Cookie Swap book review

I have been lucky to receive a free copy of the Cookie Swap: Creative Treats to Share Throughout the Year book. The book immediately caught my attention, as I have never hold a cookie swap party, or been to a cookie swap party before. So I was very curious to see what this book was all about.

It is written by the author Julia M. Usher who is a celebrated pastry chef, food writer and stylist. You can find eight cookie swap theme parties in the book, along with over 50 different cookie recipes. You can also find decoration and invitation ideas for the cookie swap parties as well in this book.

The great things about the book, is that I wanted to hold a cookie swap party right away, after a quick browse through the book. I love the fact, that it can be used for so much more than just cookie swap parties. Take small parts from the book and you can hold a perfect tea party, make a fantastic dessert table (just add the cupcakes) or find new inspiration for your iced sugar cookies.

It also have some very sweet crafty ideas, like the gorgeous wedding cake boxes shown in the photo below. The “rescource” list in the back of the book is very detailed, which makes it easy to find cookie cutters and special ingredients.

The less great things about the book is that I that I really miss more detailed step by step directions with photos in the book. Also its a bit disappointing that I could not find any directions for some of the cookies that was pictured in the book, like the owl cookie from the cover.

In my point of view, directions on how to make the creations is just as important, if not more, as having beautiful inspiring photos to look at. The last less great thing is, that it would have been really nice to have some templates for the unusual shaped cookies in the book.

Overall this book a fantastic scource for your next party if you love cookies. Still I think the book is for the more experienced cookie baker/decorator as it can be hard for a beginner to use it, because of the lack of detailed directions.

You can get the Cookie Swap book her:
Cookie Swap UK
Cookie Swap US

Happy Caking!


Photograph by Steve Adams from โ€œCookie Swapโ€ by Julia M. Usher. Reprinted with permission of Gibbs Smith.


  1. Just picked up this book! Lovely images and ideas for cookie parties! Was so great to see my favorite cake blog write about this book as well! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I have to get this book! I try to convince people Cookie Exchanges are year round, not just at Christmas, thank you for sharing!

  3. Hi, all,

    The owl is cut from a standard owl-shaped cookie cutter, available on Amazon and many other places:

    The cookie is completely decorated with royal icing. Dark brown (body) and white(chest)topcoats were first laid with a relatively loose icing. Likewise, eyes were made with small drops of loose yellow and black icing. For the textured detail work (white crest on head, beak, and feathers), a thicker royal icing is needed to hold the shape that’s piped. For the crest, I used thick white royal icing and a small straight cut tip in a parchment pastry cone; used same tool for the beak but with an orange icing, of course. Lastly, used a small leaf tip to create the brown feathers, starting at the outer edge and moving toward the white chest, overlapping feathers slightly on each successive layer. Hope that helps.

    Stay tuned – a decorating book may well be in the works.

  4. Went out in our 1st heavy Calif. rain storm and bought this book. I am a professional cake decorator & instructor. The book is very nicely put together and will be enjoyed by all-begineers to advance decorators. I found the book to be very helpful with loads of pictures, recipes, for both cakes and icings, clear instructions,helpful conversion chart,and best of all Resourse page which includes web sites and telephone numbers to venders, and they are located in the U.S. And yes the beautiful Owl cookie is not in the book which is a big disappointment. I too believe…What is on the cover should be in the book, as this is what caught my eyes to begin with. Maybe Ms. Usher could send the instructions to you Louise, and you could put on your site for all to see. (I can figure how to make it, but many may not). But overall the book is simply Beautiful. Thank you Ms. Usher.

  5. I made something similar to the owl, but it was a cat. I use my halloween Cat face cutter which is exactly the same shape. You can use thicken run sugar/colorflow for the face and complete all with royal using round tips, except the feathers is tip #352. Makes perfect pointed leaves or in this case feathers. Hope this little bit of info helps.

  6. I bought this book after Christmas in a total fit of impulse. It is gorgeous isn’t it? I like the idea of a cookie swap party too, but unfortunatly anyone I know is more of the “slice and bake from a tube” kind of person. I do enjoy looking at the pictures, even though I won’t make most of what’s there. That being said I thought the chocolate dipped heart cookies looked great and any skill level could make them.
    I hope the author does come out with a cookie decorating book!
    Love your site.

  7. Julia M Usher: Thank you so much for stoping by and thank you for your comment. I do love your book, I just miss a thing or two, being a fan of step by step’s. I am already thinking of holding my very first cookie swap party, thanks to you.

    To the rest of you, thank you for your ideas on the owl cookie.

    Ohh and Becky, I will get back to you very soon for the cookie cutters ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Oh, this looks like so much fun! I found your site through one of my online classmates, and I’ve been on every day since!

    I agree with Becky – it does look like they just cut out the owl’s head with a cookie-cutter. You could probably use a small Tulip cutter to get that shape and just gently push the middle pedal to round it and gently pinch in the sides.

    Love this site!!!

  9. I love your site, Louise, and thanks so much for the review of my book! I appreciate the thoughtful remarks. You’re right, I don’t have blow-by-blow directions for the owl in the book in part because this book was intended to be more of a party and recipe book than a cookie decorating book. But also because I think it’s more valuable for people to understand the underlying techniques behind a cookie than how to replicate a picture. Armed with a good understanding of foundational techniques, people can extrapolate more easily and ultimately create wonderful designs of their own. In the back of the book, there are detailed descriptions of the 11 decorating techniques used on the decorated cookies in the book – the owl and moon cookie was a very specific example of a “compound cookie,” where I talk about building cookies on top of one another, for instance. Each of the other sugar cookies in the book features another technique.

    And rest assured, Kelly, there are plenty of easy cookie recipes in the book that don’t require any decorating (again, this is more of a recipe and party book anyway). All of the recipes have a cookie key that indicates complexity, ranging from easy to more advanced. And each of the recipes has detailed numbered steps, so even the ones I call “advanced” are honestly quite doable for even the beginner. In the front of the book, I also have helpful baking tips for each of the 7 cookie types in the book (bar, drop, etc.), which are specifically geared to the beginning baker.

    Anyway, it’s hard for a book to be everything to all people (space constraints are a bear!), but I do hope you’ll check it out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

    Happy baking and decorating, everyone!

  10. Hi Louise,
    Thank you so much for your thoughts, I was going to buy this book but I am abit of a beginner when it comes to cookies, so maybe it is best to get something more suitable. Can you recommend anything for people just starting to bake cookies.
    Thanks for sharing

  11. Here’s a thought Louise…You do the directionals on this book and I’ll buy it! I LOVE your work! And you make it soooo easy to learn!

  12. That wedding cake cookie display was awesome for either a side type of table or if you don’t like cake.
    Probably more expensive than a cake though. But how fun! Will check the book out as I bet there is more great ideas in there. Thank you for sharing it.

  13. Hi,

    I too have flipped through this book and it looks exciting. I did hold a swap this Christmas and it was fun. I provided cute tubs for everyone to take their treats home.

    I so enjoy your site!


  14. Hi Louise
    You are right its very important to know the directions and that’s why i love your way, but sometimes its a challange to try to do it ourselves
    Thank you for sharing

  15. You’re right, Louise…it’s nice to have step-by-step instructions. For the owl, it looks as if they used a cookie-cutter for the owl’s head (or just cut it out of dough), then decorated the rest with royal icing. The feathers look like frosting using a leaf-tip. If I can find this book in a local store, I’ll look closer at it.
    And if you EVER want a specially made cookie-cutter, let me know. I have a friend that makes them in any shape you want!


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