Russian Tea Cakes are unique shortbread cookies that are loaded with chopped nuts then rolled in powdered sugar after baking for a sweet finish. This recipe produces cookies that are buttery and tender, never dry or crumbly. Whether you call them Russian Tea Cakes, Snowballs, or Mexican wedding cookies, they are a Christmas classic that you’ll love any time of the year.
This Russian Tea Cakes recipe is inspired by some cookies that my brother-in-law shares with us every Christmas.
His dad makes them every year and Emily just loves them.
She’s been on a mission to find a recipe that replicates the tender, buttery cookies that she has enjoyed at Christmas.
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Key to Success #1 – Soften the Butter
In this Russian Tea Cakes recipe, butter is a key ingredient for adding flavor.
For that reason, it’s important to use real butter and not margarine.
I use salted butter, but you can use unsalted butter if that is what you have on hand.
Make sure your butter is softened before you start mixing it using a hand mixer.
The best way to soften the butter is to leave it out on the counter for a half-hour or more.
If you are in a rush, you can soften the butter in the microwave.
Microwave the cold butter on the defrost setting for 20-30 seconds.
You don’t want the butter to melt at all, but you want it to be soft enough to combine with the sugar easily.
Use your electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy.
This is the key to a great cookie.
Key to Success #2 – Do Not Over Mix the Flour
Russian Tea Cakes aka Snowball Cookies are a delicate blend of butter, sugar, and flour.
Compared to most other cookies, they are relatively high in fat, in our case butter.
In order to make a tender cookie, we need to make sure we do not over mix the flour.
You want to only blend in the flour until it is fully combined with the butter and sugar mixture.
This is another reason it’s so important to start with softened butter.
Many traditionalists insist on stirring in the flour with a spoon or spatula, but I like to use my hand mixer.
Start with one cup of flour and mix it until it is fully combined.
Then add in the other cup and a quarter and mix until you can no longer see clumps of flour.
Your cookie dough should hold together when pressed into a ball.
If it doesn’t, you can add in 1 tablespoon of milk to make it easier to work with.
I do not add in additional milk when making these Russian Tea Cakes.
Key to Success #3 – Use Finely Chopped Nuts
We’re using pecans in this cookie recipe, but you can use walnuts, almonds, cashews, or other nuts of your choice.
You can also use pine nuts to make traditional a Mexican Wedding Cookie.
Although these days I think it’s more popular to use pecans in the Mexican Wedding Cookies.
The recipe is the same no matter which nuts you choose to use.
I like to chop my pecans finely, but not so finely that you can’t see bits of pecan in the cookies.
Some people prefer to grind up the nuts before adding to the cookie dough, but I prefer a little nut texture in my Snowball cookies.
You can also toast the pecans before chopping them.
Make sure you allow the pecans to cool completely before adding to your dough.
We will use a full cup of chopped pecans in these Russian Tea Cakes, which is more than most recipes require.
The extra pecans really make these cookies shine so don’t skimp here!
Key to Success #4 – Double Roll in Powdered Sugar
The crown on top of these nutty little gems is a thick coating of powdered sugar.
The cookies themselves have very little sugar so the extra sugar on the outside is definitely needed to give them the right taste and texture.
After the cookies are baked, remove them from the oven and allow them to cook on the cookie sheet for a minute or two until they are cool enough to handle.
While the cookies are still warm, one at a time, roll them into powdered sugar then place them onto a sheet of waxed paper to cool.
Some of the powdered sugar will melt into the cookies to make them so tender and delicate.
When the cookies are completely cooled, roll them into powdered sugar a second time.
You will end up with a thick layer of powdered sugar that stays powdery even when the cookies are stored or stacked.
This two-roll method is what will give you perfectly sugar-coated cookie perfection.
Save this Russian Tea Cakes recipe to your favorite Holiday Cookies board or your Pecan Cookies board.
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup pecans, chopped
- powdered sugar for rolling
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper (optional).
- Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy.
- Blend in flour and salt until just combined. Stir in chopped nuts.
- Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets.
- Bake 7-8 minutes, until bottoms are slightly browned.
- Remove from oven and allow to rest 1-2 minutes until cool enough to handle.
- Roll balls into powdered sugar then place on a sheet of waxed paper to cool.
- When cool, roll balls into powdered sugar a second time.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 48 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 85Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 43mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 0gSugar: 4gProtein: 1g
Nutrition Information Provided For Educational and Informational Purposes Only.