Chef John’s Russian Tea Cakes

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Yield: 14

Total Time: 30 m


“As the old joke goes, these Russian tea cakes might not be Russian, but at least they’re not cakes. No one knows exactly how these came to be known as Russian tea cakes but, nevertheless, they are quite delicious.”


1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup packed confectioners’ sugar

1 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup confectioners’ sugar for dusting, or more as needed


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Arrange rack in center position of oven.

Place butter, 1/3 cup packed powdered sugar, walnuts, salt, and vanilla in a bowl. Top with the flour. Mix with your clean hands until the dough starts to clump up. Keep mixing by hand until all the flour and clumps of butter are evenly mixed into the dough and it can be easily formed into balls.

Scoop out dough and roll by hand into uniformly round balls, just slightly larger than 1 inch. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat about 2 inches apart.

Bake in preheated oven until lightly golden, 15 to 25 minutes depending on the size of the cookies.

Let cool exactly 5 minutes then roll in a shallow bowl full of confectioners’ sugar. Let cookies cool completely and toss them again in the confectioners’ sugar.