Simply the BEST! Our traditional Snowball Christmas Cookies are buttery, with plenty of walnuts and vanilla for a rich and flavorful melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookie (also known as Russian Teacakes or Mexican Wedding Cookies). Never dry because the dough is made with granulated sugar, not confectioners’ sugar like other recipes that make the cookies too dry. Scrumptious gluten free option included using our own GF flour blend. Everyone loves these classic nutty shortbread Christmas cookies!
Fond Christmas Baking Memories:
Snowball Christmas Cookies ~ The Best Ever
Although this recipe resides on the blog as a gluten free version, I simply could not resist posting my favorite Christmas cookie, in its original traditional form, which is forever tied to fond memories of holiday baking with my Grandma Gigi, Snowball Christmas Cookies. That’s what we children called them. However, my grandmother called them Russian Teacakes and our neighbor called them Mexican Wedding Cookies. No matter what you call them, everyone loves these classic nutty shortbread Christmas cookies!
Distinctly, I remember the first Christmas when I was finally old enough to help my grandmother bake cookies for Christmas. It involved staying overnight for the weekend during the second week in December and my memories of these precious years when I baked with her are purely magical.
Together, we baked all day through the weekend and turned out batch after batch of Butterplätzchen (Rolled German Butter Cookie Cutouts) cut into animal shapes and sprinkled with colorful “Jimmies” to hang on the Christmas tree. We also baked Russian Teacakes, Pecan Crescents, Jam Thumbprint Cookies, Butter Pecan Icebox Cookies, Spritz Cookies using her old-fashioned cookie press and Gingerbread Cookies as well as German Sour Cream Coffeecake with the most spectacular buttery brown sugar nut streusel known to man. I swear, no other streusel compares!
Grandma Gigi also baked a nut torte (a boozy, nutty layer cake) and a special kuchen (cake) which was actually a bar cookie consisting of a rich shortbread crust, strawberry or raspberry jam filling and unique meringue topping. And I had the important duty of helping my grandmother soak her fruitcake by drizzling it with rum. She had always baked the cake in October, but she would explain that the cake had to “cure”, “age” or “ripen”. I was fascinated by this and can still remember the enchanted scents of spices, sugared fruits and rum from that mysterious cake tin tucked away into a low cupboard in her kitchen.
My Grandma Gigi talked with pride when telling us the history of the recipes she handed down to my sister and I. Some came from my Papa’s mother and some from my grandmother’s mother. She explained that the recipes from her side of the family came from a professional baker who baked for royalty “in the old country” as she would say. Of course, there is no way of knowing this for sure. It all sounds so fantastical. However, most of the recipes handed down in our family have never been found in print, cookbooks or magazines. Believe me, we have looked!
This traditional German-Hungarian recipe for Snowball Cookies or Russian Teacakes was handed down from my Great-Grandmother Mitzi and I am proud to share my gluten free version as well—which is quite stupendous if I do say so myself. When The Big Lug sampled the gluten free version of these scrumptious cookies, he could not believe that they were gluten free. That is saying quite a lot because he is quite the cookie connoisseur!
Just what is it about Snowball Cookies or Russian Teacakes that make them so special? I have pondered this quite often over the years whenever I bake them. Are they special because they are delectable buttery, nutty, round shortbread cookies? Or, do we love them so much because they are covered in confectioners’ sugar and remind us of snowballs and playing in the snow as children? Or, is it the nostalgia attached to the experiences in baking with a beloved family member, like a grandmother or special aunt? For me, it is all of the above.
However, I must say that the taste and experience of munching on these special shortbread cookies dusted in sugar, like a Pixie Elf’s Fairy Dust, is intrinsically tied to the memory of baking with my Grandma Gigi and all the anticipation, excitement and childhood wonder of the coming Christmas holiday. Each time I munch on a Snowball Christmas Cookie, I am reminded of my Grandma Gigi and her beautiful Christmas tree covered in Butterplätzchen and how they were shared with the mailman, the paper boy or anyone who came to the door in late December. My mother carried on a similar tradition as each person who came to our door was treated with a candy cane from our family Christmas tree.
What makes our Snowball Christmas Cookies wicked good? First, our recipe calls for all butter and granulated sugar which is superior to recipes using confectioners’ sugar which contains cornstarch thus making the shortbread cookie too dry. (Ever cough from those cookies due to those dry, crumbly cookies dusted in sugar when the “dust” goes down your wind pipe?) Using all butter and granulated sugar, with ample pure vanilla extract, ensures an especially buttery and tasty Snowball Cookie.
Second, our recipe calls for walnuts which are not as dry as pecans can be. In addition, our recipe calls for 2 entire cups of finely chopped walnuts—not a mere 3/4 cup of nuts like most recipes such as the one found in the iconic Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book. Finally, the size of the teacakes, the oven temperature and bake time ensures superior Snowball Christmas Cookies.
Here at Wicked Good Kitchen, we hope that our family recipe for Snowball Cookies becomes a new Christmas tradition for your family. Here’s to special childhood Christmas memories, family traditions and holiday baking to include spectacular Snowball Cookies!
Below are Pinterest-friendly sized images to pin at Pinterest!
Simply the best! Buttery, never dry, with plenty of walnuts for a scrumptious melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookie (also known as Russian Teacakes or Mexican Wedding Cookies). Everyone will LOVE these classic Christmas cookies!
- 1 cup (2 sticks/226 grams) unsalted butter, softened slightly
- 5 tablespoons (63 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon (1.25 grams) kosher salt
- 2 cups (240 grams) organic all-purpose flour, such as King Arthur Flour®
- 2 cups (about 240 grams) finely chopped walnuts
- 1½ cups (about 188 grams) confectioners’ sugar, for dusting cookies twice
Using an electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or handheld electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in the vanilla and salt. Gradually add flour or gluten free flour blend (see Recipe Notes); beating after each addition. Stir in the nuts; mix until fully incorporated. Divide dough in half and refrigerate in plastic food wrap for approximately 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, arrange oven rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Place confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl; set aside. Measure dough using a small, 1-inch spring-loaded scoop making sure each scoopful is level. Roll dough between palms of hands to achieve a small rounded ball.
- Place dough balls 1½ inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake in preheated oven until the cookies are just beginning to brown, about 12 to 14 minutes. Do not overbake. The underside of the cookies should be only lightly browned. And the cookies should not crack—a sure sign of overbaked teacake cookies.
- Cool cookies on baking sheets on wire racks for approximately 2 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheets using a metal cookie spatula. While cookies are still warm, gently roll them in the confectioners’ sugar. Place the sugar-coated cookies on wire racks to cool completely. Roll cookies once again in the confectioners’ sugar.
- Yield: Makes about 6 dozen (about 72) small cookies when using 1-inch size (very small) cookie scoop as indicated in the recipe. Of course, larger cookie scoops will make larger sized cookies and yield less of them.
For Gluten-Free Option: Replace all-purpose wheat flour with:
½ cup (64 grams) millet flour or sorghum flour, or blend of both
6 tablespoons (48 grams) arrowroot starch
6 tablespoons (48 grams) tapioca flour
5 tablespoons (50 grams) sweet white rice flour
4 tablespoons (28 grams) blanched almond meal/flour
1½ tablespoons (15 grams) potato starch
1½ teaspoons (4.2 grams) guar gum, such as Now Foods®
The dough balls will seem very small, but don’t worry. The cookies puff while they bake.
Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. Cookies will keep up to 4 weeks.
These cookies freeze especially well. To freeze, place in an airtight container separating the layers with sheets of wax paper. To freshen frozen cookies, roll or dust them with additional confectioners’ sugar after thawing.
Total Time of about 1 hour and 15 minutes includes Prep Time and Cook Time based on baking all the cookies, but in 4 batches of 18 cookies each and the bake time of 14 minutes per batch. Total Time (or Active Time) does not include chilling the dough for 45 minutes.
How to Measure All-Purpose Flour for this Recipe: This tip is provided for bakers who do not own a kitchen scale and will be measuring flour by volume rather than by weight. First, aerate flour by stirring it in the container. Then, gently spoon flour into measuring cup (without packing it) and level off the top with the straight edge of a metal icing spatula. (The straight edge of a knife from a flatware set can be used as well.) This should yield about 120 grams per 1 cup of flour. Use a sheet of wax paper as a liner on your work surface to measure flour so that the excess can easily be funneled back into flour bag or container.
How to Measure Gluten-Free Flours for this Recipe: This tip is provided for bakers who do not own a kitchen scale and will be measuring gluten-free flours by volume rather than by weight. When measuring Bob’s Red Mill® gluten-free flours for this recipe, use the method of spooning the flour into the dry measuring cup (without packing it) and level off the top with the straight edge of a metal icing spatula. (The straight edge of a knife from a flatware set can be used as well.) This will ensure the flour is not measured in excess which can cause overly stiff cookie dough and very dry cookies. (Remember: Gluten-free flours are very thirsty flours.) Use a sheet of wax paper as a liner on your work surface to measure flour so that the excess can easily be funneled back into flour bag or container.
Finely chopped almonds or pecans may be substituted for the finely chopped walnuts.
Original Recipe Source: WickedGoodKitchen.com
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