Gluten-Free Mexican Wedding Cakes with Dried Cranberries

My son had multicultural week at his school and I volunteered to help out. I thought about what I had to offer: I’m Mexican, I bake, I’m a writer. OK, I decided to bake Mexican Wedding Cakes and write about their history.

I scoured the internet and found…nothing!! There’s no history to Mexican Wedding Cakes. There’s no cute story about a Mexican wedding or some dramatic link to history. I knew the cookies were basically the same as Russian Tea Cakes and a slew of other nut and butter cookies, but I thought they had to have some story behind them. Not the case. They just started appearing in cookbooks in the 1950s for no dramatic reason whatsoever.

That story would not enthrall the children, so I decided to do a straight cooking demonstration and talk to the kids about why the cookies are a big part of my family’s holiday tradition.
Every Christmas my mom would make these delicate little cookies with butter, powdered sugar, flour, pecans, and vanilla. We would roll them into little balls and drop them onto the cookie sheet. You’re supposed to wait until the cookies are cool before you roll them in powdered sugar, but we rarely did. I only liked them if they were warm and the powdered sugar was moist like frosting.

After we made the cookies, the entire extended family would come over and we’d have a late dinner. The kids would unwillingly go to midnight mass and when we came home we’d open our presents. (While at mass, All I could think about was that someone was breaking into our house and stealing the presents, like in that episode of “Eight is Enough.”) It was the best night of the year, I told the kids, because we were allowed to stay up all night, eat cookies, and play with toys.

The cookies I made for my son’s school were very different than the ones I grew up with. I made them gluten-free, vegan, and without nuts. I used dried cranberries and Earth Balance vegan butter. They came out delicate and buttery and the kids seemed to like them.

After the demo I read my new favorite Christmas book, N is for Navidad, by Susan Midlleton Elya and Merry Banks. It’s illustrated by Joe Cepeda, who also did Mice and Beans, another favorite around here.

Here’s the recipe. Happy Holidays!