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Russian Tea Cakes Recipe (Snowball Cookies)

Russian tea cakes are rich and buttery shortbread cookies filled with crunchy pecans, rolled in powdered sugar to look like frosty snowballs. Every bite melts away in your mouth!

If you love the soft, dissolving texture of these classic Christmas cookies, check out my Southern tea cakes, too.

Stacked Russian Tea Cakes on a black plate with one cut in half.

Why You’ll Love This Russian Tea Cakes Recipe

With the holidays coming up, these Russian tea cakes are about to become a surefire favorite cookie recipe! Dense and cake-like in the center, crisp and golden on the outside, studded with pecans, and covered in powdered sugar, every bite of these shortbread cookies tastes like magic. Here’s why you’ll love them:

  • Classic holiday cookies. Russian tea cakes are some of the easiest holiday cookies you can make. Covered in powdered sugar “snow”, they look so pretty on a Christmas cookie platter!
  • Rich and buttery. Powdered sugar and a good amount of butter in the dough make the texture of Russian tea cakes similar to meltaway cookies. The cookies dissolve in your mouth, leaving behind satisfying sweetness and pecan nut crunch.
  • Easy to make. Russian tea cakes use simple ingredients and the dough requires only one bowl, without any fancy mixing or chilling. The baked cookies stay fresh for days, so they’re wonderful to make ahead.
Russian Tea Cakes stacked on a plate

What Are Russian Tea Cakes?

Russian tea cakes are well-traveled cookies. Depending on where you are in the world, you might know these as snowball cookies, Mexican wedding cookies, butterballs, or kourabiedes (Greek butter cookies). Tea cakes are a classic cookie recipe made from sweet shortbread-style cookie dough, usually filled with nuts for crunch and flavor. The dough is rolled into balls, baked until golden, and coated in powdered sugar. They pair perfectly with a warm cup of tea!

Ingredients You’ll Need

You need only 6 easy ingredients to make these easy Russian tea cakes, so each one is important. Find some quick notes below, and remember to scroll to the recipe card for the full ingredients list and recipe details. 

  • Butter – Brought to room temperature.
  • Powdered Sugar – Also called confectioner’s sugar. You’ll need it for the cookie dough and coating the cookies after they’re baked.
  • Salt 
  • Vanilla Extract – Pure vanilla extract has the best flavor.
  • Flour
  • Nuts – Chopped pecans or walnuts. You can substitute the nuts with chocolate chips to make these cookies nut-free.

How to Make Russian Tea Cakes

Russian tea cakes are so easy to make, it’s no wonder they’re a classic Christmas cookie. There’s zero chilling time and the dough comes together very quickly:

  • Make the cookie dough. Cream softened butter with one cup of powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla. Slowly mix in the flour, and finally, fold in the chopped nuts.
  • Shape the cookies. Scoop and roll the cookie dough into small, even-sized balls, and arrange the balls on a lined baking sheet.
  • Bake. Bake the tea cakes at 375ºF for 10-12 minutes, until they’re lightly browned and set in the centers. 
  • Roll in powdered sugar. While the cookies are still warm (but not hot from the oven), roll each cookie carefully in the remaining powdered sugar. Place the finished cookies onto a wire rack to cool completely. 
A snowball cookie that is bitten in half on a black plate

Recipe Tips and Variations

These easy snowball cookies have you covered for all your festive occasions, all season long. Here are some final tips for tea cake success:

  • Use powdered sugar, and not granulated white sugar in the cookie dough. Granulated sugar will cause the cookies to lose their snowball shape.
  • The cookies need to be warm when you roll them in sugar. After the cookies leave the oven, give them a couple of minutes to cool on the baking sheet before you coat them in sugar. The warmth of the cookie will melt the powdered sugar slightly, for a smooth, creamy coating. If the cookies are cooled completely, the sugar coating won’t stick.
  • Try the double roll. For an extra snowy finish, roll the cookies in powdered sugar once while they’re warm as directed, and a second time after they’ve cooled further.
  • Don’t overbake. Keep an eye on these tea cakes and take them out of the oven when they’re just set, and lightly browned on the bottom. Overbaked tea cakes will be dry and crumbly.
  • Toast the nuts. If you have time, toast the pecans or walnuts in a skillet before adding them to the cookies for more depth of flavor.
  • More add-ins. Try adding crushed peppermint, chopped dried cranberries (like my orange cranberry meltaway cookies), cinnamon, or pumpkin pie spice.
  • Add sprinkles. Roll the warm cookies in colored sprinkles for even more festive flair.

Why Did My Snowball Cookies Turn Out Flat?

If your cookies spread in the oven, it could be that the butter you used to make the dough was too warm. “Room temperature” means softened, but still cool to the touch. If your cookie dough is too soft and greasy, pop it into the fridge to chill for 20-30 minutes before baking.

Another reason that Russian tea cakes turn out flat is because the oven temperature is too low, and the cookies bake too slowly as a result. An oven thermometer is helpful to know that your oven is running at the right temperature.

How to Store Russian Tea Cookies

  • To Store. Keep these Russian tea cakes airtight at room temperature for up to 7 days. 
  • Freeze. Store the baked cookies in an airtight container or freezer bag and keep them frozen for up to 2 months. Defrost the cookies at room temperature. Enjoy!

More Holiday Cookie Recipes


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Russian tea cakes (or snowball cookies, among other names) are rich and buttery holiday cookies coated in powdered sugar. Add walnuts, pecans, or mini chocolate chips!

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups finely chopped pecans or walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix together the butter, 1 cup of powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  3. Turn the mixer to low and add in the flour mixing until the mixture holds together. Stir in the nuts.
  4. Using a small (1- tablespoon) cookie scoop portion out the dough and roll into 1- inch balls.
  5. Place the balls onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until completely set and lightly browned on the bottom.
  6. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, until they are cool enough to handle, but still warm.
  7. Place the remaining cup of powdered sugar into a bowl and roll each warm cookie in the powered sugar to coat. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


  • Store airtight for up to 7 days.
  • Substitute mini chocolate chips instead of nuts if preferred.


  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 87
  • Sugar: 5 g
  • Sodium: 12.9 mg
  • Fat: 5.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 9.7 g
  • Protein: 0.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 10.2 mg

Keywords: russian tea cakes, russian tea cakes recipe, snowball cookies

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