If our family had an official cookie, it would be the mexican wedding cake. I think we’ve made at least one batch of these every December since I was born (so, 35 years and going strong), and it’s the one cookie every single person loves. Not an “eh, it’s just okay” in the bunch. We gobble them up like bar nuts and it’s embarrassing how fast we manage to run out of them. Thankfully, they’re so simple to make that we never have to be without them.
They hold a special place in my heart because a few years ago, they were the take-home favor for the guests who attended my wedding. I was married in early december, and I wanted something special as a favor for friends and family. Something different from what I had seen in magazines and at other weddings I had been to; something that felt like me.
My mom and my sister flew in the week before my wedding and, among many other things, sat in my kitchen with me and cranked out what amounted to almost 1,000 of these little cookies. I kid you not. Did we have other things to do? Yes. Did we get them done? Yes. Do I remember all the little things we got finished up that week? Nope. I don’t remember a single thing except blitzing batches of dough in the food processor, rolling out little balls and squeezing as many as we could onto parchment sheets, baking them in shifts and trying to keep track of which ones were cool enough for their first powdered sugar coating. We shouted, we laughed, we broke a few trying to store them in the freezer until we needed to box them in their little cone-shaped boxes. It was one of the best times I have spent with either one of them, ever.
And this is why mexican wedding cakes are special to me. They’re a sweet cookie; not in a sugary sweet way…in a special, lots-of-memories-packed-into-a-snowy-ball way. I don’t know when the next time will be that they’ll make an appearance at a big event for us, but I do know they show up as soon as everyone gathers together for Christmastime. And they’ll continue to be there, as long as I’m in charge of baking.
Family recipe. From me to you.
Happy holidays to everyone this season. Have a great time.
Mexican Wedding Cakes
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup confectioners (icing) sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup pecans, finely chopped (measure after chopping, please)
- confectioners (icing) sugar for rolling (i don’t know if you’ll need exactly 2 cups, but have a good amount on hand. you’re not sprinkling here.)
Preheat oven to 325˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt.
In a food processor (or a stand mixer, although everyone in my family agrees they turn out better, somehow more pecan-y, in the processor), blend together the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and beat until incorporated.
Add flour mixture in 2 parts, alternating with the pecans, and pulsing in intervals until blended and a soft dough forms.
You can make these in whatever size you choose. We make ours on the small side, maybe 3/4 inch in diameter. But that’s us. You make like yours larger, so you could go as big as 1 1/2 inches in diameter. You choose. Try to make them all about the same size for even baking.
Using your hands, roll the balls out and place them about 1 inch apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the balls are just done, and before they start to brown on top. If you’re not sure, check the bottoms of them; they should be just slightly golden.
Let cool slightly and then roll them in their first coat of confectioners sugar. Once they are completely cooled, roll in the second coat of the sugar.
Now: if you’re making ten thousand batches of these for YOUR wedding, or you just want to freeze a batch or two, i suggest baking off the cookies and rolling them in their first coat of powdered sugar. Freeze carefully, making sure they don’t get crushed. Once you’re ready to serve them, take them out and let them thaw. Roll in the final coat of powdered sugar at that point. It’ll be like you just made them.