Russian Tea Cakes Recipe - Classic Christmas Snowball Cookies! (2024)

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Russian Tea Cakes are tender, buttery cookies with a light nutty flavor all covered in powdered sugar! Also called “Snowballs,” these cookies are delicious and a wonderful holiday classic. One of my most requested Christmas cookie recipes!

Looking for more Christmas cookie ideas? Try my easy sugar cookies recipe, or these Italian Christmas cookies!

Russian Tea Cakes Recipe - Classic Christmas Snowball Cookies! (1)

Table of Contents

  • The Best Russian Tea Cakes (Snowball Cookies)
  • What Are Russian Tea Cakes?
  • How to Make Russian Tea Cakes
  • How Long Can You Store these Cookies? Can They Be Frozen?
  • More Great Holiday Cookie Recipes:
  • Get the Recipe

The Best Russian Tea Cakes (Snowball Cookies)

There are so many things to love about these cookies! For starters, they are quick and easy to make. The cookie dough comes together with only 6 ingredients. I do like to refrigerate them for about an hour before baking them, but you don’t have to. I personally think the cookies stay a little more tender on the inside if they’ve been refrigerated first.

Another reason to love them is that they are literally covered in sugar. Yes! Two layers of it, in fact. That outside layer of powdered sugar just melts right in your mouth. Completely addicting! And after you get past the outside, the inside is soft, buttery and also melts in your mouth. So darn good!

Of course one thing that adds great flavor to these cookies is the light nutty flavor, bit if you aren’t a nut fan, you could certainly leave them out. I’ve even left out the nuts and added coconut for a fun Easter version that I called “Bunny Tails”, ha!

Russian Tea Cakes Recipe - Classic Christmas Snowball Cookies! (2)

What Are Russian Tea Cakes?

Russian Tea Cakes are a simple cookie, similar to shortbread, known for the nuts included in the cookie and the powdered sugar used to decorate them. They are also often referred to as Snowballs and Mexican Wedding Cakes.

From a history perspective, the connection to Russia is unclear. It seems they may have originated in Europe as a popular snack with tea, hence “tea cake”, then they migrated to Mexico with European nuns where they became a popular wedding cookie. They are now also very popular in the U.S. at Christmas time.

Russian Tea Cakes Recipe - Classic Christmas Snowball Cookies! (3)

How to Make Russian Tea Cakes

It doesn’t get much easier than these Russian Tea Cakes. To start, you’ll combine the butter and powdered sugar, then add the vanilla extract.

From there, you’ll add the flour and salt and mix just until the dough comes together. Finally, you’ll stir in your nuts. I used chopped, toasted pecans but other nuts like walnuts or macadamia nuts would work as well.

Create tablespoons sized balls and refrigerate them for an hour. You don’t have to refrigerate them, but I think the cookies are even better if you don’t skip that step.

Bake them just until the bottoms are turning slightly brown. The time will vary based on your oven, but 7-8 minutes was just right for me.

When you take them out of the oven, let them cool just long enough so that you can handle them, then roll them in the additional powdered sugar. The sugar will melt a little from the heat, so after they cool, roll them in the powdered sugar one more time.

Russian Tea Cakes Recipe - Classic Christmas Snowball Cookies! (4)

How Long Can You Store these Cookies? Can They Be Frozen?

These cookies last very well for about a week when stored in an air tight container. They could also be made ahead and frozen, but you’ll want to freeze them prior to adding the powdered sugar, which would just dissolve when they thaw. Instead, thaw the cookies in the fridge when you’re ready for them and then dip them in the powdered sugar.

These Russian Tea Cakes are wonderful, sugary little bites of heaven! They are nice and small, so they are easy to snack on with a cup of coffee or eggnog (or tea!) and just enjoy the holidays. I hope you love them!

Russian Tea Cakes Recipe - Classic Christmas Snowball Cookies! (5)

More Great Holiday Cookie Recipes:

Italian Ricotta Cookies
Classic Spritz Cookies
Best Gingerbread Cookie Cutouts
Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies
Classic Chewy Snickerdoodles
Peanut Butter Blossoms
Candy Cane Cookies
Soft and Chewy Eggnog Cookies
Southern Pecan Pralines
Reindeer Cookie Balls
Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Cutout Sugar Cookies

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Russian Tea Cakes Recipe - Classic Christmas Snowball Cookies! (6)


Russian Tea Cakes (Snowball Cookies)

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  • Author: Lindsay
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Yield: 40 cookies
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American


Russian Tea Cakes are tender, buttery cookies with a light nutty flavor all covered in powdered sugar! Also called “Snowballs,” these cookies are delicious and a wonderful holiday classic!


  • 1 cup (224g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (173g) powdered sugar, divided
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups (293g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup (85g) finely chopped nuts (I used toasted pecans)


1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C) and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
2. In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter and 1/2 a cup (58g) of powdered sugar together until smooth.
3. Add the vanilla extract and mix until smooth.
4. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed just until the dough comes together.
5. Stir in the chopped nuts.
6. Scoop tablespoon sized balls of dough and shape into a ball. Refrigerate for about 1 hour, then place on the prepared cookie sheet 1-2 inches apart.
7. Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until the bottoms are just lightly brown.
8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, until you can handle them.
9. Add the remaining 1 cup (115g) of powdered sugar to a small bowl and roll each cookie in it until well coated. The sugar will melt a little bit. Allow the cookies to cool completely, then re-roll in powdered sugar.
10. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.


  • Serving Size: 1 cookie
  • Calories: 99
  • Sugar: 4.5 g
  • Sodium: 29.9 mg
  • Fat: 6.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 10.2 g
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Cholesterol: 12.2 mg


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Russian Tea Cakes Recipe - Classic Christmas Snowball Cookies! (2024)


Why are my snowball cookies spreading? ›

If you found your cookies to spread too much in the oven, there are a host of things that can cause this. Your butter could be too warm. You may have improperly measured the flour or the sugar (use that scoop and level method!). You could have placed the dough balls on a sheet pan that was warm.

What is the origin of snowball cookies? ›

The origin for pecan snowball cookies is unknown. Beloved in many parts of the world, these cookies may have traveled to the U.S. by way of immigrants from Eastern Europe or Mexico. Since the 20th century, they've become part of traditional American offerings for weddings and holidays, including Christmas and Easter.

How long can you store snowball cookies? ›

You can store snowballs in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. If you stack the cookies, place a piece of parchment paper between each layer to prevent sticking.

Why are they called Russian tea cakes? ›

Some people believe that Russian Tea Cakes originated in Eastern Europe, but as far as I could tell, they inherited the name from the 19th-century American fascination with Russian tea culture.

What is special about Russian tea? ›

Traditional tea in Russia includes the traditional type known as Russian Caravan as it was originally imported from China via camel caravan. As the trip was very long, usually taking as long as sixteen to eighteen months, the tea acquired its distinctive smoky flavor from the caravan's campfires.

Why do my snowball cookies go flat when they? ›

Why do my snowball cookies go flat? These snowball cookies should not flatten. If they do it's likely the dough wasn't chilled long enough and the ingredients were too warm to begin with so they spread. It's also possible you accidentally measured the ingredients incorrectly!

Why did my snowball cookies flatten in the oven? ›

Why did my snowball cookies flatten? The cookies will flatten slightly when baked, but they shouldn't flatten completely. If you skipped the chilling time, this may be why they spread. Another reason is if you place the dough on a hot baking sheet; if you have to reuse baking sheets, let them cool first.

Can I use salted butter instead of unsalted? ›

Adjust Salt

Next, if you're swapping unsalted for salted butter, reduce the amount of salt listed in the recipe to adjust for the salt in the butter. Take ¼ teaspoon of salt away for every stick of butter used*. Do the opposite if you're swapping salted for unsalted butter.

What was the first Christmas cookie? ›

History. Modern Christmas cookies can trace their history to recipes from Medieval Europe biscuits, when many modern ingredients such as cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, almonds and dried fruit were introduced into the west.

Who made the first Christmas cookie? ›

The First Christmas Cookies

Those who would like to take credit for the invention of the Christmas cookie will have to arm wrestle the Germans for it. They believe that Weihnachtsplätzchen, a term that refers specifically to cookies and broadly to holiday treats, encompasses the origin of Christmas baking.

What city invented snowballs? ›

Many insist that the snowball was created in New Orleans in the 1930s, while others insist that Baltimore, Maryland, was their place of origin. Snowballs have grown to become a wildly popular tradition in Louisiana regardless of where they were first created.

How many days before Christmas should you make cookies? ›

Aim to make them about two weeks in advance if you keep them at room temperature. Making them one week or a few days in advance is even better if you are going for the freshest possible cookies. Remember that you can always make a new batch if you accidentally keep your cookies out for too long and they become stale.

Can you freeze snowballs? ›

Even if you're stuck at home this summer, those snowballs in the freezer could be a great way to cool off when the first heatwave hits. Just let them thaw a bit if you're going to throw them at one another.

Does freezing cookies keep them fresh? ›

Bakery or homemade cookies can be stored at room temperature two to three weeks or two months in the refrigerator. Cookies retain their quality when stored in the freezer for eight to 12 months.

What is Russian candy made of? ›

Made with beet sugar, condensed milk and sugar syrup, it's also infused with a surprising secret ingredient: cow's blood. The popular nosh was created as a kid-friendly iron supplement.

What is a tea biscuit made of? ›

Traditionally, these digestive aid biscuits were made with whole grain flour, vegetable oil, baking soda, sugar, and malt extract. While this recipe has certainly stood the test of time, I'm a firm believer that every baked good tastes better with butter, so I substitute it for the vegetable oil.

What is Russian cake made of? ›

Most of them seemed to revolve around the concept of making the cake layers from a roll-out, honey flavored, soft cookie dough, and filled with a lightly sweetened sour cream frosting. Some variations called for pourable cake batters to make the layers, and a few had a dulce de leche based frosting.

What are tea cakes made of? ›

Tea cakes are soft roll-out cookies that are tender, chewy and pleasantly dense. They are a cookie with a cake-like texture. The ingredients are very simple (flour, sugar, butter, milk, nutmeg, and eggs), and the gentle flavor of nutmeg is what makes these so special.

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