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Dec 10

Mom’s Russian Tea Cakes

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These are my Mom’s Famous Russian Tea Cakes! They’re the perfect Christmas cookie.

Russian Tea Cakes - my mom's famous recipe! | crazyforcrust.com

Mom’s just do it better, right? Your mom’s recipe for something is just the best one, period.

These Russian Tea Cakes are no exception to that rule!

My mom has been making these longer than I’ve been alive. I call them her Famous Russian Tea Cakes because she’s always the one that makes them – and they’re always expected (and requested!) at parties. She makes them for Christmas, for Easter, for every holiday…and just because it’s a Tuesday.

Now, if you ask her about her recipe, she’ll tell you she got it during her home economics class back in school. She got a treasure trove of recipes from that class: coffee cake, banana bread, meringues. As a kid I’d rifle through her recipe box and in neat cursive script were all these recipes on index cards with her name up in the corner. So many recipes on this blog are based on those recipes.

I’m sort of jealous of her Home Ec class. When I was in mine in the seventh grade, all we made were sloppy joes that turned out cold and disgusting (seriously, I didn’t eat another sloppy joe for about 25 years) and a pillow that looks like a phone that my mom sewed for me. #idontsew #thesewingmachinehatesme

So thank you, Home Ec teacher. These Russian Tea Cakes have made many a Christmas. And now I’m sharing them with you!

Russian Tea Cakes - my mom's famous recipe! | crazyforcrust.com

Now, you may be scratching your head and wondering why the heck I’m calling these a Russian Tea Cake. It’s what I grew up calling them. Only a few years ago, after I started blogging, did I realize there are several names for these cookies:

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Snowballs

Butterballs

Whatever you call them, they’re good. They’re super buttery and rich, probably because the ratio of butter to sugar is 2:1. Normally in cookies, there is more sugar than butter. These are all butter baby!

So, then, why don’t they flatten? Well, probably because there’s also lots of flour. Flour is a binder. These cookies have no egg, but they do have nuts in them. The classic Snowball/Russian Tea Cake is made with butter, powdered sugar, flour, and nuts. I used pecans, because they’re my favorite. You can also use walnuts or almonds.

Did you know you can stuff these cookies with candy? Mmm-hmmmm. I’ve done it with Reese’s. (Those are good. Go pin them. I’ll wait….)

Russian Tea Cakes - my mom's famous recipe! | crazyforcrust.com

After baking, these cookies get a roll in powdered sugar. You do it while the cookie is still hot (careful of burning your fingers!) so the sugar sticks.

Many of you might wonder how I got my powdered sugar to look so powdery and not melted into the cookie. The secret: The Double Roll. Once cooled, roll the cookies a second time. Then they are powdery to the extreme.

These are a super rich, buttery, crumbly cookie. I use a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop to make them evenly sized. You have a cookie scoop, right? If not, add it to your Christmas list. Santa needs to bring you one! (I have three: 1 tablespoon, 2 tablespoon, and 1/4 cup. You should ask for all of them!)

My mom loves to make these more bite sized. She uses her cookie scoop, then cuts each cookie in half. You get double the cookies and they’re perfect for a one-bite treat. No powdered sugar or crumbly mess anywhere. Great with kids. :) #omgpowderedsugareverywhere

I know your family will love these as much as mine does. They’ll become a fixture on your holiday table, just like ours!

Russian Tea Cakes - my mom's famous recipe! | crazyforcrust.com

 Enjoy!

Mom’s Russian Teacakes

Yield: 48 cookies

Mom’s Russian Teacakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup finely chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, or almonds)
  • Powdered sugar for rolling

Instructions

  1. Preaheat oven to 375°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix butter, ½ cup powdered sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add flour and salt and mix until the dough comes together. Stir in the nuts. If dough is too soft, chill it until you can work it easily with your hands.
  3. Scoop 1 tablespoon balls of dough and place on prepared cookie sheet.
  4. Bake cookies for 7-8 minutes until bottoms are just slightly brown. Remove from oven and cool for just a minute, until you can handle them. Fill a small bowl with powdered sugar and roll each cookie in the sugar until coated. Place on a rack to cool. (Once cookies are cooled, you may want to re-roll them in more powdered sugar.)
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89 Responses to “Mom’s Russian Tea Cakes”

  1. Rochelle @ Oh So Sweet Baker posted on December 10, 2013 at 2:47 pm (#)

    Yummy these look delicious. I’ve yet to make cookies for my Christmas baking, so I want to make these!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 7:00 am

      Enjoy!!

  2. Averie @ Averie Cooks posted on December 10, 2013 at 3:07 pm (#)

    They remind me of my mom’s Russian Tea Cakes and she’s been making those as long as Ive been alive, and before that, they were my (russian/polish) grandmother’s Russian Tea Cakes :) Buttery, powdered sugar, a little crumbly, gosh just seeing these brings back memories! They’re great, Dorothy!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:59 am

      Thanks Averie!

  3. Nancy P.@thebittersideofsweet posted on December 10, 2013 at 3:09 pm (#)

    We had something so similar growing up and they are the best!!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:59 am

      Thanks Nancy!

  4. Nicole posted on December 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm (#)

    Russian Tea Cakes are My Mom’s famous cookies too! In fact, it is about time for her to make a batch! These look perfect :D

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:59 am

      Thanks Nicole!

  5. Ala posted on December 10, 2013 at 3:50 pm (#)

    Moms do do it best! I’ve been thinking about making these for my friend’s wedding dessert bar, in fact, so I’m glad I stumbled across your mom’s recipe. And way to inspire me more and more to become a home ec teacher–I just remember our 7th grade class involving belgian waffles and lots of quilting :) I can’t believe how many awesome (reliable) recipes I used to collect from kiddy cooking classes, way before the heyday of the internet. If only I could go back to that simplicity now, there are way too many recipes out there I want to compare/review/try, amiright? ;)

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:59 am

      Oh yes! Way too many! I’ll never make everything I’ve pinned. Not if I had a thousand years! :) Thanks Ala!

  6. Carol posted on December 10, 2013 at 4:21 pm (#)

    I just made some snowballs yesterday, but never have I seen them stuffed…oh, my…yum! Thanks for sharing your recipe!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:58 am

      Thanks Carol!

  7. Laurie F. posted on December 10, 2013 at 4:31 pm (#)

    I have a recipe for these that calls them “sand tarts”, but your Mom’s recipe is the best, I’m sure! She is quite the baker. And what a great home ec class she had! I don’t remember getting any good recipes, but I remember boys waiting outside our class for samples (we had home ec the last period of the day in 7th grade).

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:58 am

      LOL! Boys and their food. :) I’ve never heard them called Sand Tarts but I can see why, the name sort of fits!

  8. Lin posted on December 10, 2013 at 4:32 pm (#)

    I have made these for years and they are phenomenal!!! They just melt in your mouth!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:57 am

      Thanks Lin!

  9. Nancie posted on December 10, 2013 at 4:40 pm (#)

    I grew up with Russian Tea Cakes. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without them! They are one of my favorite cookies. Our recipes are exactly the same, Dorothy!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:57 am

      I’m not surprised! I wish I knew where the original came from. :) Thanks Nancie!

      • Marnie replied on January 14th, 2014 at 10:50 am

        I found this recipe in my vintage Betty Crocker Cookbook passed down from my grandmother. My book is from the 50’s so your guess is as good as mine as to where it started. But really, who cares, these are my absolute favorite cookie. AND….they freeze well for a cool, summer treat!

        • Dorothy Kern replied on January 14th, 2014 at 1:23 pm

          Awesome! I had no idea where it originally came from! :)

  10. Darlene Epps posted on December 10, 2013 at 4:41 pm (#)

    I am new to your blog.. Never thought about stuffing these cookies..Thanks I will try that…

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:57 am

      Welcome Darlene! I think that stuffing cookies was the best invention ever. :)

  11. Maria posted on December 10, 2013 at 4:41 pm (#)

    I grew up eating these too but we called them Russian Tea Cookies. I didn’t like them with nuts, so my mom made some with and some without nuts. Brings back a lot of good memories and will definitely make them this Christmas. Thanks.

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:54 am

      My mom did that too, because my dad couldn’t have nuts. Now he can’t have sugar either, so it’s all nuts so he’s not tempted! :)

  12. Brianna posted on December 10, 2013 at 4:52 pm (#)

    These look super yummy. I may have to try the Reese’s version since Reese’s peanut butter cups are my very favorite candy.

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:53 am

      I looooooooove the Reese’s version!

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  14. Kayle (The Cooking Actress) posted on December 10, 2013 at 5:35 pm (#)

    Moms do make everything best! I’ve learned to stop trying to come up to the standard of Michael’s mom lol.

    and omg I’m jealous of your mom’s home ec class too! That’s awesome! and these cookies/russian tea cakes look perfect. I always associate them with Christmas :D

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:53 am

      LOL!! Too funny. Thanks Kayle!

  15. Kindra S. posted on December 10, 2013 at 6:36 pm (#)

    Have you tried these at all with gluten-free flour? I am looking at using a gluten-free flour mix from a box. I recently went gluten-free and it’s hard to find cookie recipes that don’t have flour in them.

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:52 am

      I haven’t, I’m sorry. But if you try, let me know. I’m sure there is a ratio of how much gluten free vs. all-purpose to use. My friend Carolyn at http://alldayidreamaboutfood.com posts lots of gluten free recipes!

  16. Kim (Feed Me, Seymour) posted on December 10, 2013 at 6:42 pm (#)

    I love these cookies. They make me think so much of my childhood. We called them Mexican wedding cookies but the result is still the same. So tasty!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:51 am

      I love the memories these cookies bring! :) Thanks Kim!

  17. Ellen posted on December 10, 2013 at 7:08 pm (#)

    These look delicious! I love the fact that most of the ingredients are things you’d commonly have around the house. After I stock up on groceries I’ll definitely try them. Thank you!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:50 am

      I know, I love that too. So easy! Thanks!

  18. Tahnycooks posted on December 10, 2013 at 7:51 pm (#)

    This cookie needs to show up in my mothers kitchen every year for Christmas otherwise it just doesn’t seem right! We call them snowballs or more commonly, “those cookies mom makes every year.” Love these!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:50 am

      I love all the names! :) Thanks Tahny!

  19. DulceElla posted on December 10, 2013 at 8:19 pm (#)

    Girl, these cookies rock! i’ll try them tomorrow and make them for my son’s 3rd birthday on sunday. Thanks for sharing!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:49 am

      Enjoy!! :)

  20. Jocelyn @BruCrew Life posted on December 10, 2013 at 9:30 pm (#)

    These are one of my favorite cookies to make each year too…except I don’t ever use nuts in mine or roll them in powdered sugar. Powdered sugar everywhere doesn’t sound like fun with kids…although I like your mom’s idea to cut them in half so you can just pop them!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:49 am

      I’ve never had them not rolled in powdered sugar. And yes, it does get everywhere!

  21. Elizabeth @ Confessions of a Baking Queen posted on December 10, 2013 at 10:02 pm (#)

    These look so good, my mom always makes Shortbread-that is what she is famous for!! And scones ;) I have never had a cookie like this, I always eye them but always end up going for something with chocolate. But these look so buttery and the second roll in powdered sugar- hell yeah!!!

  22. Julianne @ Beyond Frosting posted on December 10, 2013 at 11:15 pm (#)

    These were a staple on our cookie platter but I haven’t made them in years! I am totally intrigued by the Reese’s stuff one!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:44 am

      You can stuff so many things inside! I’ve got another one next week. :)

  23. Jennifer @ Not Your Momma's Cookie posted on December 11, 2013 at 3:48 am (#)

    I took home economics in middle school – we never made anything fun and had to sew these ugly locker caddies :( I can’t sew either!

    I love old family recipes. Just recently I was looking through some of my grandmother’s old recipes, in her handwriting. It is such a special thing to have, especially once they have passed away :)

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:43 am

      I got a huge pack of old recipes from my Aunt and I can’t wait to dig in. They’re the best!

  24. tanya posted on December 11, 2013 at 4:51 am (#)

    I don’t remember what we cooked in home ec, I just remember sewing pillows. I broke the sewing machine and blamed it on someone else. Not my most proud moment. These cookies are right out of my childhood! My mom made them every year. This one is special to me!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:41 am

      LOL, we’re both sewing machine rejects! :) Love it!

  25. Samantha @ Five Heart Home posted on December 11, 2013 at 6:34 am (#)

    Love these, Dorothy! My mom always made them every year at Christmas as well, but she shaped them like little crescents and I think everyone in Texas calls them Mexican Wedding Cookies. I love your tip to double roll them so that all of the powdered sugar doesn’t soak in…thanks!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 11th, 2013 at 6:40 am

      It’s so funny how they have so many different names! Thanks Samantha!

  26. Cindy Martin posted on December 11, 2013 at 8:57 am (#)

    One of my all time favorites! I will definitely be baking these soon!

  27. Wendy posted on December 11, 2013 at 9:33 am (#)

    Nothing better for buttery richness than a little round shortbread ball, no matter what nationality (Russian, Mexican, Greek…) As Jocelyn mentioned, these are delicious without nuts too. (I can’t really compare because I can’t eat nuts. I just make up the difference with more flour. ) I can’t imagine them without powdered sugar though. I don’t mind a little powdered sugar mess when it provides such yumminess.:)

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 12th, 2013 at 6:51 am

      Lots and lots and lots of powdered sugar! :)

  28. Kathy posted on December 11, 2013 at 10:25 am (#)

    I agree! Everything my mom makes is better! I always called these Mexican Wedding Cookies. It’s funny how one cookie can have so many different names! I even made them for a college Spanish class for a speech I was doing on wedding traditions! I may have to add these to my Christmas baking this year!

  29. Mary Frances @ The Sweet {Tooth} Life posted on December 11, 2013 at 10:49 am (#)

    My grandma brings these every year at Christmas time! They are the only cookies I associate with Christmas. Thanks for sharing! I’ll have to try the double roll trick!

  30. Jessica @ A Kitchen Addiction posted on December 11, 2013 at 12:16 pm (#)

    Russian tea cakes are a tradition in my family, except it’s my grandma’s recipe that everyone uses! I love the idea of stuffing Reese’s in them!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 12th, 2013 at 6:49 am

      Thanks jessica!

  31. Dina posted on December 11, 2013 at 2:43 pm (#)

    these are one of my favorite holiday cookies!

  32. Brianne @ Cupcakes & Kale Chips posted on December 11, 2013 at 6:05 pm (#)

    Dorothy, these are my mom’s favorites too, only I have to make them and they have to have walnuts and we call them snowballs! And when I make her batch this weekend, I am totally taking some of the dough and stuffing mini Reese’s inside like the recipe you linked here. That might be my new favorite cookie!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 12th, 2013 at 6:48 am

      I love stuffing them! I have another stuffed one next week! :)

  33. Kristi @ My San Francisco Kitchen posted on December 11, 2013 at 8:54 pm (#)

    How funny, this is one of my mom’s favorite holiday recipes too! I love them so much :)

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 12th, 2013 at 6:47 am

      I think they’re a popular one! Thanks Kristi!

  34. Mary posted on December 12, 2013 at 2:10 pm (#)

    I do believe I will be making these tonight! I’ve made some similar before so thanks for jogging my memory…or tickling my tastebuds as the case may be!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 13th, 2013 at 7:02 am

      Enjoy Mary!

  35. Amy posted on December 13, 2013 at 4:52 pm (#)

    That’s so special that your mom’s recipes came from her home ec class! (And even sweeter that a lot of your recipes are based off of those. :) ) I remember sewing a pillow too — shaped like two peas in a pod — but we didn’t make sloppy joes. We baked a chocolate cake with fudgy frosting instead!

  36. PatS posted on December 14, 2013 at 8:39 am (#)

    Thanks for the recipe. I am a cook, but do not usuallly bake and am thinking of baking this year. These were always my favorite! How long do these keep? Can they be frozen? Perhaps you could roll them in sugar once, then freeze, defrost and roll them again? Thanks,
    PatS

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 15th, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      I’ve frozen them! I place them between paper towels, and then let them defrost still between the towels to absorb moisture. And yes, they may need another roll in sugar. But they’ll be awesome!

  37. Erika posted on December 16, 2013 at 4:24 pm (#)

    I was pretty excited about finding these. While I play MMORPG games at night we sit around and talk about baking. One of the other ladies mentioned this and I was intrigued until I saw the nuts. we have to exclude those since we have nut allergy in the family! This looks wonderful, thank you!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 17th, 2013 at 6:33 am

      Yes you can exclude the nuts! These are one of my favorite Christmas cookies!

  38. georgina posted on December 17, 2013 at 2:07 pm (#)

    I just made these and they are great – just like my mom used to make! I was concerned that the dough was too crumbly but it was fine. I also did the “Double Roll” with the powdered sugar and they came out perfectly. The recipe is definitely a keeper :)

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 17th, 2013 at 8:01 pm

      Thanks Georgina!! I’m so glad you liked them. :)

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  40. Suzan posted on December 19, 2013 at 2:13 pm (#)

    I love this recipe from Russian Tea Cakes to Wedding cookies yo Snowballs they all seem to have the same ingredients. Last year I decided to change things up a little. I made a double batch then split the dough three ways. One third of the dough stayed plain the second third of the dough I added a few drops of red food coloring and the last third I added a few of green food coloring. Following the recipe except for the coloring. Rolling into balls. When done you will have some red green and plain white balls you can even add candy sprinkles to the dough for more color. Making your cookie tray or presentation bright and shiny.
    Happy Holidays

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 19th, 2013 at 7:19 pm

      I love that idea Suzan! It would be so fun for other holidays too…maybe 4th of July!

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  42. Gail posted on December 21, 2013 at 8:08 am (#)

    Quick question, please. All purpose or self- rising flour? I thought since the addition of salt, it would all purpose. Just want to be sure since these are gifts. Thank you and can’t wait to try them! My favorite cookie as a child was Mexican Wedding Cookies. Can still remember getting them with my Mom.

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 21st, 2013 at 8:36 am

      All purpose. I always use all-purpose flour, unless otherwise stated! Enjoy!

      • Gail replied on December 21st, 2013 at 7:21 pm

        Thank you! Merry Christmas !

  43. Wendy posted on December 27, 2013 at 11:48 am (#)

    Ok. Let me start by saying Russian Teacakes are my FAVORITE cookie. Let me also say that I bake a lot. However, I have never successfully made these. My aunt always makes them. When I have attempted them they came out crumbly and very disappointing. My aunt and uncle retired to Kansas. So I knew if I wanted Russian teacakes, I would have to make them myself. When I saw your post I thought I’d give your recipe a try instead of Gramma’s. I have to say they are Perfect! !!!! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on December 30th, 2013 at 6:46 pm

      Yay! I’m so glad Wendy. I love these cookies – they’re perfect every time! :) Happy New Year!

  44. TheGreatZambini posted on January 13, 2014 at 4:45 pm (#)

    I was so excited to be eating Russian cookies, and then they are just American? Bummer. Anyways, I love these types of buttery and powdery cookies, so I’m definitely going to make these. For tea. Because I’ve been needing an excuse to have a tea party with friends. And once I’ve fed them cookies, they probably won’t complain that tea parties are meant for little girls.

    • Dorothy Kern replied on January 14th, 2014 at 6:35 am

      I have no idea if they’re American or not! They have lots of names…so I think they’re from everywhere!

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  46. Betty posted on February 10, 2014 at 12:39 pm (#)

    Just made the Russian Tea cakes. AWESOME!!! The best recipe for them that I have tried. Thank you (and your Mom) for sharing. Love your website.

    • Dorothy Kern replied on February 10th, 2014 at 7:22 pm

      Thanks Betty! (That’s my mom’s name too!!) :)

  47. Denise Fedor Falicki posted on March 1, 2014 at 6:02 pm (#)

    My mom made these in the 50’s as Russian nut balls. Still call them that, but now ake them Gluten Free. Same yum, but even MORE tender!

    • Dorothy Kern replied on March 1st, 2014 at 6:10 pm

      Awesome! They have so many names!! Thanks Denise!

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