Noni Doni’s 12 Bakes of Christmas – Day 3: Best Mexican Wedding Cookies

Some people call these cookies Mexican Wedding Cakes. Others refer to them as Russian Tea Cakes. For yet others, they’re known as Snowball Cookies, which is especially appropriate for the holidays.

By any name, they’re delicious and easy to make. These cookies are often described as having a melt-in-your mouth texture. They taste as if someone rolled Scotch Shortbread cookie dough into a ball. No wonder, because they, like Shortbread Cookies, feature just a few key ingredients: Butter, sugar, vanilla, flour and salt. But in this recipe the sugar is the powdered variety, not granulated. No eggs. No leavening agent. Just about as simple as a cookie recipe can get.

Similar to the Best Chocolate Crackle Cookies recipe, these are rolled into balls and feature a powdered-sugar coating. But while Chocolate Crackles are rolled in powdered sugar before baking, Russian Tea Cakes are rolled in powdered sugar right after they are removed from the oven (but not too hot to touch), when they’re still warm (so the powdered sugar will stick).

This modified (by me) recipe was inspired by one I found decades ago in an old Betty Crocker cookbook. That recipe called for chopped walnuts, which I almost never include in any recipe anymore, unless I’m making baklava, because of so many people’s nut allergies. The old recipe also called for “oleo” — an old-timey word for margarine, which I don’t recommend, because then you lose the classic butter taste.

I hope you enjoy these cookies and add them to your holiday baking.

Best Mexican Wedding Cookies

1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar

Optional: 3/4 cup finely chopped nuts. (I’ve also added chopped toffee-covered peanuts that have been pulsed in a food processor.) 

Mix the first three ingredients in a large bowl. (Ideally you can mix this dough with standing mixer, if not mix by hand with a sturdy wooden spoon.) Once the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla are well incorporated, add the flour and salt and mix until the dough is uniform. (It will be thick.)

Use your hands to roll the dough pieces into 1-inch balls, and place at least 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. They won’t spread, but you don’t want them touching one another. 

In a 400-degree oven bake for 9 to 12 minutes, until firm to the touch, but not brown. When cookies are cool enough to hold in your hands gently roll each ball in powdered sugar.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Click here for Day 1, English Toffee.
Click here for Day 2, Chocolate Crackles

If you appreciate journalist Doni Chamberlain’s food columns, in-depth investigation, and commentary, please consider contributing to A News Cafe. Thank you!

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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