Recipe of the week: Melba’s Butternut Balls — a recipe from the 1970s

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This Week’s Recipe: Melba’s Butternut Balls

TeaCakesThese delectable, melt-in-your mouth cookies are also known in different varieties as Snowballs, Mexican Wedding cookies, Russian Tea Cakes, Christmas Butter Cookies, Rum Balls (without the rum), Almond Butter Balls (if you use almonds), Pecan Butter Balls (if you use pecans), Peppermint balls (if you use crushed up candy canes) and more.


Whatever the name, they are easy to make, delicious and a joy to package up as gifts because they’re so pretty. They’re the perfect cookie to serve with coffee, hot cocoa or a steaming pot of tea.

nut gems 013 edited

I learned how to make these cookies from a recipe in my childhood church’s Christmas recipe book entitled, Christmas Family Favorites. I’m not sure how I ended up still having it, but I think the copy I have was my grandmother’s because I don’t think my Mom would have given me hers. However I acquired it, I’m thrilled to still have it more than 40 years later! (I’m pretty sure it was published sometime in the 70s.) As you can see, it is well-worn and stained. Probably from when I used it as a kid!


It was a primitive assemblage, held together with two small plastic rings. But it’s chock-full of my favorite childhood recipes. I very well may have learned to bake out of this little booklet.


Each recipe is neatly typed and signed by the person who submitted it. I enjoy flipping through the names and remembering the lovely women of the church who mentored me when I was young. In future posts I’ll share several more of my top favorite recipes from the book. As a young baker, I made them over and over again.


And now, the recipe for:

“Melba’s Butternut Balls”


1 cup soft butter

1/2 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar

2 cups sifted flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup finely chopped nuts


Cream butter and sugar in medium mixing bowl, add salt, vanilla, flour and nuts, mixing well. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes. Roll in 1/4 cup confectioners sugar while warm. Cool, then roll again.

Variations: add different types of nuts for different flavors. You may also add crushed candy canes for a delicious, Christmassy, peppermint flavor.

I usually double the recipe because the cookies are small and I like to give full bags or tins of them as gifts.

You can find a paleo/low-carb version of this recipe from my favorite no-wheat flour source here: Mexican Wedding Cookies

Have you ever made these before? What’s your variation? Have you ever eaten them? What does your family call them?


Tweet this: What’s your favorite Christmas cookie?


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