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 unsalted butter softened (226g)
- 1 cup powdered sugar (125g)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (250g)
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch optional, but recommended
- 1 cup nuts (115g) finely chopped (measure before chopping) pecans, walnuts, or almonds will work well with this recipe, please see notes
- Additional powdered sugar for rolling (about 1 cup/125g)
- 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.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and cornstarch, then with mixer on low-speed gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture.
- Stir until completely combined (mixture may seem dry and crumbly at first but should come together if you just keep mixing!).
- Stir in 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!