Or Russian Tea Cakes, or Pecan Balls or Aunt Sally’s Walnut Crispies or whatever you want to call them. But I think of them as Mexican wedding cakes. These cookies are simple, with only a few ingredients, no matter what flavoring you choose. These cookies are fast, since they don’t need to be chilled in the fridge or cut out into fussy shapes. These cookies are classic. Everybody likes Mexican wedding cakes.
Of course, these were a standard at the catering kitchen. Not least because not having any egg in them, they could even be made into balls and frozen, then bagged up until we needed a few cookies baked off for an assortment platter. Talk about preparedness.
Because they were standards, I developed variations. Our menus had more variety without the kitchen having to accumulate more template recipes. And the alternative versions gave us a flexibility in building custom menus. If there are pecans in the sweet potatoes, wouldn’t it be nicer to have walnut or chocolate almond wedding cakes, rather than another thing with pecans in it?
Mexican Wedding Cakes
Makes about 45 cookies
2 cups pecans, 8 oz, walnuts or hazelnuts–toasted and rubbed if you really want to highlight the nut flavor, make sure they’re completely cool before proceeding
2 cups, 10 oz, all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
16 TBSP, 2 sticks, 8 oz, unsalted butter at room temperature–or Earth Balance buttery sticks
1/3 cup, 2.4 oz, superfine sugar–give granulated sugar a 30 second spin in the food processor then measure, if you don’t have access to superfine
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups, 6 oz, confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 325°. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper (or don’t, but don’t grease ’em for heaven’s sake). In the food processor, grind half the nuts for 10-15 seconds until they’re like coarse cornmeal and feel greasy to the touch. Grind the second half of the nuts for only 5 seconds. Stir the flour and salt in with the two batches of nuts.
With an electric mixer, beat the butter and superfine sugar together. Give this 4-6 minutes, until they’re light and fluffy. Add the vanilla. On low power, beat in the flour-nuts mixture. Let this mix until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down your bowl and beaters and give the dough a final mixing.
In tablespoonfuls, shape the dough into balls and set them one inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake them about 16-19 minutes. They’ll be light golden and just beginning to brown on the bottom. Let them sit on the cookie sheet cooling for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Roll in the sifted confectioners’ sugar and store in an airtight tin. Re-roll them right before serving, if desired.
These keep for two weeks in a tightly sealed tin, but who can resist them for that long?
Chocolate Mexican Wedding cakes
Use 2 cups, 8 oz, toasted almonds for the nuts
Substitute 5 TBSP cocoa, 1 oz, for an equal amount of flour (1.7 oz)
In addition to the vanilla, 1 tsp orange zest, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp powdered instant espresso, 1/4 tsp cayenne
Proceed as directed above. Add 1/2 tsp cinnamon to the rolling sugar, if desired
Peppermint Mexican Wedding Cakes
I think this variation is best with pistachios, but you may use your own judgment.
2 cups, 8 oz, pistachios for the nuts.
Proceed as directed above, but add 10 crushed peppermint candies to the nut and flour mixture.
Cashew-Coconut Mexican Wedding Cakes
Use 1 1/2 cups, 6 oz, Cashews, process 1 cup for 15 seconds and the remaining 1/2 cup for 5 seconds.
Add 1/2 cup, 1.5 oz, unsweetened coconut flakes to the nut and flour mixture
You may substitute 1/2 tsp coconut flavoring for 1/2 tsp of vanilla if desired
Proceed as directed above