These simple Russian Tea Cakes are an old-fashioned classic. This recipe has been around for ages and goes by many different names (like Snowballs), but whatever you call them they’re easy to make with just 7 basic ingredients. No chilling needed! While I don’t think you’ll have any trouble with this recipe, I do include a how-to video in the recipe card!
A Cookie By Any Other Name…
Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cookies, snowball cookies, pecan balls… these nutty, melt-in-your mouth cookies go by a number of different names and I’m sure you’ve tried them at one point under one moniker or another.
They’re extraordinarily similar to my pecan sandies and even closer to my chocolate chip snowball cookies (only we’re swapping the chocolate out for nuts!). Russian tea cakes (or whatever you call them!) are popular across the globe and a popular Christmastime treat, so I felt it was timely to share them now.
They have a sweetness that’s more subtle than many of my other recipes, so the powdered sugar exterior is absolutely mandatory (and those of you who think I’m too heavy-handed on the sugar will appreciate this one 😉). The exteriors are crisp, but give way to soft, melting centers (just don’t over-bake them or they’ll crumble!).
What You Need for Russian Tea Cakes
I just have a few notes on a few of the ingredients…
- Butter. As with most of my cookie recipes, we use unsalted butter and then add salt to taste. This gives us maximum control over the flavor of our Russian tea cakes.
- Powdered sugar. This is the only sugar we’ll be using in this recipe (no granulated or brown sugar here!). It gives the cookies a crisp exterior but a melt-in-your-mouth interior.
- Cornstarch. The cornstarch isn’t mandatory (good thing since I evidently thought it was optional to include it in the above photo 🤦🏼♀️) but it reduces the chance of spreading and gives the cookies even more of that melt-in-your-mouth quality I keep talking about. There’s already cornstarch in the recipe (powdered sugar is made with cornstarch) but we’re bumping up the ratio just a bit here for an even better texture.
- Nuts. Walnuts, pecans, or almonds are all popular choices that will work well here. Hazelnuts or even pistachios would also work. I used pecans in the video and have no regrets about that whatsoever.
You’ll notice that there is no egg in this recipe. That is not a mistake, so for those of you who have been asking me for an eggless cookie recipe, you’ll appreciate this one!
This is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Russian Tea Cakes
- Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla extract and salt until creamy and entirely combined.
- Gradually add flour and cornstarch. I like to add in 3-4 parts, stirring until the flour is incorporated after each addition.
- If you haven’t already, finely chop your nuts. Add to the cookie dough.
- Use a spatula to fold in the nuts until completely combined.
- Scoop the dough into a Tablespoon-sized ball and briefly roll between your palms to make a smooth ball.
- Space cookies apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
- Bake until edges are just beginning to turn a light golden brown, cool for at least 10 minutes then roll in powdered sugar.
Frequently Asked Questions
This is a dry dough by design so it’s important that you measure your flour properly. Accidentally over-measuring the flour is a common mistake and it can make a dough that’s just too dry and doesn’t cling together. Another common problem is adding all of your flour too quickly without giving it time to absorb into the wet ingredients. Add the flour gradually and stir until the dough is cohesive.
Without nuts these wouldn’t technically be Russian tea cakes any longer, but you can leave out the nuts and still make them. Honestly the nuts add a wonderful flavor and texture and the cookies will be a bit bland without them, but you could always add chocolate chips instead and make my chocolate chip snowball cookies.
Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Mexican Tea Cakes, Pecan Balls, Snowdrops, Pecan Butterballs… these are just a handful of the different names for these cookies. They’re popular across the globe and are often served around Christmastime.
Yes! You can either roll the dough and store it in the freezer in an airtight container until ready to bake (you may need a few extra minutes in the oven) or you can freeze the baked cookies.
If freezing cookies after baking, I recommend waiting until thawing to roll through the powdered sugar.
More Recipes You Might Like
Let’s bake together! Make sure to check out the how-to VIDEO in the recipe card!
Russian Tea Cakes
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup (125 g) powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch optional, but recommended
- 1 cup (115 g) nuts finely chopped (measure before chopping) pecans, walnuts, or almonds will work well with this recipe, please see notes
- (125 g) Additional powdered sugar for rolling (about 1 cup)
- Preheat oven to 375F (190C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using an electric mixer (or in a stand mixer), beat together butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and salt until light, creamy, and well-combined.1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, 1 cup (125 g) powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon salt
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and cornstarch, then with mixer on low-speed gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture.2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour, 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- Stir until completely combined (mixture may seem dry and crumbly at first but should come together if you just keep mixing!).
- Stir in nuts.1 cup (115 g) nuts
- Scoop dough into Tablespoon-sized balls and roll between your palms to make round. Place on prepared baking sheet, spacing cookies 1” apart.
- Bake in 375F (190C) oven for 8-10 minutes or until the bottoms are just beginning to turn a light golden brown.
- Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for at least 10 minutes then roll in powdered sugar. Enjoy!(125 g) Additional powdered sugar for rolling
NutsFor extra flavor you can toast your nuts before chopping and using. To do so, spread them evenly on a baking sheet and bake in a 350F (175C) preheated oven for approximately 8-10 minutes or until nuts smell toasted and fragrant. Allow to cool before chopping and stirring into your dough. You can chop the nuts briefly in a food processor, or use a large knife and go over them in a mincing motion.
StoringStore in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
I have been making this type of cookie, around the holidays, for several decades. I like to try different versions and I have to say this is hands down the best recipe I have ever made. We had a power outage shortly after the dough was made. the dough sat covered overnight and the next day was a little too crumbly so I added just enough room temp butter to allow me to form it.
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Oh no! We’re so happy they turned out nicely despite the circumstances. Enjoy, Karen 😊
I didn’t weigh the ingredients, and am paying for it now. My cookies spread more than they should. Fortunately, they are sweet and delicious, so I’m not going to coat them in powdered sugar, and still have a delicious treat (that you can eat while wearing a dark-colored shirt).
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Oh no! We’re so sorry this happened Bruce. Definitely make sure to include the cornstarch and don’t let your butter get too soft, and you should have better results next time ❤️
I love this recipe!
These cookies are absolutely amazing!! I have tried several different recipes over the years looking for a good one for Russian Tea cookies. I have finally found it. Thank you so much for sharing such wonderful recipes with us!!
I’m so glad you enjoyed them so much, Melanie! 🙂
I wouldn’t recommend subbing cake flour for this recipe! I thought it would work well because the recipe recommended adding cornstarch, but mine spread a little so they weren’t quite so round. I don’t see others with this issue so I’m sure it was my mistake. I used almonds and they taste absolutely delicious. You have to try dipping them in coffee!!!
O no! I’m so sorry this happened, Ren! Did you use the correct substitution on your flour? In this instance you’d need 2c + 4TBSP of cake flour if using cup measurements. You may have needed a little bit more flour if they spread out. If your butter was too soft it could make them spread as well. 🙁
These are amazing! Super simple recipe and delicious! I made these for friends as Christmas gifts and they said they were the BEST Mexican wedding cookies she’s ever had!
These are my favorite cookies during Christmas. This recipe was the best Russian Tea Cookies I have ever made. They were perfect! Thank you for this recipe. Happy holidays!
I am so happy to hear this, Edye! Thank you so much for commenting 🙂
How many grams are the nuts? The only nuts I have are pre-chopped so I want to go by weight so I don’t screw up the recipe .
Oh no, I don’t know how I missed including that! It’s approximately 115 grams. I’ll amend the recipe to include that as well, thank you for bringing it to my attention, Andres, and I hope you love the cookies!
Turned out great!
Can I just roll this in color sugar instead of powder. ? Thanks
Since this is a more dry dough the sugar may not stick very well.
hi sam i want to tell you that i tried it and it was tasty and yummy
Can I add some finely chopped dried cranberries and maybe some orange zest with the pecans? That sounds really good, and should work I would think. Thanks
Hi Susan! That should work just fine. 🙂
Thanks, will let you know how they turn out, making them now.
The cookies turned out really good, I used about 1/3 cup very finely chopped dried cranberries and the zest of one orange along with the finely chopped pecans to make one cup.
Beth Anne BRODIE
Sam how can I get some Sugar Spun Run wooden
spoons.? They are so adorable.
I am not sure how to make these for sale at this point. 🙁
I make these a lot and this last time I added 1 cup of mini chocolate chips and they were great.
These are one of my favorite Christmas cookies! I have always used the recipe from my 1963 Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book-which I think only varies from your recipe with the cornstarch. These are melt in your mouth deliciousness!
I can never have enough! 🙂
We do the same thing, using the same book! They are my favorite “Christmas” cookies. My family doesn’t put in the nuts and we roll the cookies in powdered sugar no less than three times. It’s a joy to have the cookies melt in your mouth just like a snowball would.
Enjoy your cookies!
@Lauren-I love this book so much, it brings me right back to my childhood. My copy just automatically falls to certain pages, the Russian Teacakes, lemon bars and the spritz cookies 🙂 Luckily the book has been republished, and if you want a taste of the 1960’s with the photos, along with great recipes-I highly recommend it!
Wow I love this recipe so much ofcourse I am going to try it thank you
This is an all-time Family and Friends favorite at our house. No Christmas party would be complete without these delicious little cookies. Thank you for including the size cookie scoop that you used. I am new to using a cookie scoop. Guess one is never too old to learn something new.