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Russian Tea Cakes

November 14, 2010

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
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts (I used half of each and lightly toasted the nuts in a pan over low heat before using)

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.

47 Comments leave one →
  1. November 14, 2010 5:48 PM

    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. November 14, 2010 5:52 PM

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

  3. November 14, 2010 6:00 PM

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

  4. November 14, 2010 6:10 PM

    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.”

    • November 14, 2010 9:30 PM

      Anne, these cookies go by so many names but the idea is the same. I think the name “snowballs” is so perfect for the holidays. 🙂

  5. November 14, 2010 6:23 PM

    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!

    • November 14, 2010 9:31 PM

      Thanks, Claudia. I think I’ll try these with almonds and almond extract next time. Almost did since I ran out of vanilla extract–I think the variation might work, too. 🙂

  6. November 14, 2010 6:32 PM

    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 :).

    • November 14, 2010 9:34 PM

      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. November 14, 2010 7:37 PM

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

    • November 14, 2010 9:35 PM

      Thanks, Penny. Considering the flu shot next year. My mother takes it every year and NEVER gets the flu.

  8. November 14, 2010 7:56 PM

    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. November 14, 2010 9:35 PM

    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. November 14, 2010 9:37 PM

    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. November 15, 2010 2:19 AM

    they look very tasty! 😀

  12. trissalicious permalink
    November 15, 2010 2:31 AM

    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. November 15, 2010 2:39 AM

    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. November 15, 2010 4:46 AM

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

  15. November 15, 2010 5:25 AM

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

  16. November 15, 2010 7:07 AM

    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. November 15, 2010 11:19 AM

    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. November 15, 2010 11:44 AM

    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. November 15, 2010 3:50 PM

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

  20. November 15, 2010 4:01 PM

    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. November 15, 2010 4:29 PM

    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. November 15, 2010 5:41 PM

    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. November 15, 2010 6:40 PM

    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. November 15, 2010 7:31 PM

    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. November 15, 2010 8:41 PM

    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. November 15, 2010 11:02 PM

    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. November 15, 2010 11:41 PM

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

  28. November 16, 2010 8:47 AM

    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. November 16, 2010 9:11 AM

    Beautiful. I always love to see these cookies.

  30. November 16, 2010 10:34 AM

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

  31. November 16, 2010 12:46 PM

    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. November 16, 2010 3:11 PM

    That looks so good. I love this.

  33. November 16, 2010 7:04 PM

    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. November 17, 2010 8:33 AM

    I hope you’re feeling better!

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

  35. November 17, 2010 6:43 PM

    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. November 17, 2010 8:05 PM

    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. November 19, 2010 9:51 AM

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

  38. gingerbreadcake permalink
    November 20, 2010 10:09 PM

    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. November 25, 2010 8:48 AM

    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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