Happiness in a Box

Favors aren’t just for weddings these days. Embrace your inner Martha Stewart and give your dinner party guests
a parting gift they’ll love.

So you’ve heard that a hostess gift is a necessity. Your guests come bearing a box of French soaps, a sweet-smelling Archipelago candle, Xela aromasticks in sweet citrus, or the traditional bottle of wine or bouquet of flowers. But what about your guests? Wedding favors are nothing new, but parting gifts for guests at your annual Christmas party or your gourmet dinner gathering with neighbors? Nowadays, it’s not enough to simply throw a cocktail or sit-down party to leave a lasting impression on your guests. Now, it’s all about parting favors. Parting gifts need not be expensive or even difficult to make. A hand-decorated box of exquisite cookies, made in your kitchen, creates an edible parting gift that is both beautiful and personal.

Here you’ll find instructions on creating the box, plus tips for making incredible cookies from our recipe sources. Our cookie assortment includes hand-decorated sugar cookies, triple-chocolate cookies, and cranberry white chocolate bars. For variety, we also added a chocolate candy and minibag of salty snacks.

Start with Color

The visual impact of your presentation will depend on color. Take the time to analyze what impression you want to make. Will it be romantic? Playful? Exciting? Subdued? Choose two or three shades and hues that are complementary but not identical. For example, if you know your guests love shades of pink, try accenting your boxes with soft yellows or pick a color and pump it up. We took yellow, made it bolder, and added black and white to give it a crisp, modern look. Hot pinks became our accent colors.

Make a Guest List

You will be decorating cookies only days before the big event, so keep the project manageable. By starting with a guest list, you can estimate how many boxes you will need to prepare, and then judge how much time you can afford to invest. This project should be another opportunity for you to experience the joy of the occasion—not the stress.

Create a Time Line

Set aside ample time to take care of each stage of the project. For example, you can paint the boxes, order labels, cut lengths of ribbon, and cut the tissue paper weeks in advance. The week of the party, you may wish to bake the cookies on a Tuesday. For those you’ll decorate, put a foundation coat of icing on them on Wednesday and pipe on the decorations Thursday. Assemble the boxes Friday morning.

Select the Labels   

A personalized label takes this project from crafty to professional. You may want to make your own, but we found the selection at myownlabels.com to be outstanding. You can order one sheet or dozens, and for a small fee you can request a color change, font change, or add your own art. You’ll get labels that don’t bleed and that adhere well.

Assemble the Supplies

We used six-inch square boxes (three inches high) from If It’s Paper. At 29 cents each, they’re a bargain. Each box will need a label, eighteen inches of ribbon (ours is from McKenzie’s Papers), two squares of tissue (we cut regular tissue in half—$2.35 for twenty-four sheets at If It’s Paper), two six-inch paper doilies, a six-inch square of food-safe cardboard to separate layers, and a sheet of food-safe cello ($10.95 for a pack of 100 at www.nashvillewraps.com).

Paint the Boxes

Open the boxes so they are flat, and spray paint the white exterior in a well-ventilated area. Krylon H20 latex spray paint ($3.77 at Wal-Mart) left a smooth finish, had little odor, and cleaned up with soap and water. It comes in a great range of colors—we chose Yellow Sea for ours.

Decide on Your Recipes

We used an assortment of cookies in two layers separated by food-safe cardboard. The decorated ones went on top for the most impact. Our favorite recipe for those is Holiday Sugar Cookies from the December 2000 issue of Bon Appétit (available free online at www.epicurious.com; search “Holiday Sugar Cookies”). A hint of freshly grated nutmeg gives these cookies zing.

For the bottom layer we put in a Triple-Chocolate Cookie (for the recipe, see www.epicurious.com; search “Triple-Chocolate Cookie”), a knockoff of Starbucks’ Cranberry Bliss Bar (available free online at www.recipezaar.com; search “Cranberry Bliss Bar”), and a small cello bag filled with a salty/crunchy snack mix. We also tucked in a Ferrero Rocher hazelnut chocolate wrapped in pretty gold foil.

Try to envision the cookie assortment as a unit, crossing off favorite cookies that could overwhelm the others (for example, you don’t want everything smelling like coconut macaroons), and building a variety of tastes and textures. We liked the combination of a sugar cookie, a chocolate cookie, and a fruit-and-nut bar.

Tips for the Decorated Cookies

Great cookie cutters lead to great cookies. Blackhawk Hardware has a great selection as does Cooking Uptown. We’ve also ordered online from Pinocchio Productions—you can purchase the four-inch wedding cake cutter for 69 cents, and it comes with a wedding-bell cookie cutter, too (www.pinenose.com). To get a good outline with the icing, pipe it on with the Wilton No. 2 round decorating tip. This size seems just about perfect—not too thick, not too thin. Many of the local craft stores, including Michael’s, carry the Wilton decorating tips, bags, and colors for tinting the icing.

And Finally . . .

Remember that you’re sharing your love to entertain with your guests. Creating such a delightful, one-of-a-kind parting favor will leave guests happy and impressed that you went one step further.

Categories: Food & Entertaining, Home & GardenDepartments