I’m SO curious about the history and origin of these cookies. It seems like everyone has had them at one point or another, and under one name or another. I chose to go with “Russian Tea Cakes” simply because that was the name connected with them when I first tried them as a kid. I was in 2nd grade when one of my Russian classmates brought them as part of her cultural show-and-tell.
I went to an International Elementary School right near Stanford University. Most of my peers had moved to California with their parents who were affiliated with the Unviersity. It was awesome for me because I grew up with people from all over the world, who spoke different languages than my own, and who had the best show-and-tell’s! It was actually when I first learned about the Matryoshka Russian Dolls that another Russian student brought in.
The show-and-tell’s went beyond just “stuff.” In second grade, the theme was food from your culture. I’ll never forget the homemade steamed buns that one of the Chinese students brought in — sooooo good. Everytime we went to ANY restaurant as a family, I’d asked for steamed buns. lol I was pissed when I realized it didn’t work like that. As part of the food theme, I brought in my Dad’s homemade multi-seed bread that I grew up eating for breakfast and refer to fondly as “Daddy’s Bread.” (One of these days, that recipe will make it to A Bee Bakes too!)
Back to this recipe though. So it was a Russian classmate’s turn to bring in a food from her culture that she loved. Imagine my delight, learning that I’d get to eat mid-day cookies absolutely decked in powdered sugar as part of a school assignment. I got that same delight when I made these recently for the blog. The ones that she brought in didn’t have chocolate chips, but were the start of a lifelong love of Russian Tea Cakes. Later in life, one of my Mexican colleagues brought in homemade Mexican Wedding Cookies that literally melted in my mouth. When desserts are this good, it’s a little intimidating to recreate them. They have so much to live up to! Fortunately, this recipe does just that. And it adds chocolate. So, ya.
The actual cookies are not very sweet — hence the need for a generous coating of powdered sugar. They are primarily butter and flour, they’re void of any leavening agent, so they don’t flatten when baking, and they’re so delicate, they really do just melt in your mouth. I added miniature chocolate chips because I’m a chocolate fiend. Feel free to omit those if you want to go the class route. Typically, these cookies are eaten during the winter holidays, but to be honest, I think with all the names, people are just finding an excuse to enjoy these more consistently throughout the year. And you should too. 🙂
Chocolate Chip Russian Tea Cakes
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1 cup mini chocolate chips
- ~ 1/2 cup powdered sugar to finish
- Preheat oven to 375F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Beat in the flour and salt, until fully combined and no longer crumbly. Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Create 1 tablespoon sized dough balls with a cookie scoop or your hands. Place them on the baking sheet.*
- Bake for 9-10 minutes, until slightly browned on the bottom of each cookie.
- Allow the cookies to cool for a minute while you pour some powdered sugar into a bowl. Once cool enough to handle, gently roll the cookies in powdered sugar until fully coated. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
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