These are my Mom’s Famous Russian Tea Cakes! They’re the perfect classic Christmas cookie and we’ve been making them for my entire life. You can make these easy cookies in no time.
You can call these cookies so many names but they’re easy to make and everyone loves them. My mom gets several requests to make them all year long.
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.
What is a Russian Tea Cake?
A classic Christmas Cookie, tea cakes are buttery cookie balls filled with nuts. They only have a few ingredients and are rolled in powdered sugar after baking. They’re delicate and practically dissolve in your mouth.
I don’t make a ton of recipes more than once, but I make my mom’s Russian Tea Cake Recipe several times a year.
Are Russian Tea Cakes the same as wedding cookies?
These buttery cookies have so many names. You may have heard them called Wedding Cookies (either Mexican Wedding Cookies or Italian), Butter Balls, Pecan Balls or Snowball Cookies.
I go back and forth between what I call them, but my mom’s recipe calls them Russian Tea Cakes so that’s what we call them!
My mom got this recipe from our neighbor when I was young. I was only 5 when we moved away and I don’t remember the neighbors but I remember digging through the recipe box every Christmas to find this recipe.
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.
What’s in a Wedding Cookie?
There are just a few ingredients in these easy cookies:
- Powdered Sugar
That’s it! You just need five main ingredients to make these cookies.
Because butter is the main ingredient, make sure to use REAL butter, the higher quality the better. (I love Challenge Butter best!)
Traditionally Snowballs are filled with nuts, either pecans, walnuts or almonds. My mom always made them with pecans, so that’s what I use in this recipe.
These cookies hold their shape when they bake, because the have no leavening and no egg.
Can you make Snowball Cookies without nuts?
You for sure can omit the nuts in these cookies. I do it all the time! You have a few options for making these nut-free:
- Skip them and leave them plain
- Use mini chocolate chips
- Use toffee bits
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!)
A 1-tablespoon size cookie scoop makes the perfect size Snowball cookie!PRO TIP
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.
Russian Tea Cakes are coated in powdered sugar after baking!
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.
How do you store Tea Cake Cookies?
The best thing about making these cookies (besides eating them) is that they freeze well! My mom and I always freeze these for holidays or just any day you want a cookie.
You may just have to re-roll them in powdered sugar once they’re thawed. Other than that you don’t have to do anything special to freeze them.
Important Tips for making Snowball Cookies:
- Don’t pack your flour. Be sure you measure your flour correctly. Same goes for the powdered sugar.
- Chop your nuts small so the cookies bind better.
- This dough is a thick cookie dough. If you’re using a stand mixer they’ll take a minute or two to combine into a thick dough. Note that a hand mixer will take much longer to mix! Just keep mixing: the crumbly dough will come together to form a thick cohesive cookie dough.
You can make so many different variations of this cookie. I have over a dozen different flavors of Russian Tea Cakes, from lemon to spice to chocolate chip. You can even STUFF them with candy!
My favorite Snowball Cookie Recipes:
- Chocolate Chip Snowballs
- Lemon Snowballs
- Pumpkin Spice Snowballs
- Stuffed Snowballs
- Birthday Cake Wedding Cookies
- All of my snowball cookie recipes!
Other favorite Christmas Cookies:
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Shortbread Cookies (4 ways)
- Pumpkin Spice Snickerdoodles
- Cake Mix Crinkle Cookies
- Peanut Butter Blossoms
Mom’s Russian Teacakes
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup finely chopped nuts pecans, walnuts, or almonds
- Powdered sugar for rolling
- Preheat oven to 375°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Mix butter, 1/2 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.
- Scoop 1 tablespoon balls of dough and place on prepared cookie sheet.
- 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.)
- You can freeze these cookies or make them up to 4 days ahead of serving.
- Omit the nuts and substitute mini chocolate chips
- Omit the nuts and substitute toffee bits
- Omit the nuts and make them plain
- Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
- Check out my snowball category for all ideas!
Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate
Post originally posted 2013. Photos updated 2019.
Easy Russian Tea Cakes are a classic Christmas cookie we’ve been making my whole life. My mom’s recipe is famous in our family! They’re buttery cookies filled with pecans and they’re SO good!
All text and images © DOROTHY KERN for Crazy for Crust. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe. Disclaimer: Nutrition information shown is not guaranteed to be accurate.
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Published on: December 10, 2013