Ah, Russian Tea Cakes…aka Mexican Wedding Cake…aka Snowball…what a classic Christmas cookie! I’ve found this recipe in my grandmothers, mothers, and mother-in-laws recipe files, which are all the same cookie with the exception of the title name and choice of nuts that were used. I’ve changed the original Russian Tea Cakes recipe to add some almond flour to which adds a really nice nutty undertone of additional flavor. Its really your choice of combination for the nuts since walnuts, pecans or almonds all work in this recipe. I actually use all three together!
Baker’s tips for Russian Tea Cakes:
Better butter makes better Russian Tea Cakes:
Use a good quality real butter since it is the main ingredient. My favorite brands are Challenge or Land O’ Lakes. Since this is a butter cookie, be sure to cream together the butter and sugar for a good five minutes to produce a tender crumb.
Use a fine grind:
Since these are small cookies, grind up the majority of the nuts used (walnuts, pecans, and almonds) into a fine chop, like a sandy meal-like consistency. You can leave a bit larger for a bit of added texture. To chop the nuts I like to use a Cuisinart mini-food processor.
Use the best vanilla (or make it yourself!):
Always use good quality all-natural, pure vanilla extract in your baking. If you purchase vanilla, be sure it only contains vanilla beans and alcohol. I make my own vanilla, which is super simple to make: Take 8 oz. of bourbon and add 5-7 vanilla beans that are spilt down the middle and let it sit for 3-6 months. As you use it replace the bourbon and add more beans. Store in dark, cool place and it can last many years. I prefer to use bourbon but you can also use vodka.
Use the proper baking sheet:
Always use light-colored, aluminum cookie sheet. I use Nordic Ware aluminum 18×13 half-sheet pans. Aluminum is best for distributing and reflecting even heat during the baking process.
Always chill the dough:
Scoop dough onto a cold, ungreased baking sheet without a silpat non-stick baking mat or parchment paper. This ensures the dough will bake slower and not to burn the edges. Almond flour is more delicate than regular flour and tends to brown faster. To ensure less spread from the butter, chill the dough balls for 5-10 minutes before placing in the oven.
Old-Fashioned Russian Tea Cakes
- 1 c. unsalted butter room temp
- 1/2 c. powdered sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 1/2 c. unbleached flour
- 1/2 c. almond flour fine
- 1 c. nuts finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Mix together butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla.
- Whisk together dry ingredients and add to batter.
- Use a small cookie scoop and roll into 1 " balls. Drop dough on a cold ungreased baking sheet and chill in fridge for 5 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Bake cookies for 15-18 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar while they are still warm. Let cookies cool then roll them again in powdered sugar.
- Let cookies cool and store in a container.