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Mexican Wedding Cakes (Or Are They Russian Tea Cakes?)

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December  1, 2015
Photo by Linda Xiao

We found this recipe in Amanda Hesser's copy of Gregg Gillespie's 1001 Cookie Recipes (a remarkably comprehensive and lovable book that survived the culling of her massive cookbook collection this fall).

Maybe you knew these crumbly shortbread cookies as Russian Tea Cakes, or Snowballs, or Viennese Crescents, rather than Mexican Wedding Cookies (or Polvorones, as they're called in Mexico—from the word for dust, polvo). Theories abound on why the same cookie ball appears to have descended from so many places (was it European nuns traveling to Mexico? Or Cold War rebranding?) If you have a hypothesis to add, we want to hear it! (Note, too, that this version has the unusual addition of tequila, which stands in quite nicely for vanilla.)

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5 Comments

laura January 20, 2016
I come from a Mexican family and definitely see these cookies at every wedding/quinceañera/party! Along with other types of cookies of similar shapes, they're put in the middle of the table for everyone to munch on during the event, and these white sugared ones are always the first ones gone. Looooove them. <br /><br />- Laura // GirlWhoWrites.com
 
Rebecca December 20, 2015
These are not what I know as Russian Tea Cakes. <br />This is a totally different recipe from the 1940's cookbook that was my mothers; in that book the following recipe is Russian Tea cakes. Make them every year!<br />Mix together: <br />1 cup soft butter, 1/2 cup Sifted powdered sugar 1 Tsp. vanilla.<br />Next: <br />Sift together: 2 1/4 cups flour and 1/4 tsp. salt. <br />Add to butter mixture. then add 3/4 cup of finely chopped nuts.<br />Mix completely.<br />Place in bowl and refrigerate for a few hours. <br />Once chilled, roll into 1" balls and place on cookie sheet. (place 2" apart as they do expand some.<br />Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes. (slightly brown)<br />Remove and let cool for a few minutes. While still warm roll in powdered sugar (be careful as they will break easily while still warm). Allow to completely cool then roll again in powdered sugar. Makes 4+/- dozen. <br />When rolling in the powdered sugar I generally use a paper bag; put 3 or 4 (No more!) in bag, leaving plenty of air inside grip top of bag with one hand and make a fist to close top, Very gently roll the bag with your other hand to coat the balls. remove and allow to cool then repeat.
 
Roberto D. December 19, 2015
Made with granulated sugar and without the tequila nor nuts - Puerto Rican polvorones.
 
Mar P. December 19, 2015
I'm Mexican and I have never seen these cookies being served or even offered on any wedding I've been to.
 
Cheryl P. December 19, 2015
I still make them every year as Russian tea cakes--minus the tequila