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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Read transcript


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


Russian Tea Cakes (Snowball Cookies)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 5 reviews

  • 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 do my snowball cookies go flat? ›

Snowball cookies should not flatten. Since they do not contain a leavening agent, the main factor to check is that the dough is chilled before baking.

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.

Where did Russian tea cakes originate? ›

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).

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.

Why are my Russian tea cakes crumbling? ›

Why are my Russian tea cakes crumbly? Russian tea cakes are super tender and meant to be crumbly. They practically melt in your mouth. Keep the size of the cookies small so you can pop a whole cookie into your mouth without biting it into smaller pieces (and getting crumbs and confectioners' sugar all over the place).

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.

How do you make cookies fluffy and not flat? ›

Try using baking powder instead of baking soda. Baking soda encourages spreading while baking powder puffs the cookies up. If your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of baking soda, you would use 3 to 4 teaspoons of baking powder.

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.

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.

Why are they called refrigerator cookies? ›

These cookies gained popularity in the early 20th century when refrigerators were becoming commonplace in households. The term "icebox" refers to the antiquated ice-cooled refrigerators of that era, where the dough for these cookies found a convenient home while waiting to be baked.

What is Louisiana Russian cake? ›

Russian Cake is prepared by mixing our almond cake, gold cake and devil's food cake with raspberry jelly, rum flavor and a hint of anise oil (licorice flavor). It is then topped with buttercream and nonpareils (aka sprinkles).

What is the national cake of Russia? ›

Standing tall with at least eight tiers (and sometimes more than 20) of alternating layers of pastry and custard, the Napoleon cake has become a national Russian dish, inspired by the French mille-feuille.

What is the most famous Russian tea? ›

Traditionally, black tea is the most common tea in Russia, but green tea is becoming more popular.

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 is Russian honey cake made of? ›

Medovik (Russian: медови́к (medovik), from мёд/мед — 'honey') is a layer cake popular in countries of the former Soviet Union. The identifying ingredients are honey and smetana (sour cream) or condensed milk. It is a dessert which is known for its lengthy preparation time.


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