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Russian Tea Cakes | Snowball Cookies

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These Russian Tea Cakes, also called Snowball cookies, are a yummy Christmas cookie! A crumbly and buttery treat they are fun to make and eat – and this Russian tea cake recipe includes Nutella to add an extra chocolate hazelnut taste to these holiday cookies.

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When it comes to cookies some things are universal – everyone loves rich buttery cookies. That is probably why these cookies are so popular and are known by so many different names! These cookies are called many different things, including:

  • Russian Tea Cakes
  • Mexican Wedding Cookies
  • Italian Wedding Cookies
  • Snowballs
  • Butterballs

Russian tea cakes on a plate on a wooden table.

The names snowballs and butterballs make sense, since the cookies look like snowballs and contain quite a lot of butter. But it does seem kind of unusual that Russia, Italy and Mexico are all credited with these cookies, depending on where you live! No one really knows where these cookies originated from, but everyone seems to agree they are popular because they are so easy to make and so tasty.

Russian tea cakes, powdered sugar.

I personally like to call them Russian Tea Cakes because I think that sounds the most elegant, although my kids call them snowballs, for obvious reasons. The kids don’t care much about sounding elegant after all!

Ingredients for Russian Tea Cakes

The classic Russian Tea Cake is made with butter, powdered sugar, flour, and nuts. The type of nut used in the cookies can vary. I used walnuts because they are one of my favorite nuts and they aren’t too expensive. But pecans are also very commonly used, and macadamia nuts, almonds and hazelnuts also work well in the cookies.

I replaced some of the butter in the cookies with Nutella.  Nutella is practically a staple food in our house, so I figured it would be fun to try.  It gave the cookies a subtle chocolate taste, and the walnut and hazelnut flavors go well together. Obviously the Nutella would also work if you used hazelnuts in the cookies, although I probably wouldn’t use Nutella with macadamia nuts or pecans. But who knows, my kids think Nutella goes with everything!

Domino Powdered Confectioners Sugar 16ozDomino Powdered Confectioners Sugar 16ozNutella Chocolate Hazelnut Spread 35.3oz JarNutella Chocolate Hazelnut Spread 35.3oz JarFISHER Chef’s Naturals Walnut Halves & Pieces, 16 OunceFISHER Chef’s Naturals Walnut Halves & Pieces, 16 Ounce

Since the recipe for Russian tea cakes contains no eggs or baking powder these cookies don’t rise or flatten much. All the nuts and flour combine to make a very thick batter, which is chilled and then rolled into little balls. Like snowballs!

Rolling the Snowball Cookies in Powdered Sugar

The recipe calls for only a small amount of sugar in the batter, so after baking they are rolled in powdered sugar to make them even sweeter. I always wait until the cookies have been out of the oven for about 5 minutes to take them off the trays and roll them in powdered sugar, to reduce the chance of burning my fingers.

Keywords: cookies, powdered sugar

The key to making these cookies their best is coating them in lots and lots of powdered sugar.  The first layer of powdered sugar soaks into the cookies to make them sweet. Then after they are cooled completely they are rolled in powdered sugar again, for an extra layer of snowy sweetness.

These are excellent holiday cookies to make with children. Kids love rolling the dough into little snowballs and they also love rolling the baked cookies in powdered sugar. And since the snowball cookies are rolled twice the kids can safely do the second rolling after the cookies are cooled.

Cinnamon sugar Russian tea cakes on a cooling rack.

Can you freeze Russian tea cakes?

Russian tea cakes freeze well, and they are an excellent cookie to make ahead of time and freeze. Then you can unfreeze them for a Christmas party or cookie exchange! For the best results they should be frozen as soon as possible after they are cooled and rolled in powdered sugar for the second time. Like most cookies they should keep about 2 months in the freezer.

A plate of Russian tea cakes with powdered sugar on it.

Yield: 36

Russian Tea Cakes

A plate of Russian tea cakes with powdered sugar on it.

Russian Tea Cakes (Snowball cookies or Mexican Wedding Cake cookies) are a crumbly and buttery winter treat & a yummy Christmas cookie! Fun to make and eat - Nutella and walnuts mixed with chocolate and coated in powdered sugar 

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Total Time 32 minutes


  • 2 cup flour
  • 2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup Nutella
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cup powdered sugar


  1. Get the butter out of the refrigerator and let it sit for about 20 minutes to soften.
  2. Process the walnuts in the food processor until they are well chopped.
  3. Mix the flour, walnuts and sugar together in a bowl.
  4. Add the softened butter, Nutella and vanilla, and mix until it is well combined and the dough starts to clump together. Chill the dough for an hour or so to make it easy to handle.
  5. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  6. Roll the dough into balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for about 22 minutes, until the balls are brown on top.
  8. Let them cool for 5 minutes, then put the powdered sugar on a plate and roll the cookies in them.
  9. Let them cool completely, and then re-roll in powdered sugar.


Nutrition facts are estimates.

Nutrition Information:



Amount Per Serving: Calories: 155Saturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 35mgCarbohydrates: 16gSugar: 10gProtein: 1g

AirBake Natural 2 Pack Cookie Sheet Set, 14 x 12in and 16 x 14inAirBake Natural 2 Pack Cookie Sheet Set, 14 x 12in and 16 x 14inWilton Cookie SpatulaWilton Cookie SpatulaWilton 2105-459 Excelle Elite 3-Tier Cooling Rack, 15 7/8Wilton 2105-459 Excelle Elite 3-Tier Cooling Rack, 15 7/8

These cookies are rich and buttery. The powdered sugar coating melts in your mouth and they are crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. In this recipe I like the contrast between the chocolatey center and the powdered sugar exterior of the cookies. Once you sample a few snowball cookies it is easy to see why these cookies are so popular that they are known all over the world.

Powdered sugar cookies on a plate with a snowman, also known as Russian tea cakes.

Find more Christmas Cookie Recipes

Russian tea cakes (snowball cookies) on a plate.

Russian tea cakes with nutella.


Hi, Iโ€™m Anne!

I love to cook and I want to share my recipes with you. I believe cooking should be approachable and fun, not a chore. I want to make simple recipes using everyday ingredients that you can make again and again, whether it is for a busy weeknight, a summer cookout or a special dessert. Read more...

18 thoughts on “Russian Tea Cakes | Snowball Cookies”

  1. 1 star
    Can’t believe all the raves! Tried the Nutella Snowballs recipe just now….dough was super crumbly, hard to make “balls” and ended up adding more nutella to the dough to make it stick together. Was hoping for a new “yearly” addition to Christmas cookies…but NOT this one. Sorry.


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