Russian Tea Cakes: The Best Cookies for Any Occasion

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By Collier Curran

I distinctly remember my first interaction with these mildly sweet, perfectly crunchy, and admittedly messy cookies. My family and I were on vacation in the beautiful Cayman Islands in the winter of 2016, and our hotel had placed a display of these cookies out for guests to enjoy. Never one to turn down free food, I tried one, unsure of what to expect underneath the thick powdered sugar coating. Immediately, I was hooked.

I went back for more cookies repeatedly throughout my stay, and began scouring Pinterest for a recipe as soon as I was on the plane home. I am delighted to announce that this easy homemade version may even be better than the ones at the hotel (but don’t tell them I said that). These cookies have a mild buttery and nutty flavor that pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk.

Full disclaimer: I found this recipe from the blog Crazy for Crust over a year ago, and have loved it ever since. I use a mix of pecans and walnuts that I blend up finely before adding to the cookies. As the recipe notes, there are many options for the nutty component, though I love the subtle but delicious taste I get from both pecans and walnuts.

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These cookies are so simple to make, and rolling them in powdered sugar is one of the most satisfying moments a baker can experience, in my humble opinion. 

They are great to bring to parties or to make for guests, because they can easily be made the night before the big event (if you can manage to resist them for that long!). I have made these many times both for my friends and for friends of my mother’s, and I am always asked for the recipe.

Russian Tea Cakes

Makes 48 Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened

½ cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ¼ cups flour

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup finely chopped nuts (I use walnuts and pecans)

Powdered sugar for rolling

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375º F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix butter, ½ cup powdered sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add flour and salt and mix until the dough comes together. Stir in the nuts. If the dough is too soft, chill it until you can work it easily with your hands.
  3. Scoop 1 tablespoon balls of dough and place on prepared cookie sheet.
  4. Bake cookies for 7-8 minutes or until bottoms are just slightly brown. Remove from oven and cool for just a minute until you can handle them. Fill a small bowl with powdered sugar and roll each cookie in sugar until coated. (My tip: definitely take this time to make sure the cookies are not only cool enough for you to handle, but also firm enough that they will not crumble when rolled in the powdered sugar. The first time I made these cookies, a few of them fell apart because I did not allow them enough time to sit before rolling in sugar.)
  5. Place on a rack to cool. (You may want to re-roll them after they’ve cooled for the maximum powdered sugar content, which is highly recommended.)

And there you have it: delicious, easy, and crowd-pleasing cookies for your next event or for a relaxing weekend with friends. Physically resembling snowballs, they are perfect for the cooler months ahead and are a great way to impress friends and family when returning home for the holidays!

I made this batch for a holiday party and they were a hit!

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