How to Make Sugar Skulls for Day of the Dead




Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated on November 1 and 2 in Mexico and many parts of the United Statesl. Sugar skulls are part of the traditional altar, or ofrenda, and are very simple to make. You need only sugar (both granulated and powdered), meringue powder, skull-shaped molds and some icing coloring. You'll also need a couple of days to make them, as there is drying time involved.

I want to credit this website, which not only sells all variety of skull molds, but also has detailed instructions on making and decorating sugar skulls. All recipes are theirs.

Step 1: Ingredients for the Skulls

This will make 10 large skulls:

10 lbs. granulated sugar
1/2 c. meringue powder
7 Tbs. water

Add the meringue powder to the sugar and blend thoroughly. Sprinkle the water over the top of this, and blend until it has the texture of soft beach sand.

Step 2: Molding

Pack the molds firmly so there are no air spaces which could cause the skull to collapse. A butter knife helps tamp the sugar mixture into corners.

When the mold is full, use the same knife to level the surface, place a square of cardboard over the top, flip and gently remove the mold.

Step 3: Drying and Assembling

These particular large molds had two parts: a face and an occiput. Let all the parts dry overnight, then carefully nestle them in your palm and scoop out the center on each side to facilitate drying. Place the pieces hollowed side up and let dry overnight again.

Step 4: Royal Icing

Royal icing is both your mortar for putting the skull halves together and the decoration. It is made thus:

2/3 c. water
1/2 c. meringue powder
2 c. powdered sugar
food or icing colors

Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until icing turns glossy and retains stiff peaks. It must be used as soon as possible, as it hardens in air.

Use a cake decorating bag or a baggie with the corner cut out to squirt the icing out in controllable lines. The skulls need to be assembled first. Icing can be spread or squirted onto one of the halves, then press the two parts gently together. If there is a noticeable gap, add more icing and smooth it out with your finger.

Step 5: Decorating

At this point, all you have left is the decorating. More royal icing can be colored and put in icing bags (or baggies). Icing gels give deeper color than regular food coloring and will likely be found in the same place you find your meringue powder. (see photo below)

The skulls can be decorated with a single color, or with as many vibrant tones as you desire. These skulls are meant to be more festive than frightening and thus, this is a project kids of all ages seem to enjoy. There are no rules in how you embellish, except for one:

Traditionally, the name of the deceased loved one you are remembering would be written across the forehead. You can also write it on a piece of colored foil and attach that with the icing.

Place your finished sugar skull in an ofrenda or anywhere else it will be visible and help you to remember your loved one.



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    40 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Try out my recipie. It has no meringue powder, so it is completely safe to eat. It is also easier than having to go to the store and buy some meringue powder

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    meringue powder is just dried egg whits and is safe to et unless you have an egg allergy.


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Do these taste good, or are they mostly just for decoration?


    7 years ago on Step 5

    Royal Icing made with egg whites (as per Modern Cake Decorating circa 1966)

    3 egg whites (room temperature)
    1 lb. confectioners sugar
    1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

    Place ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat for 7 to 10 minutes.
    It is used in the same was as the Royal icing with meringue powder, but it will not give as much volume and will not beat up as well for use at a later date.

    Hope that helps! Of all my cake decorating books, this one is definitely my favorite.

    2 replies

    And for the sugar mold itself:

    2.5 lbs. granulated sugar
    1 egg white

    Mix until the egg white is evenly distributed.

    Dia de los Muertos is eeeeverywhere dude .. like . You wanna correct them? :)

    I'm also confused as to why you say REAL Mexican sugar skulls are not like that, but that you don't know how to make them .. I don't see how the basis for the skulls in this 'ible is any different to the tutorials written by the pro's either (like the website the poster already credited) *shrugs*.

    hey men, im mexican and I know how sugar skull are, although i dont know how to make them. Also, I know better than u the name of my tradition.

    Any other quenstion?

    I'm not questioning your knowledge of the subject, but I would like to point out that It's not just your tradition, it is many people's tradition, and many of those people call it Día de los Muertos.

    You can tell all those people that they're wrong if you like, or you can just enjoy it with them.


    7 years ago on Step 5

    Is there an alternative to using meringue powder for the skulls and the flosting?

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I don't know of one. Technically, meringue powder is itself used as a substitute for egg white, but I can't see how you'd blend the beaten egg white into the sugar and still get the right consistency.

    If anyone else knows of how to do this, I'd love to hear, as well.


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 2

    I got it from our local food co-op, but they can also be ordered online here (more sizes, too!).


    8 years ago on Step 4

    pretty nice man
    congratulations (: