Russian Tea Cakes


My mother is too nice a person to ever say, “I told you so” but I should know better by now.  She’s always right.  Always.  It’s one of the things I love about her but when you like to be right once in a while as I do, it can also be frustrating.  She’s been suggesting for weeks that I get a flu shot but I’m stubborn.  One, I don’t like to see needles.  Two, I don’t feel I need one.  But would you like to guess who enjoyed the weekend and who has been home sick for the last few days?

Thankfully, I’m recovering just fine.  The only loss was that most of my cooking plans for the weekend went by the wayside.  So today, I decided to make one of my favorite treats:  Russian tea cakes (aka Mexican wedding cookies).  If I visit a sweet shop and these are on display, I will always choose them over the other options.  They’re elegant little cookies, nutty and crumbly, too.  But between you and me, it’s the powdered sugar coating that I love.  It makes the cookies both delicately beautiful and delightfully messy to eat.  I always end up rubbing the excess sweet powder off my face and clothes but I think that’s part of the fun.


There’s really not much to these little cookies.  Chances are, you have all the ingredients available in your pantry.  If you’re like me and have a tendency to collect boxes of confectioners sugar, you have no choice but to make these.  They’re worth it.  They’re two-bite delights though you won’t be able to eat just one.  I lightly toasted the nuts before adding them to the mix and I think this lent a nuttier flavor to the cookies.  The recipe also called for sifting the flour before measuring it, resulting in a lighter cookie.  My taster’s take on these (since I can’t fully trust my taste buds yet):  Good balance of flavors; not too sweet from the double layer of sugar, just nutty enough and no overpowering flour-y texture.  That’s good enough for me.


Russian Tea Cakes

Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar, plus more for rolling cookies
  • 2 cups flour, unsifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans (I toasted lightly in a pan for nuttier flavor)

Preheat oven to 325ºF

Cream butter in a large mixing bowl.  Add the vanilla extract, mix again then slowly add the 1/2 cup powdered sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy remembering to scrape the sides of the bowl periodically if using a stand mixer.

Sift the flour, measure two cups (scoop sifted flour into your cup and level with a knife, don’t pack the sifted flour into your cup) then sift again with the salt. Note that you won’t use all the flour you initially scooped out of your container before sifting.  I ended up with a few tablespoons left over after sifting.

Add the flour gradually to the mixture.  Add the pecans and mix well.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and place two inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.  I used a slightly larger than 1-inch ice cream scoop and placed the balls over parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are very lightly browned.  Remove the cookies from the baking sheets and roll in powdered sugar while still hot.  Cool on a wire rack and roll once more in powdered sugar before serving.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.  Makes 40 – 48 cookies.



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  1. If the flu inspires you this much, please don’t ever get flu shots! (and seriously, flu shots are bs! a pre-school teacher tells u!). Next time though, you have to make them when you know I am coming over for a cup of coffee 🙂 I love Mexican wedding cookies!

  2. well, flu shots or not, these would be my favorite antidote!

  3. My Mom always used to make these! Yours look wonderful, makes me want to bake some :)!

  4. I lost faith in the flu shot. I just had one in October and was down with the flu last week for 4 days. But on a lighter note, your cookies look wonderful! My family makes a similar cookie for the holidays. We call them “Snowballs.”

  5. I love these – they just melt in your mouth and who cares if they are messy? Never used pecans – I use almonds or walnuts or both. Such fun to see the variations – but they are good for what ails you and I hope you recover very soon!

  6. My family makes these for Christmas, but for us Russian Tea Cookies are very flat and thin (exactly same cookie though, just rolled flat) and Mexican Wedding Cakes are the round ones. I always find it amusing how different people call the same cookie different names :).

    • Rene, the original recipe actually recommended flattening the tops a bit but I felt like being a rebel and didn’t. I’ve always called these Russian Tea Cakes and never understood the difference, so thanks for the education. Just learned today that they’re called snowballs, too. 🙂

  7. I take my flu shots every year… whether I like the needle or not… still get sick but not as bad… take care!

  8. One of my FAVORITE cookies! I tend to make these several times during the holidays – the only problem is that it is hard to eat just one. I only make them with pecans and I think the rich and earthy flavor is just perfect. Hope you are feeling better soon! 🙂

  9. These are great cookies…I’m glad you brought them back to my memory. I haven’t had them in forever, but I remember LOVING them! Thanks!

  10. Lisa, I’m thinking of making these for the holidays, too. The combo of walnuts and pecans actually worked out fine though I originally planned to use only walnuts (had to use what was available). It’s hard not to like these, right? 🙂

  11. they look very tasty! 😀

  12. trissalicious says:

    Hope you are feeling better Jean! Yes, next time please listen to your Mom – there is a reason they say Mothers know best! 🙂

    The Russian tea cakes look really delicious – you are right, especially with all that icing sugar… I find it funny that they are called Russian tea cakes and Mexican wedding cookies – obviously they taste so good both countries want credit for it!

  13. Glad you are feeling better. Hmm, yes please to these cookies! I love the idea of toasting the nuts. Pecan and walnuts are the flavor of this season!

  14. I adore these cookies, these made me understand the term “melt in your mouth”! Gorgeous pics!

  15. Oh wow these little cakes / cookies look AMAZING!!!

  16. these are one of my all time favorite cookies IN THE WORLD! I love this recipe! the pictures were beautiful–now I need to go run on the treadmill to work off reading your blog! 🙂

  17. There may not be much to these little guys…but they are ADDICTIVE. They are one of my all time favorite cookies. And I always ignore my mom’s advice about the flu shot…and I’ve paid for that a few times. I hope you start feeling better soon, my dear! Thanks for sharing. Happy Monday!

  18. So sweet that your mom is too nice to say ‘i told you so’! My mom LOVES saying it. I don’t like getting a flu shot either… I’d rather just risk getting sick and live with it if I do rather than get stuck with a needle. I hate needles! And I have to add… beautiful cookies! I also love these tiny little treats. I think it’s the powdered sugar that doest the trick.

  19. These were always my dads favorite cookie around the holidays. It took me years to appreciate their subtle flavor. Yours look delicious!

  20. These cookies have soo many names! My Oma calls the Viennes Crescents and I’ve heard them called Mexican or Italian Wedding cookies as well.. the recipe I have calls for almonds instead of walnuts or pecans.. delicious none the less 🙂

    ps my mom was on me about the flu shot too and put up the same fight!

  21. Moms always no best 🙂 That reminds me, I have my flu shot scheduled for tomorrow. I’m just glad you’re feeling better!

    These cookies are so good, it’s been a while since I’ve made them. Glad to know I’m not the only one who enjoys the powdered sugar that snows on everything!!

  22. Jean these are one of my faves too! And so glad you’re feeling better. I love the texture of these cookies. Lovely photos!

  23. glad that you are feeling better and yes, mothers’ are always right as much as I hate to admit it!

    I love these lil treats, I make them occasionally and keep popping them in my mouth as though they were grapes or something, hehe.

    In Rhode Island growing up, we had another dessert also called Russian Teacakes, which were actually multi-colored sponge cakes soaked in rum (perfectly suitable for kids 😉 ) w/ icing.

  24. These look so delicious. The powdered sugar is definitely calling my name. 🙂 It’s funny that they’re called Russian tea cakes because I don’t know if I grew up eating something like that. Maybe I need to make them just to make sure 😉
    PS – it was really nice meeting you at the Foodbuzz festival (sorry, just getting through my cards now – I know it’s been a week 😉 )

  25. I don’t like the flu shot either. Not since one of my best friends contracted guillain barres syndrome from the flu shot…

    Love these cookies. My sister-in-law bakes some for me every holiday season and one of these days I’ll get her recipe to try and make them myself. For now, I prefer to simply eat them. Yours look delicious… I can almost taste the powdered sugar melting in my mouth. 🙂

  26. There’s some sort of bug going around, and everybody’s getting it. Hopefully you’ll be well sooner than later. These cookies come in so many forms and different names too, but for the most part, they are the same…and consistently good. They are awesome with hazelnuts too.

  27. What a simple recipe — just butter, sugar and flour! And walnuts! I could it these cookies all day!!

  28. A favorite holiday cookie for sure! I love how they melt in your mouth and there seems to be a version for every country 🙂 Isn’t the German/Bavarian version called pfeffernusse?

  29. Beautiful. I always love to see these cookies.

  30. a.k.a. Italian wedding cookies
    a.k.a. super-delicious comforting sweetness 😀

  31. Glad you’re feeling better and hope you’re enjoying this beautiful weather we’re having!
    I would have to hide this batch of cookies from my husband, they would never make it to Christmas as these are his absolute favorite cookies. I make these every year and I will try your recipe this time, I like the half walnuts and half pecans lightly toasted, sounds perfect:)

  32. That looks so good. I love this.

  33. Feel better. I try to get one every year especially now that I work with the chronically ill. Still don’t know if it works but I know it hurts after I get it. Recipe looks amazing!

  34. I hope you’re feeling better!

    I love this kind of cookie too! I usually add rum or cognac to mine 😉

  35. I’m glad to hear your feeling better Jean, those are my favorite cookies!! I have never tried making them before, and I definitely should!

    thanks so much for the inspiration!

  36. Jean, so glad that you are feeling better! I know, Mom’s are always right… my mom has been after me to get my own flu shot and the Whooping Cough one too, but I haven’t done it either. My fingers are crossed that I don’t cross those germs!
    I also LOVE these little cookies. My mom makes them for me every Holiday Season and I look forward to them for months. I’ve never actually made them myself though!

  37. Simple perfection is sweet little confection. Hey that rhymes! GREG

  38. These were my favorite cookies as a kid and I still love them. I used to devour a ton of Russian Tea Cakes during the holidays, it’s hard not to eat just one. And I can’t wait to make them soon! Thanks for the recipe. 🙂 Yours look sooooo good.

  39. I am sorry to hear that you are not feeling well… the flu is never fun… and why is it that our mothers are always right! I love these cookies… and as I was growing up too, they would always be a staple around our holiday season – Beautiful photos!

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