Sunday blog: Russian teacakes


Today is the first Sunday of Advent, so I thought it was time for something Christmassy.


This is (approximately) my mother’s recipe for Russian teacakes. Here in Rhode Island people call them “butterballs,” or “Mexican wedding cookies,” or “Italian wedding cookies.” Call them whatever you like; they’re easy and very nice.


I’ve compared about four or five recipes, and the variations are slight:


  • You can chill the dough if you like.

  • You can use other kinds of nuts (although I like walnuts best).

  • I always use more nuts than the recipe calls for. Just make sure they’re finely ground.

  • My mother used margarine. I use butter. Don’t even think of following her example.

  • The cookies are very delicate when they first come out of the oven, so be careful. They explode like grenades if you drop them.

  • You don’t want them brown on top when they come out of the oven. Try peeking to see if they’re brown underneath; if so, they’re done.

  • I use parchment paper on my cookie sheets these days, and it has transformed my life in a small pleasant way.

  • Be careful with baking time. My oven’s fast, so eight minutes is sometimes too much, especially for the second batch.




Russian Teacakes


1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/4 teaspoon salt

Additional powdered sugar, for coating


  • Heat oven to 400 degrees.

  • Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and vanilla.  Stir in flour, nuts, and salt, and mix until dough holds together.  Shape into 1-inch balls.  Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake until set but not brown (8 – 10 minutes).

  • Roll in additional powdered sugar when fresh out of the oven.  Cool for about 30 minutes.  Roll again in powdered sugar.


Makes about four dozen.




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