Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mexican Wedding Cakes (Cookies)

Not just for weddings, these little shortbread-type balls of goodness are a tradition at my home during the Christmas holidays. I generally make at least two batches at a time, because they get eaten so fast. They also make great little gifts, placed in a colorful tin or wrapped in bright tissue paper with a bow. I'd make some for you, but since I can't I'll share my special recipe instead.

I got this recipe from a friend who was dating a pastry chef at the time, and it was his contributions that follow: There are three secrets to making the very best Mexican Wedding Cookies. First, use the best quality butter and vanilla you can afford (not margarine!); second, chill the dough before you roll it into little balls; third (no, this is NOT a mistake!), mix a little bit of salt into the powdered sugar you use for rolling the cookies in. Trust me on that salt thing, it really does make a difference, but no one will be able to tell exactly what that difference is. It'll be our little secret.

I haven't made these yet this year as of "press" time, so there is no photo, but you can see what they should look like by googling images of Mexican Wedding Cakes...

Makes about 3 dozen

  • 1 1/2 Cups butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 Cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 Cup pecans, chopped and roasted (see below)
  • Another 3/4 cup powdered sugar to roll cookies in
  • Another 1/4 teaspoon salt


Toasted Pecans:
Place pecans on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes, until they are fragrant. Remove from oven and let them cool, then chop them until they are fine but not powdered. Set aside.

Place butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Mix at medium-high speed until completely mixed. In a seperate bowl, mix flour and salt. Mix the flour into the butter about 1/2 cup at a time until well incorporated. Carefully fold in the nuts. Chill dough in refrigerator, covered, for an hour.

Roll small amounts of dough (about a tablespoon full) in the palms of your hands to form one inch balls. Place the balls on a lightly greased cookie sheeet, or one lined with parchment, about 2 inches apart.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 12 - 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies start to brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes. Mix additional powdered sugar and salt (I like to sift the two together to make sure they're well mixed). Roll the warm cookies in the powdered sugar/salt mixture. It doesn't hurt to roll them again once they're cool for an extra added layer of powdered sugar.

Note that you can use any kind of nuts that floats your boat. I often substitute chopped pistachios, and my hubby particularly likes those. You can also add a tablespoon or so of liqeur, such as Amaretto, Rum or Kahlua for a different taste.

These are messy little devils, so when you eat them pop the whole thing into your mouth at once (and make sure everyone has a napkin). For an extra added Christmas treat, pass around some mugs of Mexican Hot Chocolate to accompany these buttery little delights. Life doesn't get much better than that!

Happy Holidays (no matter which ones you celebrate) and Buen Provecho!

If you have a favorite recipe for a Mexican or Mexican-inspired dish, I'd love to add it to our recipe box! email (and put "recipe" in the subject box so I'll know what it's about)