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Recipe: Sugar Skulls

Wrong time of year for this, I know…  I never got a chance to share with you our adventures in sugar skull making because I was taking a break from blogging then.

Mexican Sugar Skulls

In Southern Mexico sugar skulls are a traditional folk art used to celebrate the Day of the Dead. Brightly colored sugar skulls are sold by Indian vendors in the village markets the week before the holiday. People believe that spirits of their dead family members are welcomed back with beautiful altars decorated with candles, sugar skulls, flowers such as marigolds, incense and food.  The families then take the altar decorations to the cemetery to adorn the graves on November 2.

Sugar skulls are molded of sugar and dried.  Once they harden they can be decorated with brightly colored icing and sparkly things such as pieces of bright foil.  They are easy and fun to make, and can last a long time if kept dry.  The kids still have the first ones they made- over three years ago.  It has become a tradition, started by my friend Heather.  Every year she comes over and makes sugar skulls with us.

Making Sugar Skulls

Measuring out the sugar and meringue powder.


We follow the recipe and instructions found on mexicansugarskull.com.

Basically, for a 5 pound bag of sugar, use 1/4 cup meringue powder* and 10 teaspoons of water. Yields 5 large skulls or 20 medium skulls or 100 mini skulls or any combination.

Mix together well in large bowl:
1 teaspoon Meringue Powder for every cup of granulated sugar used.

Step 1: Mix dry ingredients well.

Step 2: Sprinkle sugar mixture with 1 teaspoon water per cup of sugar used.

*Do not use meringue powder from hobby shops or cake supply shops as it’s usually diluted and cut way too much for use with heavy granulated sugar. It’s ok for icing, just it will not hold together sugar skulls! The only reliable meringue powder is the one here or that of Sur La Table gourmet kitchen shop/ catalog.  Meringue Powder is a MUST and cannot be omitted. Meringue powder is what makes the sugar and the icing hard.

Mixing in the meringue powder.

Making sure the powder is thoroughly mixed in.

Sprinkling in the water.

They love this part.  You have to use your hands to work the water in.

You know it is ready when it can hold a form.

Pack the sugar tightly into a mold, and level it off.

Dry for a few days in a safe child and pet proof place.

Mix up the icing.

Royal Icing:

Mix 2/3 cup water, 1/2 cup meringue powder and 2 pounds powdered sugar with an electric/stand mixer until icing peaks (about 9 minutes!) Don’t mix up more than 2 pounds at a time. Keep in a tightly covered container. DO NOT REFRIGERATE.

Use ONLY concentrated paste food colorings (NOT liquid food coloring from the grocery store!)

Mix icing & paste colors in ziploc bags. You can then use pastry bags and metal decorating tips to pipe on the icing.  Heather and I are henna artists, so we roll cones out of cellophane and use those as our pastry bags.

Calculate each 5 pounds of sugar skulls will need 2 pounds of powdered sugar Royal Icing. Most skull makers prefer 5-6 paste colors to decorate with and at least one pack of colored tin foil.

These measurements and recipes are straight from mexicansugarskull.com and I know from experience that their recipes and products are great!

After all the work is done, the decorating fun begins!

Even Cooper made one!

Sugar skulls are fun!

5 Responses to Recipe: Sugar Skulls

  1. DD made one at school this year, but i have long wanted to make them here at home with the kids.
    as a side note, we can get the wilton’s meringue powder, the one in the second link, at our local grocery stores, so yay!

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