Mom’s Russian Tea Cakes

4.82 from 11 votes

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.

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bowl of snowball wedding cookies

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!

fingers holding snowball cookie in bowl

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:

  • Butter
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Vanilla
  • Salt
  • Flour

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
fingers holding Russian Tea Cake with bite missing

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!


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.
bowl of Russian Tea Cakes

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:

Other favorite Christmas Cookies:

Mom’s Russian Teacakes

This is my Mom’s famous Russian Teacake recipe! This classic recipe is a family favorite, wether you call them snowballs or teacakes or wedding cookies!
4.82 from 11 votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Yield 48 cookies
Serving Size 1 cookie


  • 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.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

You can make so many different variations of this recipe!
  • 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!

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1cookie | Calories: 71kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 13mg | Potassium: 14mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 118IU | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword cookies
collage of russian tea cake photos

Post originally posted 2013. Photos updated 2019.

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

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!

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182 CommentsLeave a comment or review

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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,

    1. 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!

      1. Just to be clear with regards to freezing… it looks like I complete the recipe, including 2 rolls in sugar, THEN freeze, then after defrosted, add another roll in sugar if necessary?  

  5. 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!

  6. 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 🙂

  7. 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