Russian Tea Cakes


Russian Tea Cakes are a melt-in-your mouth shortbread-like cookie that goes by many names; a Mexican Wedding Cake, an Italian Butter Nut, a Southern Pecan Butterball, a Snowdrop, a Viennese Sugar Ball and a Snowball. They are very popular, not only during the Christmas season, but also at weddings, christenings, and other festive occasions.

These little morsels are also easy to make and don’t require any special ingredients. As much as I love trying new recipes, I truly enjoy making (and eating) the classics most of all. I remember making these cookies with my mom when I was younger. I’ll be bringing these cookies to work today for our “cookie day” to celebrate the last day of classes for students on campus.

Russian Tea Cakes
Makes about 4 dozen


1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup pecans, toasted and finely ground

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in flour, then nuts. Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Working with half of chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls. Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 18 minutes. Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in sugar to coat completely. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough. (Cookies can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Make sure your cookies aren’t too big when you are rolling your dough. When the cookies are closer to two inches, they dry out easily when you’re baking them. You definitely want one inch balls so don’t be afraid to whip out a ruler to make sure. The smaller balls get a little larger while they are baking and are just perfect.



27 thoughts on “Russian Tea Cakes

  1. Ah yes. I remember powdered sugar all over us both plus much of the kitchen and us giggling over the delicious mess. Now you have your own kitchen memories of the Tea Cake adventure. I only wish I could have a taste of this recent batch before it went off to work:)


      • Believe it or not, but last night my mother in law took me to a bonfire to celebrate St. Herman. While it wasn’t exactly a bonfire, more a campfire which was a tad disappointing, they were serving Russian tea cake there. The very day I read about them on your blog. I was very excited, and can now vouch for their deliciousness!! :)


      • Oh goodness, an outdoor bonfire?! Even being from MN, I’ve only experienced one winter campfire and suffice it to say, that was enough for me! However, throw in a hot drink a few Russian tea cakes and I could be persuaded to last an hour or so in the cold :)


  2. These look delightful Heather, think I may know them as a Snowball? Oh, I wish I had time to make them now! I still make my American Christmas cookies and maybe some gingerbread men but I’ll be lucky if I can get to even these this year! Still, I’m imagining one of these beauties melting in my mouth as I can only imagine :-)


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