Mexican wedding cookies, also known as Mexican wedding cakes or polvorones, are a beloved holiday cookie with an interesting history behind their name. These crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies rolled in powdered sugar are a staple at Christmas time, but why specifically reference weddings when they’re so popular year-round?
The History Behind the Name
Mexican wedding cookies likely originated in Mexico, but not necessarily for weddings. They were originally known as polvorones, Spanish for “dusty little cookies,” likely referring to their powdered sugar coating. So where did the wedding association come from?
There are a few possible explanations:
- Wedding ceremonies, especially in Mexican Catholic tradition, often serve cookies and sweets to guests. Mexican bakers may have begun producing these cookies specifically for nuptials.
- Their white powdered sugar coating resembles a wedding dress or veil. This romantic connotation could have led to the “wedding” description.
- They may have become a standard at American weddings when they were brought to the USA by Mexican immigrants. Their crumbly, delicate texture made them perfect for serving at celebrations.
While the exact origins are unclear, one thing is certain – these melt-in-your-mouth treats have become a beloved part of weddings, holidays, and special occasions on both sides of the border.
Traditional Recipe and Ingredients
Mexican wedding cookies have just a few simple ingredients that come together to create their iconic texture and flavor.
The basic ingredients are:
- Butter or shortening – Usually unsalted butter provides the base rich, crumbly texture
- Powdered sugar – Often doubled, with some in the dough and extra for coating
- Flour – All-purpose flour allows the cookies to hold their shape
- Vanilla – Vanilla extract or vanilla bean provide classic flavor
- Nuts – Traditionally chopped pecans add nuttiness, but walnuts or almonds work too
These cookies are especially unique because they contain no leavening like baking powder or baking soda. The lack of leavening gives them their distinctive dense, crispy texture reminiscent of shortbread.
The basic recipe steps are:
- Cream the butter and powdered sugar
- Add egg, vanilla, and nuts
- Gradually mix in flour
- Roll dough into balls and bake
- Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar to coat
The powdered sugar coating is their signature finish and helps provide that soft, crumbling texture contrasted with a delicate crunch.
Unique Traits of Mexican Wedding Cookies
Beyond just the basic ingredients and preparation, Mexican wedding cookies have some unique traits that distinguish them from other holiday cookies.
Their texture is one of a kind – crispy, crunchy and crumbly with a melt-in-your-mouth feel. This comes from:
- The high fat, low flour ratio. More butter than flour gives them a shortbread-like crumble.
- Rolling them in powdered sugar while still warm. This helps the coating stick and provides contrast.
- No leavening agents to make them fluffy or chewy.
Their flavor profile is another distinguishing factor. Common notes include:
- Buttery and rich, from abundant amounts of butter
- Vanilla undertones, whether from extract or seeds
- Nutty hints, often from pecans but also walnuts or almonds
- Sweetness, from both the cookie dough itself and the powdered sugar coating
These flavors come together to create a warm, nostalgic cookie that reminds many people of the holidays.
Lastly, their iconic look sets them apart. Characteristics include:
- Small, round shape often about 1 inch wide
- Craggy, cracked tops from baking
- Powdery white coating covering them completely
- Light brown bottoms
Together this creates a snow-white little cookie that’s perfect for celebrating winter holidays and weddings.
While the traditional recipe remains beloved, bakers around the world have put unique spins on Mexican wedding cookies over time. Here are some regional and cultural variations:
In Europe, especially Scandinavia and Germany, sandbakelse cookies are a close cousin. They have very similar ingredients but sometimes use nuts like almonds or hazelnuts and include citrus zest.
In the Philippines, these cookies are called polvoron and often include milk powder for extra richness. They come in unique flavors like ube (purple yam) and mango.
Jewish bakers make Mexican wedding cookies for Hanukkah, calling them Snowballs or Mexican lemon balls with the addition of lemon zest.
In the southern USA, they’re known as Russian tea cakes and incorporate Southern pecans. They often skip the powdered sugar coating for a crunchy, nutty texture.
So while the basic cookie remains the same, regional bakers have adapted them with local spins over time!
Why Are They So Popular?
Mexican wedding cookies have become so beloved for several reasons:
- Their texture – Crumbly, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth
- Their flavor – Rich, buttery, vanilla, nutty
- Their cute look – Small, round, powdery white
- Their versatility – They complement so many holidays and occasions
- Their nostalgic ties – Remind people of Christmas traditions
These cookies check all the boxes – appearance, taste, and sentiment. They continue gaining popularity across cultures because of their versatility and crowd-pleasing qualities.
How To Make The Best Mexican Wedding Cookies
Want to make the perfect batch of authentic Mexican wedding cookies? Follow these helpful tips:
Use room temperature butter
Using butter at room temp helps incorporate air for the iconic texture.
Don’t overmix the dough
Gently combine just until a dough forms to avoid toughness.
Chill the dough thoroughly
Chilling allows the butter to re-solidify so the cookies hold their shape.
Roll dough into even balls
Consistent sizing means even baking for the perfect texture.
Bake at precise oven temp
Baking around 300 to 325 F gives the signature crunch without burning.
Coat in powdered sugar twice
Double powdering ensures the cookies are completely white.
Enjoy them fresh
These cookies are best within 2-3 days for ultimate taste and texture.
Following these tips will help you achieve cookies that look, taste, and feel just like the originals!
Classic Mexican Wedding Cookie Recipe
Try making authentic Mexican wedding cookies at home with this classic recipe:
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar, divided
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Line baking sheets with parchment.
- In a bowl, cream butter and 1 cup powdered sugar until fluffy. Beat in vanilla.
- Gradually stir in flour just until combined. Fold in pecans.
- Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place 1 inch apart on baking sheets.
- Bake 10-12 minutes until bottoms are lightly browned.
- Allow to cool on pan 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
- While still warm, roll cookies in remaining 1 cup powdered sugar until coated.
- Let cool completely and roll in powdered sugar once more if desired.
These classic Mexican wedding cookies are crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth treats perfect for celebrating any occasion!
Incredible Mexican Wedding Cookie Variations
While the original recipe remains a cherished staple, putting unique spins on these cookies can be fun and delicious. Here are some amazing variations to try:
Chocolate Mexican Wedding Cookies
For chocolate lovers, add cocoa powder to the dough and use drizzled chocolate over the powdered sugar coating.
Lemon Mexican Wedding Cookies
Bring citrus brightness by adding lemon zest to the dough and rolling in lemon sugar instead of plain powdered sugar.
Spiced Mexican Wedding Cookies
Warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger lend cozy flavor to these cookies.
Tropical Mexican Wedding Cookies
Make a tropical twist by using coconut or macadamia nuts and rolling in shredded coconut after powdered sugar coating.
Mint Chocolate Chip Mexican Wedding Cookies
Stir chopped Andes candies into the batter for mint chocolate explosion in each bite.
The options are endless when it comes to putting unique spins on these classic cookies loved by so many!
Storing and Freezing Mexican Wedding Cookies
Baked Mexican wedding cookies will stay fresh at room temperature in an airtight container for 2-3 days. For longer storage, freezing is recommended. Here are some tips:
- Allow cookies to cool completely before freezing for best results.
- Store cookies in an airtight freezer container or bag up to 3 months.
- If freezing coated in powdered sugar, place parchment between layers so they don’t stick.
- Thaw cookies at room temperature 1-2 hours before serving.
- Consider freezing cookie dough balls and coating in powdered sugar after thawing and baking.
With proper freezing techniques, you can enjoy these cookies for months after baking without sacrificing texture or flavor!
Fun Ideas for Serving Mexican Wedding Cookies
Beyond just nibbling them straight from the container, there are lots of fun ways to incorporate Mexican wedding cookies into spreads, desserts, and gifts:
Holiday Cookie Trays
Arrange these snowy cookies on a decorative Christmas cookie tray alongside other favorites like gingerbread and sugar cookies.
Edible Wedding Favors
Tie them up in cellophane bags with pretty ribbons to give guests a sweet wedding favor.
Delicious Ice Cream Topping
Crush them up and sprinkle over vanilla ice cream for an easy sundae upgrade.
Petite Dessert Plating
Place one or two cookies alongside a small espresso cup for an elegant plated dessert.
Holiday Gift Tins
Pack an assortment of the cookies in a festive holiday tin to give as edible gifts.
With so many possibilities, you’ll want to make multiple batches to enjoy Mexican wedding cookies in new ways all season long!
Common Questions About Mexican Wedding Cookies
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about these delightful cookies:
Why are they crunchy?
The high fat, low flour ratio and lack of leavening agents give them their signature crunch.
Are they gluten free?
No, since they contain wheat flour, they are not gluten free unless you swap the flour.
Can I use butter or shortening?
Yes, both work well! Butter provides more flavor while shortening makes them more crumbly.
How long do they keep?
Properly stored at room temp, they stay fresh 2-3 days. They can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Why are they so crumbly?
Minimal flour and no leavening agents result in the shortbread-like tender, crumbly texture.
How do I get the powdered sugar coating perfect?
Coat the warm cookies twice for an even, bright white coating that sticks.
So there you have it – everything you could want to know about the origins, recipes, and proper enjoyment of Mexican wedding cookies! With this guide, you’re ready to impress guests with these melt-in-your-mouth snowy treats.