Russian Tea Cakes Recipe
Russian Tea Cakes are tender and buttery on the inside, studded with crunchy walnuts and rolled in powdered sugar. They dissolve in your mouth and you won’t be able to stop at just one.
This is also one of the easiest cookie recipes. We have perfected it over the years. Read on to learn the KEY to making the best Russian Tea Cakes.
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Russian tea cakes are one of our favorite Christmas cookies and a staple of holiday cookie platters, right up there with classic Sugar Cookies. Just like our Almond Snowball Cookies, these look like adorable little snowballs.
What are Russian Tea Cakes?
Russian Tea Cakes are also known as Mexican Wedding Cakes or Snowball Cookies. The cookie dough contains nuts, usually walnuts or pecans which gives the cookies a nutty flavor and slight crunch.
The butter in the cookie dough makes the cookies tender and powdery and they almost dissolve in your mouth. The cookies are rolled in powdered sugar twice to give them a white coating making them look like snowballs.
Ingredients for Russian Tea Cakes
- All-purpose flour – be sure the flour is measured correctly.
- Unsalted butter – softened at room temperature. Gives the cookies a tender crumb. Forgot to soften your butter? See our tip to soften butter in 5 minutes.
- Walnuts – toasting the walnuts until they are golden will give you the best tasting cookies. You can substitute with pecans or even pistachios. Powdered Sugar – also known as confectioners sugar. We add 1/2 cup to the batter and use more to roll the cookies.
- Vanilla Extract – adds flavor. We love homemade vanilla extract for all of our baking.
- Salt – balances the sweetness. Fine sea salt is our salt of choice.
The KEY to the Best Snowball Cookies
Toast the walnuts on a dry skillet over medium heat, tossing frequently for about 5 minutes or until nuts are lightly golden and fragrant then remove to a cutting board to cool and chop the nuts. Whether you are using walnuts or pecans, toasting the nuts will really bring out their best flavor and will make your cookies even better.
Pro Tip: Nuts can burn very quickly on a skillet. Never walk away from your skillet and be sure to toss them frequently. As soon as you can smell the aroma of the nuts, they are done toasting.
How to make Russian Tea Cakes
- Cream together butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth.
- Add flour and salt and mix until combined and no streaks of flour remain. The mixture will be lumpy and not smooth.
- Add walnuts once they are cooled and chopped. Use a firm spatula to mix them in until well distributed in the dough.
- Shape into 1-inch balls (using a small cookie scoop makes portioning easy) and place them on a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet, keeping them at least an inch apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are very lightly browned at the base.
- Roll hot cookies in powdered sugar and place on a cookie platter to cool completely to room temperature.
- Roll cooled cookies again in powdered sugar to get an even and generous coating of powdered sugar.
How to tell when Tea Cakes are Done?
These cookies bake up quickly. They are done when the edges of the cookies are lightly golden in color with a golden base.
Storing at room temperature – Cookies may be stored up to 1 week in an airtight container.
To freeze Russian tea cakes – store in a freezer-safe lidded container or zip bag and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator and enjoy.
You don’t have to use nuts. You can leave them out completely or fill them with a surprise such as a few butterscotch chips (my son’s favorite). If omitting nuts, I suggest adding another 1/4 cup of flour or the cookies will spread in the oven since the nuts help them keep their form.
They are essentially the same thing and the terms are used interchangeably. At Christmas time, they are referred to as snowball cookies.
You can sub with half whole wheat flour if you prefer. It will add flavor and color to the center of the cookies.
More Christmas Cookies and Bars
Christmas baking is a nostalgic activity and a great time to make beautiful food memories. Explore all of our best Christmas Recipes Here and I’m sure you’ll find many new favorite cookies in this list.
- Christmas Sugar Cookies
- Peanut Butter Cookies
- Lemon Bars
- Snickerdoodle Cookies
- Christmas Coconut Balls
- Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
This Tea Cakes recipe was first published in January 2010. It has been updated with new photos and we shared all of our best tips for richer flavor and texture.
Russian Tea Cakes Recipe
Russian tea cakes are buttery, tender, and studded with walnuts. These snowball cookies are easy to make, keep well, and are perfect for your Christmas Cookie Platter.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or silicone liner.
Toast nuts on a dry skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes, tossing frequently until fragrant and lightly golden.
How to Make Russian Tea Cakes:
In a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer, cream together butter, 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla, until smooth.
Add flour and salt and continue mixing until no streaks of flour remain. The mixture will be lumpy. Use a firm spatula to fold in the nuts until evenly incorporated.
Use a firm spatula to fold in the chopped nuts until evenly incorporated.
Shape the dough into 1-inch balls (using a small cookie scoop to portion the dough makes the process easy) and place them on a clean baking sheet at least 1-inch apart. Bake at 400˚F for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are golden at the base.
Fill a bowl with 1 cup powdered sugar and roll the cookie balls in it while they are still very warm then transfer to a platter to cool completely.
Once cookies are at room temperature, roll them in more powdered sugar to get perfect little snowballs. Cookies may be stored up to 1 week in an airtight container.
Please Note: Nutrition label is an estimate per cookie. This recipe makes about 36 cookies.