These Russian tea cake cookies are classic Christmas cookie favorite of my childhood. You may also know these as Mexican Wedding cookies or Snowball cookies. These cookies are buttery delicious and quick to make. This Russian Tea Cakes recipe are made in one bowl, with 6 ingredients, and are ready in 30 minutes or less.
‘Tis the season for cookies! And lots of them! This time of year, I can usually be found covered in flour and confectioner sugar. Mainly due to these Russian Tea Cake cookies. I can’t help but want to make all the classics – like my Raspberry Almond Thumbprints, or my super easy Snickerdoodle Cookie Recipe, or these Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies. But Russian Tea Cakes might be one of my all time favorites that I have to make every single Christmas.
If you are unfamiliar with Russian Tea cakes (the name I grew up with) perhaps you know them by another, Mexican Wedding Cookies, or butterballs, or snowball cookies. I’m sure you can see why they are called snowball cookies.
I grew up on these cookies. And they were always a favorite of mine. Usually my dad and I were fighting over these cookies on the cookie tray. My grandmother made them every Christmas, so they are near and dear to my heart. Unfortunately, her original recipe has been lost. However, I think this is a pretty close second.
Are Russian Tea Cakes the same as Mexican Wedding Cookies?
They sure are. Or snowball cookies. These are buttery shortbread like cookie, with pecans stirred in, and then they are rolled in powdered sugar (twice!) for a buttery delicious cookie.
Why You Will Love These Russian Tea Cake Cookies
- One Bowl Recipe – I love recipes that only use one bowl. Maybe it’s because I hate to do dishes? But around the holidays, less dishes is always a good thing if you ask me.
- 6 Ingredients – You only need six simple ingredients to make these snowball cookies.
- Ready In 30 Minutes Or Less – These cookies take about 10 minutes or so to prep, and then about 10 minutes to bake. Cookies in under 30 minutes is always a holiday gift if you ask me!
Pantry Staple Ingredients
I love Russian Tea Cakes because they only require 5 simple ingredients that you may even have on hand right now.
- Unsalted Butter – I always recommend unsalted butter so you can control the amount of salt in the cookie dough. But you can also use salted butter, just omit the added salt in the recipe. Do not use margarine or tub butter which is not pure butter and has added oils and ingredients which can affect the texture.
- Powdered Sugar – You will use this in your cookie dough and also again to roll them in after they are baked.
- Vanilla extract – Pure is best! You can also make your own vanilla extract. But imitation vanilla extract will also work.
- Flour – All purpose flour here is all you need.
- Salt – I like adding just a little salt to these cookies to help balance out all the sweetness.
- Pecans – This is classic addition, but you can also swap these out for another nut you have on hand or if you have a nut allergy or don’t have any try swapping in some chocolate chips instead. Mini chocolate chips also work great in these little cookies. If you don’t swap the nuts for anything, you may need to add additional flour to help the cookies keep their shape (try adding a 1/4 cup extra.)
To Toast Or Not To Toast?
The pecans that is! I say YES, take the extra few minutes to toast the pecans. Toasting the nuts helps to bring out the oils and flavors. It really enhances these cookies. I’ve made them both ways with great success, but definitely worth the extra few minutes of effort.
Toast pecan halves on a baking sheet at 350oF for 7-8 minutes. Then allow them to cool and chop them before adding them to your cookie dough. You can also toast them for about 5 minutes in a dry skillet over medium heat.
How To Make These Russian Tea Cakes
Step One: Cream the butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.
You want to cream the softened butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla together in your mixing bowl. I made this in my stand mixer but you could easily make this with a hand mixer.
Step Two: Stir in flour, pecans, and salt.
Then add in your all purpose flour, toasted chopped pecans, and salt. The dough will be very stiff.
Step Three: Scoop And Bake Your Cookies
Once your dough is made go ahead and scoop your cookies onto a prepared cookie sheet. I used a 1-inch cookie scoop to scoop these cookies.
You will bake these in a 400oF oven for about 10-12 minutes. The edges should be set, and the cookies dry looking, but you don’t want them golden brown on top. The bottom of the cookies will be lightly golden browned.
Step Four: Roll Them In Powdered Sugar….Twice
When they are done baking comes the extra powdered sugar! The key to these cookies is rolling them in powdered sugar, twice. You want to roll them once while they are warm. And then once again when they are cool.
The first roll the powdered sugar sort of melts onto the cookie. So the second coating will leave a nice layer of powdered sugar and thoroughly coat the cookies.
Heather’s Beginner Baking Tips
- Measure Your Flour Correctly – Too much flour can result in a dry crumbly cookie. Be sure to stir your flour first, then spoon it into your cup and level it off. Do not pack it down or you will end up with too much flour in your cup. Or you can use a kitchen scale and weigh your ingredients by weight, which is has the best accuracy for baking. Here is a complete tutorial on how to measure your flour correctly.
- Make sure your butter is softened You need softened butter to make this cookie dough so it incorporates into the dough easily and is creamed properly with the sugar which will help to aerate the mixture. Take your butter out about an hour before hand, and cube it up so it softens faster. You can also check out my Here are 3 ways to quickly soften your butter.
- Bake in the center of your oven. You want to place your cookie sheet in the center of your oven so they bake evenly. If you bake them on the top or bottom rack the tops or bottoms may burn. If you want to bake more than two batches at a time, be sure to move your cookies sheets from top to bottom of your oven and rotate once halfway through baking.
- Watch that oven time. I have just one word of advice for these cookies. When baking these, watch the time. Ten minutes goes fast. I don’t know what your oven is like, so just put it on eight minutes and watch those last couple. You don’t want these to brown, and they will very quickly. Now is not the time to draw a bath, do your taxes, and tackle that pile of gifts that needs to be wrapped! Do that later, perhaps with a cookie or two? Just watch the powdered sugar on those taxes.
- Measure your pecans after chopping. You want one cup of chopped pecans. So if you have pecan halves you are using, first chop them then measure, not the other way around.
These will keep for a week in an airtight container for up to a week.
Yes these cookies will freeze very well for up to 3 months in an airtight container or bag. Just thaw at room temperature before enjoying.
This is probably because your butter was too soft when creaming. If the butter is too warm, it will melt in the oven quickly before the edges of the cookies are set. You can always try chilling your cookie dough for an hour or more to help firm up the butter. Here are 10 reasons why your cookies are flat and how to fix them.
Time Saving Shortcuts
- Soften your butter quickly – Take your butter out 30 minutes to an hour before hand and cube up so it softens faster. Or I prefer my microwave method. I place my stick of butter in the microwave for 30 seconds at 20% butter, the flip over and repeat. Every microwave is different so yours may only take 15-20 seconds at a time. But this works the fastest for me!
- Toast pecans before hand – Toasting the pecans is an optional but delicious step. I’ve made them both toasted, and untoasted. If you want to toast your pecans, you have to make sure they are cool so do this first, or even the day before then chop them so they are ready to be used the next day.
More Cookie Recipes To Try
- M&M Christmas Cookies
- Raspberry Rugelach
- Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
- Chocolate Chip M&M Oatmeal Cookies
- Lemon Cookie Recipe
Let’s Bake Together!
Russian Tea Cakes
- 1 cup (2 sticks. 226 g) unsalted butter softened
- 2 2/3 cups (300 g) powdered (or confectioners) sugar *divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups (270 g) all purpose flour
- 1 cup (115 g) finely chopped toasted pecans *see note
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Prep oven and pans. Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (or you can use a silicone baking mat).
- Cream butter, sugar and vanilla. In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer (I prefer my stand mixer with paddle attachment but a hand mixer will also work) cream together on medium speed, the butter, 2/3 cup powdered sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in flour, nuts, and salt until a soft dough forms.
- Add remaining ingredients. On low speed, stir in flour, nuts, and salt until a soft dough forms. Dough will be very stiff.
- Scoop cookies. Using a small cookie scoop, or two spoons shape dough into 1 inch balls. (I like to scoop the dough then roll into a ball with my hands to smooth). Place about 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake cookies. Bake in the preheated 400°F oven for about 10-12 minutes until set on edges but not brown. Remove the oven and allow to cool slightly on cookie sheet before removing to a wire cooling rack. Cool slightly on a wire rack.
- Roll in powdered sugar. Place remaining 2 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar. Cool completely , then roll again in powdered sugar when cool.
- Tools: Cookies Sheets | Oven Thermometer |Kitchen-Aid Mixer |Cookie Scoop | silicon baking mat | spatula | cooling rack | cookie spatula
- Storage: These will keep for a week in an airtight container for up to a week.
- Freezing: Freeze baked, cooled cookies in an airtight bag or container for up to 3 months.
- Unsalted Butter – I always recommend unsalted butter so you can control the amount of salt in the cookie dough. But you can also use salted butter, simply omit the added salt in the recipe. Do not use margarine or tub butter which is not pure butter and has added oils and ingredients which can affect the texture.
- Powdered Sugar – You will use this in your cookie dough and also again to roll them in after they are baked.
- Vanilla extract – I recommend pure vanilla for best flavor, but imitation vanilla extract will also work.
- Pecans – Toasting is optional but preferred. I toast pecan halves in a 350°F for 7-8 minutes until fragrant, then cool and chop finely. Be sure to allow to cool before adding to cookie dough. I prefer pecans but any nut will work. You can omit the nuts if need be, and try swapping in some chocolate chips instead. Mini chocolate chips also work great in these little cookies. If you don’t swap the nuts for anything, you may need to add additional flour to help the cookies keep their shape (try adding a 1/4 cup extra.)