Russian Tea Cakes Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 15 min. + chilling Bake: 15 min./batch
Tender, nutty Russian tea cakes, also known as snowballs, are a classic holiday cookie.

Updated: Feb. 22, 2024

Buttery, nutty and covered in confectioners’ sugar, Russian tea cakes are eye-catching and irresistible, making them the perfect addition to your Christmas cookie platter. Love snowball cookies? Russian tea cakes are the same delicious recipe.

What are Russian tea cakes?

Despite the name, these soft, crumbly morsels are more cookie than cake. Russian tea cakes are bite-sized cookies with a buttery, tender texture that’s similar to shortbread but a touch softer. They contain walnuts or pecans for an added crunch, and are finished in a powdery coating of confectioners’ sugar. That powdery coating makes them look like balls of snow, which is why you’ll also see them called snowballs or snowball cookies. And that’s not the only name for this recipe: Russian tea cakes are the same as Mexican wedding cookies. In fact, these cookies have even more names, like Italian wedding cookies, butterballs, pecan meltaways and pecan balls.

Russian Tea Cake Ingredients

Russian Tea Cakes in Tray with TeaTMB STUDIO

  • Butter: Who doesn’t like to break out the best butter for the holidays? It’s key for these buttery, crumbly cookies.
  • Confectioners’ sugar: As the only sweetener in this recipe, confectioners’ sugar is used instead of granulated sugar in the dough since it dissolves more easily and produces a lighter cookie. The baked cookies are then rolled in confectioners’ sugar for added sweetness and to create a snowball appearance.
  • All-purpose flour: Russian tea cakes use a high flour-to-butter ratio to create their signature tenderness and require all-purpose flour to achieve this, so avoid swapping for a different flour.
  • Nuts: Russian tea cakes are often made with pecans, but they can be made with walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts or macadamia nuts.


Step 1: Cream the butter and sugar

In a large bowl, use a hand mixer or stand mixer and cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, five to seven minutes. Beat in the vanilla.

Step 2: Make the cookie dough

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Fold in the nuts. Cover and refrigerate the dough for one to two hours.

Editor’s Tip: Toast the nuts and cool them before adding them to the dough to bring out a richer flavor.

Step 3: Roll the cookie dough

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Place the balls 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Step 4: Bake

Bake the cookies until they’re lightly browned, 12 to 13 minutes.

Test Kitchen Tip: Russian tea cakes are ready when the bottoms are light golden and the edges have just started to brown a bit.

Step 5: Roll in confectioners’ sugar

Russian Tea Cakes top viewTMB STUDIO

Roll the cookies in confectioners’ sugar while they’re still warm. Cool the cookies to room temperature on wire racks.

Recipe Variations

  • Add citrus: Delicately bump up the flavor and brightness of these cookies by adding grated lemon or orange zest to the cookie dough.
  • Add spice: Since Russian tea cookies and Mexican wedding cookies are one and the same, take a page out of our contest-winning New Mexican wedding cookies recipe by adding spices and chocolate to the dough. Spicy chili powder, sweet cinnamon, bold cloves and cozy allspice add flavor and aromatics while mini chocolate chips add richness.
  • Make them chocolate-y: Who doesn’t love chocolate? Our chocolate Mexican wedding cakes recipe recipe infuses baking cocoa into the cookies for added indulgence.

How to Store Russian Tea Cakes

Store Russian tea cakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days. (Here are our favorite cookie storage containers.) Russian tea cakes should be soft and slightly crumbly, so we like to store these cookies with a piece of bread to keep them soft.

Can you freeze Russian tea cakes?

Russian Tea Cakes on serving tray with teaTMB STUDIO

Yes, you can freeze Russian tea cakes for up to three months. Put the fully cooled cookies into an airtight container or resealable freezer bag and keep them in the freezer.

Thaw the cookies in the fridge overnight. After thawing, you may want to roll them in additional confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Why are my Russian tea cakes crumbly?

Russian tea cakes are super tender and meant to be crumbly. They practically melt in your mouth. Keep the size of the cookies small so you can pop a whole cookie into your mouth without biting it into smaller pieces (and getting crumbs and confectioners’ sugar all over the place).

Watch how to Make Russian Tea Cakes

Russian Tea Cakes

Prep Time 15 min
Cook Time 15 min
Yield about 3-1/2 dozen.


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped nuts
  • Additional confectioners' sugar


  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in nuts. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Roll into 1-in. balls. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake until lightly browned, 12-13 minutes. Roll in confectioners' sugar while still warm. Cool on wire racks.

Nutrition Facts

1 cookie: 83 calories, 6g fat (3g saturated fat), 12mg cholesterol, 49mg sodium, 7g carbohydrate (1g sugars, 0 fiber), 1g protein.

I like to present my favorite holiday cookies in a special way. I pile this fresh-baked Russian tea cakes recipe on pretty plates that I buy throughout the year, then wrap them with colored cellophane to give friends. —Valerie Hudson, Mason City, Iowa