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!
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"!
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.
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.
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!
- Powered Sugar
- Nuts (such as hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, or almonds)
- Add the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla to a large bowl.
- You can use an electric beater or just mix the dough by hand.
- Stir in the flour, salt, and chopped nuts.
- The dough will be fairly thick and crumbly, but you should be able to shape it into balls when you squeeze it.
- Shape the dough into 1-tablespoon size balls with a scoop, and then roll them until smooth.
- Arrange the dough balls on a large cookie sheet.
- Bake the cookies until they're set and golden brown on the bottom.
- Carefully roll the warm cookies in powdered sugar.
- 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.
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.
How Do I Store Russian Tea Cakes?
- Make sure the cookies are cooled to room temperature.
- Layer the cookies 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.
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.
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:
- Dark Chocolate Coated Cranberry Cake Bites - sweet/tart cranberry + dark chocolate is a match made in heaven
- Peanut Butter Banana Bread Whoopie Pies - these are vegan, grain free, and naturally sweetened
- Coconut-Vanilla “Honey” Syrup - this vegan syrup is great drizzled on toast, yogurt, or oatmeal
- Cranberry Flax Cookies - these naturally sweetened cookie bites are crispy and perfect with a festive holiday tea
- Nutty Biscotti - pair one with a hot cup of coffee or a festive latte for the mid-morning or afternoon treat
- Gingersnap + White Chocolate Truffles - made with Gingersnap Cookies, these are packed with flavor
More Sweet Festive Treats to Try
- Ma'amoul (Middle Eastern Date Filled Cookies)
- Chocolate Covered Sponge Candy
- No Bake Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake Bites
- Cranberry Oatmeal Bars
- Chocolate Peppermint Bark
Russian Tea Cakes (aka Snowball Cookies)
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Mix together the butter, ½ 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.
- 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.