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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.
Table of Contents
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.
Why you’ll love this recipe
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.
Are Russian Teacakes 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!
5 Ingredients in a Russian Tea Cakes
There are just a few ingredients in these easy cookies:
- Butter: You can use salted OR unsalted butter (see recipe notes). Make sure it’s softened. Make sure to use REAL butter, the higher quality the better. (I love Challenge Butter best!)
- Powdered Sugar: This makes them nice and delicate.
- Vanilla: Always buy PURE vanilla!
- Salt: Needed if using unsalted butter – omit if using salted butter.
- Flour: Be sure to measure it correctly.
These cookies hold their shape when they bake, because the have no leavening and no egg.
Can you make Russian Tea Cookies without nuts?
You 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
Russian Tea Cake Secret
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.
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.
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.
Yes they freeze great for up to 3 months.
Just keep mixing – this dough is stiff and if you’re using a hand mixer it will take longer to come together than if you’re using a stand mixer. If it’s still crumbly you just need to keep mixing.
They should not flatten at all. Did you make any substitutions? If they flatten you may have not measured the flour correctly or your butter may have been too warm or melted.
My favorite Snowball Cookie Recipes:
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!
- Chocolate Chip Snowballs
- Lemon Snowballs
- Pumpkin Spice Snowballs
- Stuffed Snowballs
- Birthday Cake Wedding Cookies
- All of my snowball cookie recipes!
Mom’s Russian Tea Cakes Recipe
- 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter softened
- ½ cup (57 g) powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 ¼ cups (279 g) all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ 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!
Other favorite Christmas Cookies:
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Shortbread Cookies (4 ways)
- Pumpkin Spice Snickerdoodles
- Cake Mix Crinkle Cookies
- Peanut Butter Blossoms
See more of my snowball recipes here!
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!
Last Updated on October 3, 2022
Very simple very good. You will want to double the recipe…..they will be gone fast!
Turned out perfectly! If your dough is super crumbly, definitely heed the note about continuing to mix until it comes together. I also made a batch substituting in vegan butter and they turned out wonderful – virtually no difference in taste and texture!
Hi Dorothy being Italian My Grandmother and my Mom called these Butterball cookies. Same recipe as yours love them.
This was a Christmas staple when I was growing up. We called them Mexican wedding cakes. Few years ago I saw a recipe for them with the mini chocolate chips which we love but those we call Chocolate chip tea cookies. Then I found your recipe for the Pumpkin Spice and we call those Pumpkin Spice Snowballs. lol So what ever you want to call them call them delicious!
Can I make the dough and freeze it to prep all the Christmas cookies ? And do one full day of baking.
Yes! You can even freeze baked cookies.
What is the reason for using unsalted butter? I never have and they turn out perfect.
You can use salted – you just need to reduce the salt in whatever recipe you’re using (if it calls for unsalted). I actually grew up only using salted butter but most “professional” bakers use unsalted. The rule of thumb is that 1/2 cup unsalted butter + 1/4 tsp salt = 1/2 cup salted butter. So reduce any recipe according to how many 1/2 cups butter are called for.
I have to thank you so much for adding that when using a hand mixer, you need to mix longer to bind when it’s crumbly.
I made these last week for the first time to bring to a party and almost had a breakdown because they were so loose I couldn’t firm into a cookie. I’d fill the scoop very tight, but when I dropped them on the sheet, they turned into sand (literally)! Almost gave up, but I left them alone for an hour and they sort of worked and they tasted great. You’re the only person who mentioned hand mixers take longer. A million thanks!
So glad they worked! The dough is really frustrating but so worth it!
My mom always called these Russian Tea Cakes too. I made them last night, and followed the recipe exactly. They turned out just perfectly. Simple recipe, simple ingredients (all of which I had on hand!) simple to prepare. The result is so much greater than the sum of the parts! These are delicious cookies, and who doesn’t love them? Glad I spotted this recipe on your website. : )
Love these! A hit every time I serve them! Love the ideas for different add I s, too!
Love these cookies!!!!!!!!!!!!
I normally don’t read the blog part and skip to the recipe, buttt I have to say that when I started reading I couldn’t stop, and U held my attention. Thankyou!!:)