Russian tea cakes
Russian tea cakes coated in confectioner's sugar
Alternative namessnowball cookies, Mexican wedding cakes, butterballs, kourabiedes, snowballs
Serving temperatureHot or cold
Main ingredientsnuts, butter, powdered sugar

Russian tea cake is a kind of pastry, often eaten around Christmas in the United States.[1] It is a form of jumble, a pastry common in England during the Middle Ages. Similar varieties are known as Mexican wedding cakes (or cookies), Italian wedding cookies, Kourabiedes, or Greek wedding cookies, butterballs, and occasionally snowball cookies or “pecan Susans” for their powdery white spherical appearance when appearing around the winter holidays.


Russian tea cakes have a relatively simple recipe, generally consisting entirely of flour, water, butter, and ground nuts, the nut variety depending upon the cookie type. After baking, they are rolled in powdered sugar while still hot, then coated again once the cookie has cooled.[2]

European-based recipes rely upon coarsely chopped hazelnuts, almonds, or walnuts.[3] Mexican wedding cakes traditionally use coarsely chopped pecans.[4]


A reason for the common name "Russian Tea Cake" or any connection to Russian cuisine is unknown.[1] Some have speculated the recipes either derived from other Eastern European shortbread cookies, may have migrated to Mexico with European nuns, or may have been associated with cookies served beside Russian samovars (tea urns).[1] By the 20th century, they were a part of wedding and Christmas and Easter traditions in the U.S., known by their popular "Russian tea cake" or "Mexican wedding cake" name.

Bizcochitos, superficially similar to pfeffernüsse, are designated the official cookie of the State of New Mexico, are similar except that they have the addition of anise, although, properly made, the anise flavor is very mild.[citation needed] In Spanish, they are known as polvorones[5] or "Polvorones de Novia".[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Schrambling, Regina (2013). "The One Christmas Cookie That's Made the World Over". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  2. ^ Food Lover's Companion, Sharon Tyler Herbst, 3rd edition [Barron:New York] 2001 (p. 385)
  3. ^ "Russian Tea Cakes". Bon Appétit. December 1990. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
  4. ^ "Mexican Wedding Cakes". Bon Appétit. May 2003. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
  5. ^ Routte, Jane (April 1, 2001). Mexico. Teacher Created Resources. p. 160. ISBN 978-0-7439-3093-2.
  6. ^ MacDonald, Christine. "Polvorones de Novia". El Arte de la Coccina. Hola Cultura. Retrieved 7 December 2013.