictions, it may be easier, less expensive and more efficient to make most or all of your cookies from recipes that will accommodate everyone. If you consider yourself a rather adept baker, you can even make substitutions yourself while using a regular recipe.
However, if you’re a little unsure in the kitchen, vegan, gluten-free and nut-free recipes exist for pretty much every baked good you can think of. Many of the recipes linked above are already gluten-free, nut-free and/or vegan.
Another way to ensure that your giftees don’t accidentally consume something they shouldn’t is to include a small card listing the common allergens contained within the cookie box. Dairy, soy, seeds, eggs, wheat and any type of nut should be listed on this card, as those are the most common and relevant food allergies when it comes to baking. This card doesn’t even have to be decorative or fancy – just a quick note for each box you’re sending out will serve this purpose.
Assembling and packaging
The easiest and most fun part of this gift is putting it all together. By definition, cookie boxes are already a pretty low-waste gift option. Everything that goes into making them gets eaten, and since you’re baking the cookies yourself, there isn’t a lot of excess packaging involved. In order to keep this gift relatively eco-friendly, thinking about how you intend to package them is a must.
While they’re called cookie “boxes,” there’s no rule that it has to be arranged within a box at all. Purchasing reusable tins or receptacles of any kind to assemble your cookie assortment is a great way to ensure that no part of your cookie box will go to waste. You can find festive cookie tins at big stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, Target and The Container Store. These tins can be placed in a cardboard box for shipping, if necessary.
Or, visit your local thrift store for reusable tins from previous holiday years. If you’ve ever scoured the home goods section of a thrift store, you know that plenty of these tins end up on the shelves every year. A good wash and they’re ready to be used all over again!
Check out your local grocery store or dollar store for packing supplies, too. You can separate the cookies using tissue paper, cupcake liners, cellophane or cardboard. For a more rustic look, you don’t have to separate the cookies at all.
“For the box, you’ll want to choose a sturdy one that can handle shipping,” says Atanasova. “It’s best to use a smaller box so that the cookies don’t move around as much. I love to use a cardboard box with dividers, so I can keep each cookie separate. Also, make sure to line your box with parchment paper. It makes for a better presentation and will keep the cookies clean.”
And, when packing up the cookies, she advises to “be sure to add the heaviest cookies at the bottom, and the lighter at the top.
“Also, make sure to never package cookies warm,” Atanasova warns. “Always let them cool completely before wrapping and packaging.”
When you’ve completed your cookie boxes, the only thing left to do is deliver these gifts yourself or put them in the hands of your trusted mail carrier. Don’t forget to add a holiday card to the box before sending it off! Although cookies are a sweet and warm way to bring brightness into the lives of those you care about, a card will be around for way longer – as will your words in the minds of others.
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