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Mexican Wedding Cakes or Whatever You Call Them

December 6, 2011

Well, it’s the Christmas season, which means it’s time to break out this old chestnut. You’re welcome in advance.


This post is the first of a series of holiday cookies I’m baking in the lead up to the holidays. I’ve got a party to throw, friends to gift and a lot of butter to use up.

I always associate these little powder-balls with Christmas, although I suppose you could make them any time of year.They fill in the gaps on the tray of cookies, diligently manning their posts without making too much of a stir. That is, until you bite into one and get a sweater-full of powdered sugar.

I’ve always known them as “Mexican Wedding Cakes,” which is probably an offensive term. Apparently they’re also called Russian Tea Cakes or Butterballs. Given the simplicity of the recipe, it’s no wonder they go by so many aliases.

It’s kind of a proto-cookie: butter, sugar, vanilla, flour. The pecans are the most unusual ingredient, and they have to be toasted, which means very low heat and constant stirring until you start to smell them cooking (around 8 minutes for these.) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve burned nuts by turning away for a second.

The dough was really dense, like “shaking the mixer so much it moved across the counter” dense.

Surprisingly, the result is a really delicate cookie. Crumbly and sweet and nutty and a total mess on your kitchen floor.

Mexican Wedding Cakes

From Bon Appetit via Epicurious
Makes around 4 dozen

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely ground
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy.
2. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended.
3. Beat in flour, then pecans.
4. Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and cinnamon in pie dish to blend. Set cinnamon sugar aside.
6. Working with half of chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls.
7. Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart.
8. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 18 minutes.
9. Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon sugar to coat completely.
10. Sift remaining cinnamon sugar over cookies and serve.

(Cookies can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature; reserve remaining cinnamon sugar ans sprinkle on just before serving.)

I’m going to make an attempt at freezing them. I’ll post back if it’s a crumbly disaster.

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