Russian Tea Cakes (Mexican Wedding Cakes) – Great Holiday Gift Idea

Russian Tea Cakes (Mexican wedding cakes) Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Cakes? It is a slight mystery why these are called Russian tea cakes and not cookies, but no matter the name, they are delicious. How can you go wrong with toasted pecans, brown butter and sugar? The texture is like a shortbread cookie that is taken to new heights by the richness of the nuts. They are typically served at the holidays, maybe because they look like little snow balls, and at special occasions, like weddings, as the name suggests. This holiday my aunt Kristin, who is my pastry muse, requested them. It is ridiculous that my house isn’t stocked with them all year round. The recipe is so simple and the results so incredible. Thanks to Kristin my cookie jar is now full. They make a great gift because they pack up well and actually improve with a bit of time, which can’t be said for many cookies.

Baking with pecans, sugar and butter | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Mexican Wedding Cakes (Russian Tea Cookies):

2 cups (7 1/2 oz) pecans, lightly toasted and cooled

1/2 cup (2 oz) confectioners’ sugar, for processing nuts

4 cups (18 oz) bleached all-purpose flour (measured with spoon and sweep)

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, browned, strained and cooled to room temperature.

1 1/2 cups (6 oz) confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups (8 oz) confectioners’ sugar, for dipping the cookies

To make the cookies:

preheat oven to 350°F, with the racks at the top and lower third of oven. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Pulsing pecans in a food processor | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

In a food processor pulse the nuts and 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar until they are a fine meal.

Whisking Pecan and Flour Mixture | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

In a large bowl combine the nut mixture, flour and salt with a whisk.

Whisking flour, salt and pecans | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

In a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, cream the browned butter and 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Russian tea cake recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Using a small ice cream scoop, portion out the dough and roll them in your palms to create round balls. Position them on the lined cookie sheet so they have about 1 1/2 inches between them.

Rolling Russian tea cakes | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Bake for about 12 minutes (rotate the trays and switch from top to bottom, half way through the baking), until the bottoms are golden and the tops set, but pale. The tops will crack slightly.

Dipping Russian tea cakes in sugar | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Allow the cookies to cool completely before you roll them in the confectioners’ sugar. If you roll them too soon the sugar will melt and get clumpy.

Baking Russian tea cakes | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Dip the cookies a few at a time in the sugar. Dip them again right before you pack or serve them.

Russian tea cake recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Enjoy more holiday baking ideas:

Granny’s Maple Coconut Cookies

Bûche de Noël

Coconut Haystacks

Decorating Sugar Cookies

I recently had an incredibly fun chat with Joy Estelle Summers from City Pages. We talked about everything from growing up on a commune, to my true feelings about fussy dessert garnishes, and how those things lead to me being a pastry chef. To read the full interview you can visit Hot Dish.



26 thoughts to “Russian Tea Cakes (Mexican Wedding Cakes) – Great Holiday Gift Idea”

    1. Hi Barbara,

      Rolling them when they are warm will melt the sugar and create an uneven coat of the sugar. If you wait until the cookies are cooled they will be more even.

      Thanks, Zoë

  1. Yum! I grew up in Southern CA and we always called these Mexican Wedding cakes…so yummy! They’re one of my all time favorites. I’ve never added almond extract to them and am going to try it. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi Tucsonbabe,

      Bleached flour has slightly less protein than unbleached, so the cookies are a little more tender when you use the bleached. If you use unbleached you may want to decrease the flour by a few tablespoons.

      Thanks, Zoë

  2. These cookies bring back so many memories. I need to make them with my kids this weekend! Also, I just wanted to let you know I am sharing your carrot cake recipe on my blog right now. The only bummer is that is already gone and the pictures make me want to make it again. So perfect for the holidays! I live in Illinois now, but I grew up in Forest Lake, north of the twin cities. Stay warm up there!!

  3. This look so good! I’ve never made these – I tend to make too many treats with chocolate, ha. I’ll have to add them to ever-growing holiday baking list.

  4. I love these. We always have these here in California– not just at Christmas. But they do make a perfect accompaniment to cocoa!

    1. Hi Fay,

      They seem to last about a week. You can certainly freeze the cookies before adding the powdered sugar.

      Thanks, Zoë

  5. in our neck of the woods we call these babies pecan balls. yes, if dropped into the powdered sugar while warm the sugar does get sticky but at the same time it clings very well to the warm pastry. when cool the balls are dropped into the powdered sugar a second time which adds more powdered sugar depth, a cloud-like sensation we enjoy very much

  6. I’ve read and reread the recipes but can’t find where you add the vanilla and almond flavorings. So I just added them with the butter mixture. It took a long while to brown all that butter but what a huge flavor difference it made. My cookies were delicious. This will be my go to recipe on the days I have a little extra time for baking. Thanks for the terrific recipe.

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