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Russian tea biscuit – a little snowball of joy

Butter balls, Snowball cookies, or Mexican Wedding Cakes – these are all different names used for Russian tea biscuits. The reason for this is simple – nobody actually knows where they originate from.


Some say Russian tea biscuits’ home isn’t Russia, but Ohio, Cleveland. This traditional dessert had apparently been made by the Jewish immigrants that once settled in this area. They used to eat biscuits with tea, or as a dessert for dinner. Russian tea biscuits even look like a bigger version of a traditional Jewish cookie – rugelach. In the 18th century, Russian Tea Cakes gained popularity during their tea ceremonies, and by the 20th century they spread worldwide, becoming a traditional part of Christmas festivities in the US and wedding tradition in Mexico.

What exactly is a Russian Tea Cake?

When you hear the term cake, you might think of an actual cake, but these are butter-based cookie balls. They are made of butter and chopped pecan nuts held together by flour and sugar. Once formed, balls are baked in the oven, and then, while still hot, rolled in powdered sugar. Some even fill them with raspberry jam.

Why do people call them Mexican Wedding Cakes?

What do cold Russia and dusty Mexico have in common? It is believed that the recipe for this desert has migrated to Mexico together with European nuns. The Mexicans have similar biscuits called Bizcochitos, which are made with exactly the same ingredients. The cooking method is also the same, except they use the addition of mild anise.

However, wherever the recipe comes from, and whatever you want to call these biscuits, one thing is certain – Russian tea biscuits are special and have a unique flavor. You can keep them fresh for a week in the fridge, or freeze them for up to 3 months.

Here’s one simple recipe for you to try:


1 cup softened butter
½ cup powdered sugar
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup finely chopped nuts
¼ teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar

Mix butter and 1/2 cup powdered sugar in large bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and plate on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. While still warm, roll cookies in powdered sugar.

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