Making Sugar Skulls to Celebrate Dia de los Muertos

Dressing up for the Day of the Dead to honor loved ones.

The predominantly Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), occurs every year on the first day of November. Although it may seem like a morbid holiday to those who are not familiar with it, the sentiment of the holiday is actually a happy one, honoring friends and family members who have passed away.

Many Mexican families build alteres (alters), which are filled with pictures of their deceased loved ones. The family also puts out some of the deceased’s favorite foods, inviting them to come and share the holiday with the those that are still living. Other items include pan muerto (bread of the dead), dulces (candies) and Calaveras de azúcar (sugar skulls); all sweet items to remember the dead in a happy way.

Pan de muerto, or Mexican bread of the dead, eaten during the Dia de Muertos.Making sugar skulls is a fun, creative way to celebrate Dia de los Muertos. Once you have purchased a mold for your sugar skull, which can easily be ordered on line, just follow the below directions. Don’t forget the meringue powder! It may not seem important but your sugar skull will fall apart without it. Meringue powder can be found at hobby or craft shops.

See all our tours in Mexico.

Sugar SkullsSugar skulls during a Mexican culinary tour of the Day of the Dead.

Serves: 10 (depending on size of mold)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Cook method: Mix


  • 1 cup sugar (or more)
  • 1 tsp meringue powder
  • water as needed
  • frosting, food dye, or other decorations

Special equipment: sugar skull mold


1. In a large bowl, for every cup of granulated sugar, mix in 1 teaspoon Meringue Powder.
2. Sprinkle sugar mixture with 1 tsp of water per cup of sugar used.
3. Pack the sugar mixture into mold, and make sure it is firmly in there. Pay particular attention to filling in the chins & edges. To make the back of the mold flat, you can use any straight edge to flatten the mixture. After flattening, pack it down even more to ensure it’s a snug fit.
4. Against the back of the skull mold, put a cardboard square (around 5 inches by 6 inches typically works). Immediately flip the skull over and very carefully lift off the mold. If the mold doesn’t hold and you’ve made a mistake, throw the mixture back into the bowl, stir, and try the process again. If it becomes to dry, you can always add a bit of water.
5. Decorate your sugar skull with frosting, beads, rhinestones or any other colorful object of your choice!

To learn more about holiday traditions, including ones related to Dia de los Muertos, join one of our cooking vacations in Mexico such as Culinary Yucatan or Hola Mexico. Both provide opportunities to learn about traditions and create authentic Mexican food!

By Kerry Herbst

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Originally published November 1, 2013.

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