Russian tea cakes

Melt-in-your-mouth treats!

More cookie-like than cake, these buttery treats are known by many names, including snowball cookies, polvorones and Mexican wedding cakes. I’ve also seen them served up often as popular Christmas cookies in North America. Whatever their name and true origin, they are a popular tea-time snack in Russia. I like them as they are easy to make and not overly sweet, despite being twice-dusted with powdered sugar. You can use whatever variety of nut you prefer; while I love the flavour of walnuts, they are delicious made with almonds or pecans as well.


  • 1 cup (250 mL) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups (375 – 500 mL) powdered (icing) sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped walnuts


  • Using an electric or stand mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy.
  • Add 1/2 cup (125 mL) of powdered sugar along with the vanilla; beat until very well blended.
  • Beat in flour, then nuts, until everything is evenly blended.
  • Shape the dough into a large ball and flatten to make a disc. Wrap the disc in in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This will make it easier to handle.
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • With your hands, shape the dough into small balls approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter, rolling the balls between your palms so they are smooth and even.
  • Arrange dough balls 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 15 minutes. Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet.
  • Gently toss warm cookies in remaining powdered sugar (start with 1 cup / 110 g and add more to the bowl if needed) to coat thoroughly, then place sugared cookies on a wire rack to cool completely.



  • Once cooled, toss the cookies a second time in the powdered sugar.
  • If desired, the tea cakes can be prepared 2 days ahead and stored at room temperature in an airtight container; the second coating of powdered sugar should be applied just before serving.

Makes about 4 dozen small cookies.

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

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