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Russian Tea Cakes

Russian tea cake balls served on top of a pink cake stand for visiting guests.

My Russian Tea Cake recipe makes a melt-in-your-mouth delicate treat you never knew you needed.  Their rich buttery flavor filled with nuts for texture and the classic powdered sugar coating makes them not just a cookie, but a dessert experience.  

Two tea cookies on a plate, one of them is cut open to show the interior.

Russian Tea Cakes

I grew up seeing these little powdered sugar-coated cookies on every dessert buffet around the holidays.  Everyone loved them and raved over how delicious they were, but I had to avoid them because I am allergic to nuts. 

While I have never been able to taste these yummy Russian tea cookies, my friends and family have confirmed that this recipe is fantastic. In fact, this recipe comes directly from my dear friend Jennie’s mom, Vicki.  She was kind enough to share her recipe with me to share with my family and readers.

Russian tea cake balls served on top of a pink cake stand for visiting guests.

Do I Have to Toast the Almonds?

While I have not tried them, it is my understanding that a big part of the flavor in these cookies comes from being toasted.  In fact, in any recipe where I have added nuts, toasting them has been a must. It brings out the nutty flavor and helps to add depth to any recipe.

Lebkuchen is another great cookie that uses almonds if you have extras after making these Russian tea cakes.

Tip:  If you don’t want to add the extra oil to toast your almonds, simply watch them carefully using a nonstick pan or toasting on a silicone baking mat.

Close up view of tea cookies just waiting to be enjoyed.

Can I Make the Dough In Advance?

Yes!  In fact, for this recipe, it is recommended that you refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours before forming into balls.  This makes it a perfect cookie dough to make in large batches to freeze for a future date.

If I plan to freeze the dough, I prefer to form the balls ahead of time.  Then, I will place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and cover to pop into the freezer for 15-20 minutes to flash freeze.  Next, I can drop them into a freezer bag that has been dated and labeled. This method keeps them round, and easy to thaw in the refrigerator overnight to simply grab and bake when ready.

Check out my cinnamon spritz cookies for another option you can make in large batches.  These freeze beautifully after cooking.

Russian tea cakes served with hot tea, perfect for afternoon tea.

Tips for Storing Russian Tea Cookies Recipe

Since these cookies are rolled in powdered sugar after they are done baking, they can be a bit messier than other cookies.  So, when it is time to store them, you may not be sure what the best method is.

One way I like to store these Russian tea cake cookies is to sprinkle about ½ cup powdered sugar into the bottom of an airtight container and stack them in it before sealing.  When I am ready to serve, I can lightly shake the container to distribute extra coating on the cookies before placing on a serving tray.

A Schokokipferl cookie is another traditionally powdered sugar-coated cookie you might enjoy.  My recipe is for a chocolate-based option, but you can adapt and coat in powdered sugar just like these tea cakes.

Photo collage showing the steps involved in making Russian tea cake cookies.

Variations on Russian Tea Cakes

While this is the perfect recipe if you are craving a buttery delicious cookie, there are some fun variations of this to add variety to your cookie platter.  Below are a few ideas that will make this recipe just a bit different, but still delicious.

  • Allow the bread to cool completely before wrapping in plastic wrap then placing inside a labeled and dated gallon freezer bag.  This is ideal for when you want to make ahead to gift whole loaves
  • Bake in disposable aluminum loaf pans and allow to cool before wrapping the entire pan and bread in plastic wrap to go into freezer bags like above.  This is great for reheating the bread in the oven, or gifting. 
  • Allow the bread to cool, then slice into servings and separate each slice with waxed paper before stacking in a gallon freezer bag or large airtight freezer storage container.  This allows you to grab a single piece at a time for a fast treat. 
  • Pour into lined muffin/cupcake tins to make individual servings and drop into a freezer storage bag once cooled completely
Russian Tea Cakes

Russian Tea Cakes

Yield: 2 dozen cookies
Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time: 11 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 26 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 heaping cup toasted almonds, finely chopped
  • 1-2 cups powdered sugar, for rolling

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract for about 2 minutes.
  2. While the butter/sugar is creaming, toast the chopped almonds in a frying pan over med-high eat until slightly golden. Remove from the pan to cool.
  3. Add the flour and salt to the butter/sugar and mix until just combined.
  4. Mix in the toasted almonds.
  5. Cover the dough and chill in the freezer for 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 F degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Roll 1" balls in your hand then place them on the prepared baking sheet.
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until firm.
  9. Immediately roll in 1-2 cups powdered sugar and set on wax paper to cool completely.
  10. Once completely cool, roll again in powdered sugar.
  11. Store in an air tight container for up to a week.

8 comments

  1. Deb Richards

    Tears under my eyelids from reading this post. <3
    Oh, and I LOVE Russian Tea Cakes!

    Reply

  2. Marilyn

    Love Russian Tea Cakes also….My recipe calls for pecans rather than almonds so this year I’ll do half and half…thanks for the reminder

    Reply

    1. Betsy Eves

      Yes… I’ve seen several recipes that called for different nuts. Almonds is what I had on hand, but walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts…. they’d all be great too!!

      Reply

  3. Heather

    My mom and grandma made a nut-less Russian tea cake ~ called snowball meltaways. I am not a lover of nuts in baked goods, not sure why. 🙂

    Reply

    1. Heather

      You’ve inspired me to make them this year! Snowball melt-a-ways that is. I think the recipe may have called for more flour. I’ll need to ask my momma.

      Reply

    2. Betsy Eves

      Yum! I didn’t eat any, cause I’m allergic to nuts… so I’d love to see the nutless recipe if you get it!

      Reply

  4. Russell Heister

    Wow Russian tea cakes with nut substitute. That’s a challenge I’m going to take on. My first thought is to use a seed you like instead of nuts. I love poppy seeds so I’m going to see if they are a feasible alternative. Roasted seseme seeds may be tasty too.

    Reply

    1. Betsy Eves

      Roasted seeds sounds delish!

      Reply

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