Whether you also know these little powdered sugar-dusted cookies as Russian tea cakes or Italian wedding cookies, these buttery, nutty cookies are a welcome addition to any cookie plate — especially since they can be made ahead and frozen. You can use almost any nut that you'd like, and this version adds cocoa powder and cayenne pepper for a taste that's reminiscent of a mug of spicy hot chocolate.
Make Ahead and Freeze
I love how Mexican wedding cookies have a hint of savoriness to them, especially when many holiday cookies swing more to the sweet side. These cookies are easy to make ahead and freeze: Just form the dough into little balls, freeze, and bake when you need them. After a final dusting of powdered sugar, they're ready to throw on a cookie plate or package up as a food gift.
Learn how: How To Make Spiced Mexican Wedding Cookies
Our recipe uses pecans, which are standard for wedding cookies, but feel free to swap in other nuts or use a combination — almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, cashews, or walnuts work equally well. The key with the nuts, though, is to toast them first so they add lots of deep, rich flavor to these simple cookies.
Chocolate Mexican Wedding Cookies
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup pecan halves (about 3 3/4 ounces), toasted and finely chopped
1/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whisk the flour, pecans, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne together in a medium bowl; set aside.
Place the butter and 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and a large bowl.) Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Stop the mixer and scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl.
Return the mixer to low speed and gradually add in the flour mixture until just combined. Transfer the dough to a piece of plastic wrap, form into a 1-inch-thick disc, and wrap completely in the plastic. Refrigerate until firm but still soft enough to scoop, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Meanwhile, arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the remaining 1 cup of powdered sugar in a pie plate or large, shallow bowl.
Form the dough into 1-tablespoon balls and place on the baking sheets, spacing them at least 1 1/4 inches apart (fit them all on the 2 baking sheets; they do not spread much).
Bake for 8 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets between racks and from front to back. Bake until the tops of the cookies are set, 7 to 8 minutes more.
Place the baking sheets on wire racks and let the cookies cool on the sheets for 10 minutes. While still warm, gently coat each cookie completely in powdered sugar and place on the rack. Let cool completely, about 15 minutes more, then coat again in the powdered sugar.
- Nut substitutions: You can substitute an equal weight (not volume) of almonds, walnuts, cashews, pine nuts, or pistachios for the pecans, or use any combination of these nuts.
- Make ahead: The dough can be made, formed into balls, and frozen directly on the baking sheet. Store the frozen cookie dough balls in freezer zip-top bags or an airtight container for up to 2 months. Bake frozen, adding 1 to 2 minutes to the bake time, and continue with coating with powdered sugar. You can also freeze the fully baked cookies without powdered sugar; thaw completely before coating in powdered sugar.
- Storage: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.