One of the most popular traditions of Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is the Mexican sugar skull, one that dates back to the 17th century. These brightly-colored candy sculptures are loved by children and adults alike, and they capture the spirit of the holiday beautifully.
In the memorial spirit of Dia de Los Muertos, sugar skulls traditionally would have the name of an individual who had passed inscribed on the forehead. The skulls are ornately-decorated with bright colors, whimsical designs, and sometimes even feathers and foil. Rather than exuding the dark and morbid image many still associate with death, the sugar skulls add to the celebration of life that surrounds Dia de Los Muertos.
Below, we show you how to make your own and join in the celebration!
Sugar Skull How-To:
Prep time: 10 minutes
Yield: 15 small skulls or 10 medium skulls
What you will need:
- 2 ½ cups sugar
- 2 egg whites (small), or 1 egg white (x-large)
- 1 tsp light corn syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Cornstarch (to powder surface)
- Large mixing bowl
- Small mixing bowl
- Skull molds
- Colored sprinkles
- Food coloring
- Fine paint brush
- Colored icing (one that will dry hard)
- Icing decorator bags
- Sift sugar into the large mixing bowl.
- Mix the egg whites, corn syrup, and vanilla in the small mixing bowl.
- Pour the liquid mix into the powdered sugar slowly. Mix with your hands until it forms into a dough with a sandy texture.
- Form the dough into a bowl.
- Lightly dust your hands and an empty surface with the cornstarch. Pinch off a heaping tablespoon of dough for each skull.
- Shape the dough into a skull by hand, or press it into a mold according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Press the colored sprinkles into the candy, if you are using them.
- Let the candy dry overnight.*
- Decorating the skulls:
- Once the candy has dried, use the paint brush with food coloring to add a design to the skulls, or
- Add detail with the icing in a fine-tipped decorating bag.
*The skulls might not dry completely on a humid or rainy day. If the dough has trouble drying, you can place it in an oven at 125 degrees to dry.
Or, if you don’t have the time to make your own dough, you can buy a blank sugar skull to decorate yourself!Sources:
How to Make Candy Skulls
How to Make Sugar Skulls Step-by-Step for Dia de Los Muertos
Sugar Skull History