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Feb 10, 2013 02:09 PM

Mexican Wedding Cakes


I make mexican wedding cookies a lot. I also have a good recipe but I was wondering if any of you have used some corn starch with the flour.
I saw some recipes that ask for corn starch and I don't know if it makes a huge difference in the texture,

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  1. Firstly, they are Mexican Wedding CAKES. Next, it's wonderful that you make them without cornstarch, although if you are making them with powdered sugar in the dough, you are making them WITH cornstarch (it's in the powdered sugar).

    I prefer to make them with granulated sugar in the dough (obviously powdered sugar is necessary for dusting them after baking!).

    Cornstarch in baked goods and frostings provides a chalky taste/texture that some people (me!) find less than desirable.

    12 Replies
    1. re: sandylc

      Thanks a lot. Actually my recipe does ask for powdered sugar both for the dough and dusting.
      I did not know there was cornstarch in the powdered sugar.

      1. re: sandylc

        Secondly, they really aren't Mexican, nor cakes. The name starts to appear in American cookbooks in the 1950s, possibly as an alternative to Russian Tea Cakes.
        Other names: "Butterballs, Russian Tea Cakes, Swedish Tea Cakes, Moldy Mice"

        Cornstarch is often used to lower the gluten ratio in the flour; another approach is to use cake flour (which already has a lot gluten level). This can make the cookies more tender and crumbly. When corn starch is used like this, the substitution is on the order of a tablespoon per cup of flour.

        A Spanish name for this type of cookie is polvorones, 'polvo' is powder (the powdered sugar outside, or the sandy texture?). Other names are bizcochitos (little cakes) or Mantecaditos (buttery things).

        The cornstarch in powdered sugar is there to absorb moisture, and keep the sugar from caking.
        According to Dominos, 30g of powdered sugar has 29g of sugar, so the proportion of cornstarch is a few %.

        1. re: paulj

          OK, paulj, we all know they aren't Mexican or cakes. Nonetheless, they are still CALLED Mexican Wedding Cakes.

          Yes, we also know about the tenderizing effects of cornstarch in baked goods and the anti-clumping effects of it in powdered sugar.

          Yes, they are known by many names. Haven't heard the Moldy Mice one..that's a cute one, I like it.

          Now behave.

          1. re: sandylc

            They're also called Mexican Wedding Cookies.

            1. re: emily

              You Say Mexican Wedding Cookies, I Say Polvorones

              That's the phrase Pati uses, and she's an expert on Mexican cooking. OK, she's not an expert on 1950s American cooking, which is what matters when debating the cake/cookie issue. :)

              Anyways she has a nicely detailed recipe on making the Mexican Polvorones. As she describes them, they are more of a daily treat, something you can readily buy in panaderias, rather than a wedding specialty.

              If the nuts are finely ground, they will function as a 'gluten diluter', reducing the need for cornstarch.

              1. re: paulj

                Create TV is showing Pati's polvorones episode today.

                1. re: paulj

                  I just came here to post that! I was channel surfing and the moment I landed on the channel, she starts talking about them.

              2. re: emily

                I've also heard the called pecan dainties and snowballs. We can debate how dainty they really are but they're at least pecans, for the most part. Snowballs are just a complete misnomer.;-)

                1. re: chowser

                  I was trying to remember Martha Stewart's name for them; I think it's Noel Nutballs, or something like that.

              3. re: sandylc

                I call them Russian Tea Cakes. So there. ;-)

                1. re: Violatp

                  This means war. ;-)

                  We all call them what we grew up calling them and it is always a fun and friendly debate...

                  However, in my experience the term "Mexican Wedding COOKIES" is a recent variation brought on by nervous people anxious to correct what they see as a wrong term. These same folks have brought us Boston Cream CAKE and have changed the pronunciation of words like "company".

                  1. re: sandylc

                    Why, I oughta!

                    I was unaware of an alternate pronunciation for company. Hmm.

          2. I make these cookies every year at Christmas as they are my husband's favorite. I use my mother's recipe, which is from the 40's I think. Just butter, flour, powdered sugar and lots of vanilla in the batter. I prefer walnuts to pecans, though I use either. The secret is to toast the nuts well and cool before chopping medium fine.

            I did try a fancy CI recipe one year, and while they were fine, I went back to my traditional recipe the next year.

            I think that replacing a tablespoon of flour with cornstarch might make them more tender, but they seem plenty tender to me without that change so I probably wouldn't bother.

            4 Replies
            1. re: dkenworthy

              If you are using powdered sugar in the dough, you are already using cornstarch.

              1. re: sandylc

                Well, if paulj is correct that out of 30 g of sugar, 1 gram is cornstarch (about 3%), then my powdered sugar recipe (3/4 cup powdered sugar, 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup butter) has about 1 teaspoon of cornstarch from the powdered sugar. Which seems trivial. But, maybe it is the secret to the recipe, who knows?

                1. re: dkenworthy

                  I think the nuts have a lot more to do with the texture than the small amount of cornstarch in the sugar.

                  I just looked up cake flour substitutes - 2T of cornstarch replacing the same amount of AP flour.

                  1. re: paulj

                    That's per cup of flour so I don't think adding 1 tsp of cornstarch to 2 1/2 c of flour would make a significant difference but the powered sugar over granulated would yield a much finer product.

            2. Can you give links to some online recipes that use cornstarch?

              4 Replies
              1. re: paulj

                I think that this is where I saw the recipe with Cornstarch.
                Here is another name for them. Melting moments.

                1. re: Radha2009

                  Similar but no nuts. The melting moments are well named--they fall apart in your mouth when you bite into them, very light vs all flour ones that are harder. Here is one w/ nuts:


                  1. re: Radha2009

                    Notice that the amount of cornstarch is about the same as the quantity of nuts in other recipes - around 1/2c to 2c of flour.


                    1. re: paulj

                      This is the recipe I usually make.
                      I like using the ground blanched almonds instead of chopped nuts.

                2. It makes a lighter cookie.