Today’s Home Bakers Share Their Secrets to the Best Cookie Platters Ever

Putting together cookie trays for friends and family? Take these tips from our Test Kitchen pros and community cooks.

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Always include the classics

According to Bakeable member Peggy Daczewitz-Hamlin, every cookie platter needs to include the holiday cookies that everyone is craving. For Peggy, someone who’s been baking cookie platters for 40 years, that’s sugar cookies, almond crescents and chocolate-dipped butter cookies.

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Be prepared

The perfect cookie tray is full of cookies and treats, so be prepared. Bakeable member Erin Gardner Defendorf explains that she likes to buy all of her ingredients in advance so she’s prepared to bake whenever she has a bit of free time. No one wants to run out in the middle of a bake for extra sugar or butter!

If you really want to plan far, far in advance, you can freeze many common baking ingredients. Butter, chocolate and even flour get an extended life when kept chilled.

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Take your time

If you’re planning on baking up a bundle of cookies, don’t wait until the last minute. Instead, take your time. Gina Reilly in our Bakeable Facebook group says that she and her mother would start baking right after Thanksgiving and froze the cookies as they went along so they had enough time to tackle everything they wanted to bake. It’s a good strategy! Frozen cookies will keep for several months.

Gina’s pro tip: “Don’t add powdered sugar or frosting.” Save that step until before you plan to plate and serve.

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Think about how the tray will look

“Make sure you don’t have two of the same looking cookie,” Bakeable member Melanie Krause O’Brien suggests. She also recommends having a variety of sizes, colors and shapes.

Her recipe for the perfect cookie tray: Snowball cookies, thumbprints, cutouts, spritz, a drop cookie and a new favorite. Sounds good to us!

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Keep the cookies small

Associate Editor Katie Bandurski recommends making smaller cookies. “You want one- or two-bite treats so people can try multiple varieties in one sitting.”

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Keep your cookies separate (if you can)

Community Cook Kallee Krong-McCreery recommends wrapping each type of cookie individually if you can. “That way the crisp stay crisp and the soft stay soft,” she says.

Also wrapping strongly flavored cookies, like anything with mint or spice, is always a good idea. You don’t want your peanut butter kisses tasting of mint!

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Make more than just cookies

You don’t need to limit your Christmas cookie platters to just cookies. Bakeable member Margaret Cangiano Spinale recommends adding homemade candy to the mix, like homemade bark, chocolate-peanut butter balls or chocolate-covered pretzels.

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Get thrifty with your trays

Sure, you can invest in fancy new cookie tins and trays, but several Bakeable group members have a clever suggestion: Use thrifted platters and trays to plate up your cookies.

This is not only a great cost-saving tip, but it’s eco-friendly too! Second-hand shops and yard sales are a great resource for pretty vintage plates. You might even see some vintage Pyrex for yourself while you browse!

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Opt for variety over quantity

Deb Irish-Galloway of our Bakeable group always recommends “small amounts of a larger selection,” and we agree! It’s more fun to sample six types of cookies than to have a ton of two or three options. Need a shortcut to more cookies? Whip up this basic cookie dough—it’s the foundation for the five cookies shown in this photo!

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Grab cupcake liners to organize

Ginnylee Ragland in our Facebook group recommends grabbing a package of cupcake liners to help organize your trays. Cupcake wrappers can help separate cookies and even hold quantities of homemade candies and spiced nuts.

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Don’t assemble until it’s time to swap

“I keep my cookies in separate air-tight containers until I’m ready to assemble the platters,” Senior Food Editor Peggy Woodward says. This way crisp cookies can stay crisp and soft ones soft. Plus, stackable containers are much easier to store than trays of cookies.

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Label your cookies

Chris Carroll Jenkins in our Bakeable group recommends labeling any cookies or treats that contain nuts or other common allergens.

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Skip the everyday cookies

“My rule is no chocolate chip cookies,” says home baker Lisa Keller. “Christmas cookies should be special!” Now’s the time to bring out those classics you only bake at this time of year.

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Don’t be afraid to call the pros

While many of us enjoy spending all December in the kitchen baking up a storm, we don’t all have the time (or patience). In that case, Bakeable member Kay Wilhelm suggests her go-to strategy: “Call and support a small local bakery.” Hear hear!

Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is a former Taste of Home editor and passionate baker. During her tenure, she poured her love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa also dedicated her career here to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.