My mother, Barbara White, has been baking these for over sixty years. I asked her where she got the recipe, and she doesn’t know; but I remember even when I was four or five years old that these were my very favorite Christmas cookies that she baked. I remember helping her roll them in the powdered sugar. This year Mom is 91, and is not baking as much as she used to. I thought a lovely tribute to her would be to bake up these sweet little cakes and give them out to family at our Mother’s Day brunch. I made a label with Mom’s photo from when she was young, and used window tin-tie bags so you could see the cakes inside.
Many countries have their own variation of this delicious little cake. In Oaxaca, Mexico, they are called wedding cakes and are a traditional favor for guests, where they are served in delicate pouches of ruffled white tissue paper. In Russia they are known as tea cakes, and as long ago as the 1700’s were served there as a sweet accompaniment to afternoon tea; they are still popular today as a special treat. In Greece they are called Kourambiethes and are also a traditional wedding cookie. They are known as Kipfel in Austria, Mandulas Kiflik in Bulgaria, Rohlichky in Ukraine, Polvorones in Italy, and in the U.S. they are called Almond Butter Balls, Snowballs, and Moldy Mice. All over the world people know what’s good, and they save the richest, finest foods for their special occasions.
Pine nuts or chopped pecans can be used in place of the slivered almonds with excellent results. Use real butter for the full effect.
• 1 cup salted butter, soft
• 3 Tbsp powdered sugar
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1/8 tsp almond extract (if you use almonds)
• 2 cups flour
• 1 cup slivered almonds, roasted
• 2 cups powdered sugar to roll cookies in
Stir together the butter and sugar until thoroughly mixed. Add flavorings and stir, then stir in flour and nuts until well blended. Form into one-inch balls. Refrigerate them until firm – this helps keep their round shape during baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and when ready to bake, place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet, bake for 20 minutes or until just beginning to turn brown. While still hot, roll in powdered sugar. Allow to cool completely before packaging.
This recipe makes about 20 -24 little cakes.
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