A cookie by any other name… Mexican Wedding Cookies

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When the baking urge strikes (or the bake sale looms), and you tackle the delicious task of deciding what to make, certain recipes always swim to the top of your mind, don’t they?

For me, it’s brownies for bake sales. Doughnut muffins for breakfast. My mom’s almond puff loaf for brunch. Blitz bread for a hurry-up dinner. And my favorite pizza crust, topped with whatever the season or occasion demands, is my go-to, all-around crowd-pleasing supper.

These tried-and-true treats are imprinted in my mind with laser-like clarity – if not the recipe itself, at least the result. I can feel the heft of one of those big, dense, moist brownie-slabs in my hand. See the golden, flaky layers of the puff loaf. And smell the aroma of hot bread, bottom crust sizzling in olive oil.

Other recipes occupy a middle layer in my brain, a kind of netherworld that’s equal parts vague childhood memory, and recipes torn from women’s magazines, mentally marked “I should make these sometime.”

Mexican Wedding Cookies – or Russian Teacakes, or Mexican Teacakes, or Russian Wedding Cookies, or just plain Snowballs or Butterballs – are just such a recipe.

These cookies were popular back in the day (“the day” being, for us Boomers, the ’50s and ’60s). They usually showed up during the holidays, appearing in their bright-white splendor on cookie gift plates and dessert buffets.

And eliciting advice from my mother to avoid them: “You won’t like them. They’re not chocolate. What did I tell you, watch out – you’re getting sugar all over everything!”

Maybe that was their allure: they were the forbidden fruit of cookiedom, and therefore oh-so-tempting.

A recent occasion (actually, the need for a photograph of a plain-looking cookie) inspired me to finally, after all these years, try this recipe. And the cookies met expectations: tender, crumbly, full of ground almonds, covered with a blizzard of confectioners’ sugar, and just plain yummy.

Wedding Cookies may go by many names. But two things are constant – their melt-in-your-mouth texture; and distinctive, attractive appearance: round and white as a cumulus cloud.

Let’s revisit the 1950s, when this classic cookie made its first foray into popular print: Clementine Paddleford’s Los Angeles Times column from April 29, 1951 – just about 60 years ago.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

Put the following in a large bowl:

1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter*
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract, optional
1 teaspoon salt*

If you use salted butter, reduce the amount of salt to 1/2 teaspoon.

Beat everything together until smooth.

Add 3/4 cup almond flour or 3/4 cup blanched almonds, finely ground.

Beat until well combined.

Add 2 1/4 cups (9 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour.

Beat to incorporate; you’ll have a fairly stiff dough.

Scoop chestnut-sized (1″) pieces of dough, and roll them into balls. A level teaspoon cookie scoop will give you just the right amount of dough.

What happens if you don’t bother to roll the scooped dough into balls? We shall see…

Place the balls on the prepared baking sheets, leaving 1″ between them.

Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes, until they feel set on top.

Some of them will be MAYBE beginning to barely brown around the edges.

And here’s the difference between rounding the scooped dough into balls (left), or not (right). For perfectly round cookies, take the time to shape the dough into smooth balls before baking.

While the cookies are baking, put 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar in a shallow bowl.

Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer them, 5 or 6 at a time, to the bowl.

Roll them in the sugar to coat…

…then transfer them to a rack to cool.

They should be fairly well coated with sugar. But, as they cool, some of the sugar will melt, making them look a bit naked.

When the cookies are cool, roll them in the sugar again; this time, they should be thoroughly coated and snowy white. If they’re not, give them a third trip through the sugar.

Very pretty!

And tasty, too. These cookies almost literally melt in your mouth, they’re that tender/crumbly. It’s the almond flour that does the trick.

Store cookies airtight at room temperature, where they’ll last quite awhile – unless someone finds them first…

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Wedding Cookies.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. kd8ejt

    I love making these. I think it has to do with getting my hands all messy with the powdered sugar. It was one of the first things on our to make list at Christmas, generally right behind the cut-out cookies.

    Now, I always make a batch at Christmas. I use to make more but with a nephew with a tree nut allergy we now limit the dangerous foods that are around. – jen

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      I think your best bet is somewhere cool but not freezing (cellar? garage?); tightly wrapped. You don’t want to freeze, as the sugar would make them soggy when they thaw. Good luck – PJH

  2. aoifeofcheminnoir

    These were always a favorite at our house for holidays,wedding and baby showers or any time someone craved them. We used finely chopped pecans usually and often tinted them. I had some store bought lemon snowball cookies one time and decided I could make them better…so I did. If anyone hasn’t made these…be sure to try them! Thanks PJ for reminding me of them!

    My pleasure – always nice to share fond memories, isn’t it? PJH

    Reply
  3. Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday

    I wonder if you could make these gluten free without using any wheat flour?

    Samantha, I’m betting you could use our Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour as a substitute for the flour in the recipe. I think it should work, given the cookies are already crumbly from the nut flour – crumbly is how they’re supposed to be, so lack of gluten isn’t as big a deal. PJH

    Reply
  4. Sue

    At our house we call them Russian tea cakes and use pecans.My whole family loves to bake..my youngest sister is not patient and makes what we call russian baseballs LOL

    Reply
  5. karenmtaylor

    Not sure which brand of cookies, Nabisco maybe, made a Swedish wedding cookie in a pink box. I loved those cookies, would eat them until I was sick. But I think these wedding cookies had nuts, does this sound familliar? I will try these cookies, I love the almond flavor. Actually ruined a recipe using way too much of the almond extract, I think I used a teaspoon and believe I should have used a 1/8 teaspoon, that is a strong extract.

    Reply
  6. strandjss

    In my house we call them Norwegian Butter Balls and I actually got the recipe from a Norwegian cookbook that has been passed down through my husbands family. The recipe is exactly the same except it calls for nuts. They are our favorite cookies. Loved seeing the step-by-step.

    Reply
  7. argentyne

    ah, one of the favorite cookies at my house, and definitely not to be fed to the bird over dark furniture. :D

    I’ve never tried making it with almond flour, I’ve always used the ground nuts. Perhaps I shall try the flour next time.

    Thanks for the memories!

    Reply
  8. Nanibk

    Shalom from Israel – first I have to say that I love your blog. I have made many cakes and cookies from this site and always I got many compliments. this recipe I made yesterday for my sister house party and it was a big success. I’m waiting
    patiently for your next blog.

    Shalom – I’m glad the cookies were a success for you and your family. Thanks for connecting, and stay tuned – I believe our next blog is lemon pudding cakes… :) PJH

    Reply
  9. "Isabel's Daughter"

    PJ, This was my favorite cookie growing up, from the Betty Crocker Cookbook. My mom used chopped walnuts and I still do and still love them. I think I have to make these again soon. I now have a long list of Easter baking, thanks to the blog.
    Thanks for bringing back the memories.

    Glad to have a hand in your happy memories, “Daughter.” :) PJH

    Reply
  10. dsieb

    We, the baking group Tuesdays with Dorie (Greenspan), recently made her version of these. She calls them Pecan Powder Puffs – uses ground pecans and she calls for chilling the dough. With her recipe that is a must or you have fairly flat cookies, but the taste – divine. My all-time favorite cookie is a molasses chew – but I do love these.

    Reply
  11. dportlu

    It was interesting that this came out on my mother’s 90th birthday. I get a tin of these cookies every Christmas from her. I share them but keep part of the batch to savor one by one.

    She uses walnuts rather than almonds and has the nuts chopped into very small pieces. You get one bite of a piece of nut before the rest of the bite melts in your mouth.

    As I recall from last Christmas. Pick up a cookie, take a small bite, experience the sugar, experience the cookie, experience the nut, experience the melt in your mouth, swallow, lick the sugar off your lips, take another bite and repeat until the cookie is gone. Clean the powdered sugar from your fingers and hope you have another cookie left for later.

    What a great description… Makes me want to go bake some more right now! Thanks- PJH

    Reply
  12. biobaker

    Fascinating. I’ve seen multiple recipes for Mexican Wedding Cookies-cum-Russian Tea Cakes-cum-Snowballs, ect., along these same lines, but I’ve never seen a single printed version that replicates what the ladies in my family do. My grandmother taught my mother taught me a version reversing the proportions of nuts and flour: 2 1/4 cups walnuts or pecans, 1/2 cup flour, and only 3 tbsp of granulated sugar to the same 1 cup butter. My innovation is using KAF whole wheat flour — the nuttiness of the wheat reinforces the cookie’s flavor — along with Tahitian vanilla; the already-crumbly cookies become almost impossibly more so, but the flavor is unparalleled and gentle hands and a no-shipping-this-cookie policy keep the crumbs under control.

    So, I must ask, have any of you folk seen a version of this recipe with the proportions we use in my family? More difficult to handle, yes, but also much more flavor!

    No, I’ve never seen that – it sounds very good, though, with the nuttiness of the whole wheat. Thanks for sharing here – PJH

    Reply
  13. Mamakau

    These look so delicious! Do you think I could substitute macadamia nuts for the almonds in the recipe? Do you know if there is such thing as mac nut flour?

    You could try grinding macadamia nuts with some of the flour in the recipe – this should prevent them from becoming too oily and soft. I assume you’re somewhere where macadamia nuts are prolific – check your local stores and ask for macadamia nut flour. I’ve never seen it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  14. cat2k

    This is one of my favorite cookies, when done well, it’s truly sublime. I’m curious about how the almond flour works in place of freshly ground almonds.
    I’ve always heard that the pecan ones are Mexican wedding cookies, as pecans are a New World food. In fact, in parts of Mexico, the word for “pecan” and “nut” is the same.
    The walnut ones are Russian tea cakes, and the almond ones are Viennese crescents (same basic recipe, different shape).

    Thanks for the info. – I had no idea the type of nut made the difference in name. Almond flour IS finely ground almonds – so the result should be the same. PJH

    Reply
  15. k_a_swanson

    These sound great. However, my daughter has a tree nut allergy? Would coconut flour work instead of the almond flour?

    Don’t know – if it’s granular like nut flour, it seems like it should. Give it a try – bet it’ll be tasty, even if the texture isn’t quite the same… PJH

    Reply
  16. cr8zyamy

    Do you think I could substitute hazelnut flour for a whole new twist on theses? I figure it would taste yummy for those of use who love hazelnuts.

    Absolutely – go for it. Any finely ground nut should work just fine. PJH

    Reply
  17. lisamaebakes

    I’ve made the pecan version of these from Rose Beranbaum’s book “Rose’s Christmas Cookies” for years. When I catered, I used to offer them with assorted bite-sized desserts, without the powdered sugar, with a rosette of mocha buttercream and a perfect half pecan on top. Can’t wait to try them with almonds. Lemon buttercream with slivered almonds on top in the shape of a butterfly will be so pretty.

    I used KAF non-melting sugar this past Christmas for the first time – excellent!

    Reply
  18. tuprus

    My mother’s recipe is Paloma By The Sea cookies, which are like these, but with walnuts and shredded coconut in the dough. They are one of my favorite cookies!
    I love the name! Who wouldn’t want to eat a Paloma by the Sea cookie? Just lovely! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  19. Tapajune

    Definitely can be made gluten free. Just use your gluten free flour as same as recipe. They are tasty and the nuts’ taste shines. We (son and granddaughters) made them 2 years ago for Christmas and they were a big hit as usual; no one knew they were gluten free.

    Reply
  20. mamsis

    Since Easter is nigh, I made these treats to send to my far-flung daughter. I omit the nut flour entirely – they travel better that way – and for Easter, I divided the dough into thirds, dyed each third a pastel color, and formed the balls into oval egg shapes. After baking, I double-rolled in the powdered sugar and the pastel colors were even more delicate. I packed them in a cellophane bag and cushioned them with Easter grass in a close-fitting box. They arrived in perfect condition and fitting for the season. I often add nuts to this old favorite, but I’ve never used nut flour…I will next time – sounds delicious!

    Reply
  21. lisamaebakes

    mamsis: What a great idea! I’m going to file this idea away for next Easter. The pastel cookies will be great for wedding receptions, too, You packaging idea with grass and cellophane sounds so pretty.

    Reply
  22. cjpowers18

    In my family they were referred to as Slovak Tea Cakes and made with ground walnuts. They were a part of every Christmas cookie tray, every family wedding, baby shower and any family celebration. It warms the crumbs of my heart to see them here.
    Happy Thanksgiving to all at KAF!!

    Glad we could warm the crumbs of your heart! And Happy Thanksgiving to you, too – PJH

    Reply
  23. Graziana

    I love your recipes. Would it be too much of a challenge to make a gluten-free Wedding Cookie recipe? I am not too much of a chemist… Happy Holidays!

    Graziana, I’ve passed this along to Amy, our GF blogging specialist. Let’s wait and see if she can come up with something sometime… In the meantime, you might try this Wedding Cookie recipe, substituting our GF flour blend for the AP flour, and adding 1 teaspoon xanthan gum. No guarantees, but it’s worth a try… Good luck. PJH

    Reply
  24. Fara

    Hi, since I like to have some almond pieces in my cookie, can I use just all purpose flour and then add chopped almond? Thanks for your help!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I would recommend making the dough as written and then adding your finely chopped almonds.~Jaydl@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Cradle the cookies (bagged of course!) in a box lined with mailing peanuts or even popped popcorn! Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  25. Adrienne

    I wish King Arthur posted more of their Whole Grain recipes. I just made the “Russian Teacake Cookies” from their Whole Grain Cookbook, with Barley flour, walnuts, old-fashioned oats, confectioners sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract and lemon zest. They came out AWESOME!!! Everyone LOVES them. My only comment is the recipe says it makes 41 cookies; not 40, not 42, but 41 cookies; I think that is a very small cookie because I made more like 3 dozen small walnut-size cookies. Absolutely delicious and easy to make.

    Reply
  26. Monica

    I’ve been making a hazelnut version of this cookie for about 35 years. It comes from a McCall’s Cookie Collection booklet which was part of a “collect as you go” series of cooking and baking booklets. They are a great favorite on my annual Christmas cookie tray. The proportion of flour to ground hazenuts is 1 cup to 1 cup with only 2 Tbsp. sugar. Most of the sweetness comes from the double roll in confectioner’s sugar at the end. I always freeze them, and have never had a problem with the coating becoming gummy. I’ve also shipped them successfully – at least I’ve never heard any complaints about crumbled cookies from the other end!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sharing, Monica! That sounds like a lovely recipe, I will have to look it up sometime. Jon@KAF

  27. Susan L

    Keebler made something like these called “Danish Wedding Cookies,” which my brother and I adored as kids, but those had chocolate chips added to them. How do you think these would do with miniature chocolate chips added? Any idea how much to add?

    Reply
  28. Helen

    I am just wondering how much flour am I supposed to use? The recipe is confusing. It says 2 1/4 cups ( 9 1/2 oz) ……. One cup is 8 oz.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The ounces in this recipe are a weight measurement, Helen. You are referring to a liquid cup, which is 8 ounces. A cup of our unbleached all purpose flour weights 4 1/4 ounces. Barb@KAF

    2. Debra

      I made this recipe today. I used 2 1/4 cups of flour in addition to the 1 cup of almond flour and the cookies seem very dry. Is it 2 1/4 cups of flour or 9 1/2 ounces?

    3. PJ Hamel , post author

      Debra, I think perhaps your expectation of a moister cookie might be off – these cookies are, in fact, quite dry/crumbly; that’s their nature. The recipe calls for 3/4 cup almond flour – if you used a cup, that would have contributed to extra crumbliness, as well. 2 1/4 cups flour does weigh 9 1/2 ounces, as flour weighs 4 1/4 ounces per cup – at least by the “sprinkle and sweep” method, which is the way we measure it here at King Arthur Flour. :) PJH

  29. Helen Wyrich

    I love these, and have played around a bit….I added a bit of cocoa to the powderd sugar, and some of the toasted coconut (the kind they use as an extra at the coffee stands, as well as a raspberry powder to the powdered sugar…all good..and gives variety of color and flavors with the still melt in your mouth textures.

    Reply

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