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Russian Tea Cakes are rich and buttery cookies with a texture similar to shortbread. They’re quick and easy to make and very festive coated in powdered sugar, which looks like snow!

Snowball Cookies in Cookie Tin with Wax Paper

For the last day of my 7 Days of Festive Holiday Treats event, I wanted to share a cookie from my childhood.

My mom has made Russian Tea Cakes (also called Mexican Wedding Cookies, Italian Wedding Cookies, Butterball Cookies, and Snowball Cookies) every Christmas for as long as I can remember. She usually just calls them “Butterballs”!

7daysoffestiveholidaytreats

These bite-sized cookies are rich and buttery. They’re very much like shortbread, with the addition of nuts and a pretty powdered sugar coating. They’re festive and always a favorite!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • They’re pretty. They look like little snowballs with a dusting of “snow”, aka powdered sugar.
  • Easy to make. In less than an hour (including cleanup time), you’ll have a delicious batch whipped up.
  • They stay fresh for quite a while. If you keep these cookies in an airtight container, they will last 1 to 2 weeks at room temperature.
  • Make them ahead. You can save yourself some time around the holidays by stashing these cookies in your freezer a couple months in advance.
  • They ship well! Homemade cookies are a lovely Christmas gift and these are a great choice.
Butter Balls Cookies with Red Christmas Ornament

What Are Russian Tea Cakes?

Russian Tea Cakes are actually cookies that are similar to shortbread. They are easy to make with a relatively short ingredient list, usually containing flour, butter, nuts, and sugar.

They are rolled in powdered sugar while they’re still hot, and then cooled to room temperature and rolled in powdered sugar a second time.

Other Names for Russian Tea Cakes

You might know Russian Tea Cakes as Mexican Wedding Cookies, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Italian Butterball Cookies, Italian Wedding Cookies, Butterball Cookies, Butter Balls Cookies, or Snowball Cookies.

Are there any other names out there for these little treats? If so, please tell me in the comments below! I know I’m probably forgetting a few.

Russian Tea Cakes Cookies on Small Plate on Top of Books

The Best Russian Tea Cakes Recipe

These are so easy to make! We start with minimal ingredients. The dough is mixed up, and then rolled into balls and baked. And then of course rolled in powdered sugar!

Ingredients

russian tea cake cookie ingredients
  • Butter
  • Powered Sugar
  • Vanilla
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Nuts (such as hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, or almonds)

Step-by-Step Instructions

how to make russian tea cakes collage
  1. Add the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla to a large bowl. 
  2. You can use an electric beater or just mix the dough by hand.
  3. Stir in the flour, salt, and chopped nuts.
  4. The dough will be fairly thick and crumbly, but you should be able to shape it into balls when you squeeze it.
  5. Shape the dough into 1-tablespoon size balls with a scoop, and then roll them until smooth.
  6. Arrange the dough balls on a large cookie sheet.
  7. Bake the cookies until they’re set and golden brown on the bottom.
  8. Carefully roll the warm cookies in powdered sugar.
  9. Place the rolled cookies on a wire rack to cool completely. Once the cookies are cooled, roll them again in powdered sugar.

Pro Tip: Your butter should be softened, but not fully melted.

Russian Tea Cakes Coated in Powdered Sugar

Pro Tip: Instead of rolling Russian Tea Cakes in powdered sugar a second time, you can generously sift powdered sugar on top once they’re cooled.

FAQs

How Do I Store Russian Tea Cakes?

  1. Make sure the cookies are cooled to room temperature.
  2. Layer the cookies between wax paper in an airtight container.
  3. Store them at room temperature for at least 1 week (and up to 2). Alternatively, you can store them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Italian Butterballs Cookies

Do Snowball Cookies Ship Well?

Yes! These cookies are firm and circular so they’re not prone to breaking when shipped.

When shipping, be sure to store them well-wrapped in an air-tight container to keep them as fresh as possible.

What Kind of Nuts Are Usually Used in Mexican Wedding Cakes?

Pecans are the nuts most often found in Mexican Wedding Cakes.

My mom always used walnuts when she made these cookies, referring to them as Butterball Cookies.

I like to play around with the type of nut when I make Russian Tea Cakes. Hazelnuts and almonds are a couple of my favorites.

Top View of Butterballs with Coffee

7 Days of Festive Holiday Treats on An Edible Mosaic

Just in case you missed a post, here my first six recipes for this event:

Close Up of Russian Tea Cakes

More Sweet Festive Treats to Try

Russian Tea Cakes Recipe in Cookie Tin

Let’s Connect

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Russian Tea Cakes (aka Snowball Cookies)

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time22 minutes
Cook Time12 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Russian Tea Cakes are rich and buttery cookies with a texture similar to shortbread. They’re quick and easy to make and very festive coated in powdered sugar, which looks like snow!

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Ingredients
 

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Mix together the butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl.
  • Stir in the flour, nuts, and salt until the dough holds together when squeezed.
  • Shape the dough into 1-tablespoon-sized balls and roll the balls between your hands until smooth.
  • Place the cookies about 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake until the cookies are set and golden brown on the bottom, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  • While they’re still warm, roll the cookies in the remaining 1 cup powdered sugar.
  • Place the cookies on a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Roll the cookies in powdered sugar a second time.

Video

Notes

  • Recipe Yield and Serving Size: This recipe makes 36 cookies, which is 12 servings. Each serving is 3 cookies.
  • Soften the Butter: The butter should be softened, but not fully melted.
  • If You Don’t Feel Like Rolling Them in Powdered Sugar Twice: Instead of rolling these cookies in powdered sugar a second time, you can generously sift powdered sugar on top once they’re cooled.
  • Storage: Make sure the cookies are cooled to room temperature, and then layer them between wax paper in an airtight container. Store them at room temperature for at least 1 week (and up to 2). Alternatively, you can store them in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Nutrition

Serving: 3cookies | Calories: 328kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 81mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 473IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Butter Balls Cookies, Butterball Cookies, Italian Butterball Cookies, Italian Wedding Cookies, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes, Snowball Cookies

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russian tea cakes recipe pin
Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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Recipe Rating




14 Comments

  1. Ellen Allen says:

    5 stars
    Have to tell you, these will NOT keep 2-3 weeks … not with me around!
    Same on the crescent shape someone else mentioned

  2. I like to make them in the crescent shapes. Delicious!

  3. This is exactly how my mom made them. Such good memories and delicious!

  4. Pam Mauldin says:

    5 stars
    My grandmother used to make these and they have always been my favorite. Thank you for sharing ❤️

  5. Joanne T Ferguson says:

    G’day Faith! I have very fond memories of these cookies from childhood, true!
    WISH I could come through the screen and try one of these right now too!
    Cheers! Joanne

  6. Actually these Russian Tea Cakes (we call them Mexican Wedding Cookies) are my favorite holiday treat! Or anything with peppermint!

  7. Carol | a cup of mascarpone says:

    My most favorite Christmas cookie…these are lovely, Faith, and your photography is beautiful!

  8. Jeanne Weeks says:

    I love the Russian tea cakes. One of many things I am looking forward to this season. I also loved the EVENT that went along with the cookie baking. A joyous occasion filled with laughter, fun, flower and love.
    Although I rarely post on your site Faith, I enjoy it regularly. The butterballs brought back such a nice memory that I had to comment. Thank you. :*} Jeanne

  9. these cookies have so many names, but they’re so tasty!
    my favorite festive recipe is lame, but i love gingerbread cookies. :)

  10. Julia {The Roasted Root} says:

    My family makes Russian tea cakes every year at our baking extravaganza! Yours look great and I’ll have to give your recipe a go!

  11. Evelyne@cheapethniceatz says:

    What an ethnically divers cookie lol. It’s like also the Greek kourabiedes. They do look delicious. A family classic is a pineapple bavaroise for the holiday.

  12. Rosa Mayland says:

    Those are some of my favorite cookies! I always make them for Xmas…

    Mince pies are just fabulous. They remind me of England and are so festive.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  13. Renee@Mykitchenadventures says:

    I literally made this very recipe last night. I made it from my very favorite cookie cookbook, Betty Crocker Cookie Cookbook. I also used KAF, because as far as I’m concerned, there exists no better flour for excellent baked goods! I have always loved these cookies as long as I can remember. I’ve used walnuts, pecans and almonds in them. I think I like pecans best, but I used walnuts last night because that’s what I had on hand already ground up. Currently, my favorite treat around the holidays in that Saltine cracker toffee. But these cookies come in a close second.

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