Chai-Spiced Tea Cakes

Russian Tea Cakes are buttery melt-in-your-mouth cookies that go by many names including Mexican Wedding Cakes, Swedish Tea Cakes, polvorones and who knows how many dozens of other names! While the Russian-style typically calls for hazelnuts and the Mexican ones pecans, I imagine that you could use anything from walnuts or almonds to Brazil or macadamia nuts. Mixed into a fairly un-sweet butter cookie base, these diminutive cakes are baked in little balls and then covered, still warm, in a cloud of powdered sugar.

Here, I combined hazelnut meal and roasted, chopped hazel nuts with Oolang tea and the spices commonly used in Chai to create deliciously fragrant tea cakes. Although I used Oolang (I ground tea leaves into a powder with a mortar and pestle), you can avoid the hassle and use Matcha green tea powder, which contains nearly 10 times the polyphenols and antioxidants of regular teas so not only are these babies dreamy, they are healthy (sort of).


1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup cane sugar
1 cup emmer flour
1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup hazelnut meal
1 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons Oolang tea or Matcha tea powder
1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


Preheat oven to 300°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

To prepare the powdered sugar, grind cane sugar in a blender for 3-4 minutes until there are no sugar crystals remaining. Set aside in an airtight container until ready to use.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light, about 2 minutes. Scrape the butter from the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the emmer flour, unbleached flour, hazelnut meal, tea and spices, and mix on low until the flour is incorporated. Add the hazelnuts and mix until well blended.

Scoop the dough into walnut-sized balls (a 1-inch ice cream scoop works well) and arrange one inch apart on the prepared sheets. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through, or until cookies are firm and just beginning to brown. These cookies are extremely fragile when hot; allow them to cool completely on the sheets before moving them. Using a sifter or small strainer, dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar. I don’t use a lot of sugar as I am not fond of overly sweet, but feel free to dust your cookies with as much as you like.

Makes 2 dozen tea cakes.


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