Sunday, January 9, 2011

Baking For My Lil' Sisters (Mexican Tea Cakes)

Mexican Tea Cakes

Would you like to try a cookie with a dozen names? What -- that doesn't get your salivary glands going? Well then, how about a light n' crunchy, buttery n' nutty ball of cookie goodness rolled in not one, but two coats of pretty powdery sugar? Oh yes, I've got your attention now 8). Whether you know these treats as Mexican wedding cakes, Danish wedding cakes, Russian tea cakes, snowballs, butterballs, or some other moniker, there's no denying their widespread appeal.

Mexican Tea Cakes

I loved 'em so much as a kid that I'd inhale dozens as a time. I outgrew that habit long ago (good thing since I plan to become a dietitian), but I still adore these treats for the great taste and memories that come with them. They were first on my list of homemade treats to bring when visiting my dad and baby sisters (2 and 4 years old) in Florida. I was an only child until 22 and no longer expecting siblings by then, so I have a LOT to learn about being a big sis. But considering what cookie monsters these girls have already proven to be, I think we'll have a lot in common ^_^.

Do you guys have a regional/family version of these cookies? Tell me about them please!

Mexican Tea Cakes [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

XIAOLU'S NOTES: Please note that the dough needs to be prepared ahead of time and chilled at least 6 hours before baking. Don't try to bake more than one tray at a time, since baking each tray in the middle of the oven is crucial to getting evenly cooked and browned cookies. Feel free to substitute walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or almost any other nuts you like for the pecans. Have fun with it!

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar, divided
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup very finely chopped lightly toasted pecans
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped bar (optional)
2 T finely chopped sweetened flaked coconut (optional)

Sift flour, salt, spices, cocoa powder, and salt together into a medium bowl; set aside.

Cream together butter and 1/2 cup powdered sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at moderately high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in vanilla; then add flour, pecans, chocolate chips, and coconut (if using) and mix at low speed until just combined. Chill, covered, for at least 6 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Let dough stand at room temperature until just pliable, 15 to 25 minutes. Meanwhile, sift remaining 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar into a large shallow bowl.

Roll tablespoons of dough into 1-inch balls and arrange about 2 inches apart on lightly buttered large baking sheets. Bake in batches in middle of oven until bottoms are pale golden, 10 to 15 minutes. (You can keep prepared trays in the refrigerator until it's their turn in the oven.) Transfer cookies to powdered sugar while still hot, gently rolling to coat well, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. (Don't worry when some of this sugar melts; it's meant to create a layer for the 2nd coat of sugar to stick to.)

Roll cookies in powdered sugar again when cooled.

52 comments:

  1. Those are some of my favorite cookies! Yours look so pretty.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. I used to hoard and inhale these cookies as a child too! So wonderful.

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  3. ooo i know these as snowballs! haha they look like mochi XD

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  4. Wonderful! Never tried these but look tempting!

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  5. Mei - LOL, you're the 3rd person who's thought they were mochi so far. I totally didn't think about the resemblance until someone mentioned it 8D.

    Rosa - Aw thank you much!

    Nourhan - Glad you like it :).

    smalltownoven- It's nice to hear someone had the same addiction growing up ;p.

    grub - As I said to Mei above, I totally didn't think about that but you guys are right!

    Leemei - They're really yummy, I hope you give them a shot.

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  6. me too.. they were my favorite as a kid and still are... esp the toasted pecans... I like that you are using wrappers and a box to go with...

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  7. Thanks! You changed your name on google, I almost didn't recognize you but then I saw the photo :).

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  8. Oh wow Xia, I am drooling. I want to make this too ! Thx for the recipe :)

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  9. Sips and SpoonfulsJanuary 9, 2011 at 11:20 PM

    These looks so dainty and delicate!And I love the addition of cardamom!

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  10. This post surely got my attention since I know once I munch these I could never stop :-)

    Happy New Year, Xiaolu!

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  11. They look fantastic - simple but delicious!

    Oh and I added you to my link list - I love to spread the love :D

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  12. It is funny how many different versions of this cookie there is in the world. I've made versions using both almonds and hazelnuts instead of the pecans before that I thought were really good too.

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  13. I will ask the Grandmothers for regional versions. I am pretty sure Gaga used to make this with pecans but she likely added in some other stuff as well...

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  14. Love them cookies I do, and have thought of making them often. Your pictures are beautiful...worth a million words!

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  15. They look so pretty tucked into that little box! I have no doubt they are a huge hit wherever you take them.

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  16. Very beautiful, that winter white on pale violet photo. I've never tried these before, but don't you think it's about time? I'm looking over the ingredient list, and I can I tell I'd be a big fan.

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  17. Have been drooling over those cookies ever since I saw them on flickr! I'm so jealous that ur sis's gonna eat them n not me :-(
    Love the recipe but just hope someone could make those for me too!! Do you want my address to mail 'em to me?? ;-)

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  18. I think the fact that these somehow appear in every culture is a testament to their deliciousness. Your sisters must love you for making these for them!

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  19. Oh yes, I have made these... Always good! Yours look really pretty. Photos and styling are beautiful as usual.

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  20. Honestly, my favorite holiday cookie hands down. Haven't been able to kick the 12 at a time habit like you. I make them with my mom every year (check it check it! http://deliciosity.wordpress.com/2009/12/21/home-for-the-holidays/)

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  21. I've heard them called 'baby's buttons' - if you gently pierce four small holes onto the top, they sort of resemble tiny buttons...
    Yours look absolutely delicious...love the photographs and your styling!

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  22. These look fabulous! I've never tried anything like this before, and have always wanted to.

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  23. Have been waiting for the recipes. They sound too good not to give them a try. Xiaolu your styling is spectacular. BTW have you thought about shipping them around?

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  24. I love the pretty way you packaged them. When I made them as a teen, they never lasted long enough in my house for me to ever dress them up like that. ;)

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  25. Such "melt in your mouth" goodness! :)

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  26. They look gorgeous and elegant! lucky your family :p

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  27. your food styling here is just so elegant and beautiful..

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  28. there ARE so many names for these little delights, but now i shall always refer to them as 'light n' crunchy, buttery n' nutty ball of cookie goodness rolled in not one, but two coats of pretty powdery sugar'... :)

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  29. These Mexican tea cakes look so beautiful!

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  30. Oh I have heard so much about this cakes and read many posts on it! I think its time, beautiful pictures as always :)

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  31. Your tea cakes look so pretty!! I'm sure your baby sisters will love these lovely treats to bits. ;)

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  32. So pretty and look melt-in-the-mouth too!

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  33. Beautiful! The bests that I've seen yet. Your sisters are lucky to have such a talented sibling.

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  34. I'm so very glad you left a comment on my blog because your blog is STUNNING! I love finding beautiful new (to me) sites to peruse as well as lovely photographs and delicious recipes to admire. Very excited!

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  35. Ooh I've got these on my "to make" list. I know them as Mexican wedding cakes which is why I was interested in making them (you don't drag out just anything for a wedding! :P). Lovely styling! :D

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  36. These look like on steroids! We just posted my Grandma's recipe last week. They are delicious - the unusual thing about them is that they use honey in the dough. She called them Butter Balls, but I have called them the various names you listed at one time or another. I learned about your blog from Stephanie Myer when she posted on Facebook - very lovely blog! "Aunt" Suzy

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  37. They look so cute! I love the powdered sugar on them too; you've presented them beautifully. (I didn't realize you were a dietitican)!

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  38. Now u got me sitting up!

    I love everything that is rolled in powdered sugar! :P

    Awww... bet u heart your little sisters lots!!

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  39. Gosh, I've been wanting to make these for so long after seeing someone make them on tv. They added an egg and I thought I may have to figure out a way of making them without. But voila! Your recipe doesn't have eggs! Thanks so much- can't WAIT to try you recipe. Maybe this weekend :)

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  40. My grandmother always used to make a similar, but simpler, cookie. These are always irresistible by any name!

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  41. What a wonderful gift to bring with you when you visit. These have always been some of my favorite special cookies.

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  42. I was 15 when Jessica (my sister) was born and that was the best thing that has ever happened to my life - I know how much fun you'll always have with your baby sisters! They are lucky to have you, Xiaolu!
    Not only you're an adorable sis, you bake delicious treats... ;)
    xx

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  43. Thanks so much, everyone!

    Patricia - thanks for telling me that :). I wish I were closer to see them grow day by day, but I can at least treasure the short bits of time we have together. They did indeed enjoy the treats, but the older one is already a huuuge sugar fiend. Hope she doesn't have a bunch of cavities 8).

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  44. this almost look the same as Asian sticky rice balls. Yummy!

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  45. Gorgeous photos, these cookies look so beautiful and dainty... And of course, tasty!

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  46. I've always meant to try these, but never have yet! They look delicious, and I think I will love them. Maybe it's better than I haven't yet made them ;)

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  47. Thanks Yue, Hannah, and Avanika! :)

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  48. One of my favorite cookies! Delicious and so pretty packaged in the box!

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  49. Lucky sisters! :) I love how you packaged them in those cute little boxes. My mom makes these every Christmas and I was never a big fan. But then once I started baking more often and I realized that she was using margarine in them instead of butter, I told her she should switch to butter and it made them SO much better.

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I love hearing from you all! Please leave me a message if you have questions, advice, or just to let me know you stopped by. Your feedback is always very much appreciated. Thanks! <3 Xiaolu