How To Make Sugar Skulls Project
By Bob Sherman
Decorated sugar skulls are a traditional part of celebrating Dias de Los Muertos (Day of the dead). Although the origins of this ritual date back over 3,000 years it is still observed on Mexico and parts of the United States. Although the Aztecs originally observed it in early August, due to the influence of the Catholic church it is now observed on November 2nd. (All Souls Day).
Although practices vary from one area to the next, the most common observance is placing sugar skulls on a shrine in the home. In rural areas skulls are sometimes placed on the loved ones grave along with other decorations and flowers.
The original method of making sugar skulls is to pour melted sugar into terra cotta skull molds. These molds typically are handed down from one generation to the next as part of the family business and some of the sugar skull makers of today are still using molds made over 100 years ago.
Since most people don't have antique terra cotta molds or the skill to make them, skulls made using inexpensive plastic molds and granulated sugar have become popular. They are simple to make and require no heat so they are quite suitable as a classroom project.
Note that this is my own version of the sugar skull and is not meant to be an exact guide. I suggest using these techniques to create your own design whether traditional or one that is unique and personal to you.
Many of the items you may need can be ordered directly from this page for your convenience.
The skull recipe is simple and requires only 3 items. The quantity shown below will make 1 complete skull with some left over. For multiple skulls simply multiply the ingredients by the number of skulls you want to make.
- Granulated Sugar - 1 cup
- Meringue Powder - 1 heaping teaspoon
- Water - 1 teaspoon
- Optional - may be colored with powder or gel food color, although plain white is the traditional color
It is difficult if not impossible to make these during periods of high humidity. Attempt these only during periods of dryness.
Although these are made of sugar, most people do not eat them. If you are looking for an edible skull consider making them in white chocolate and using only icing to decorate them.
Supplies And Materials
The following supplies and other materials were used to make this project. Clicking on the item name will bring you to that item's page with a full description and ordering information.
- Skull Chocolate Mold - One needed.
- Royal Icing - One package will do many skulls.
- Food Coloring - To color Icing. I prefer powdered food color but gel may also be used. Do not use liquid food color.
- Decorating Bags And Tubes - Any you prefer.
- Colored Foil - Optional - Many sugar skulls are decorated with a rectangle of foil on the forehead area. The loved one's name is written on it.
- Meringue Powder - One teaspoon per cup of sugar
- Sugar - 1 cup per skull.
- Cardboard - Corrugated cardboard cut from cartons.
- Decorations - Optional - Although the most common decorations are icing and foil, some folks like to add beads, sequins, ribbons, feathers, and other objects.
Step By Step Instructions
Cut the skull mold apart on the lines.
Cut cardboard approximately 4 inches square. Two are needed for each skull.
A large bowl is needed to mix the sugar.
Put the sugar in the bowl then add the Meringue powder.
Add the water then immediately begin kneading with your hands.
Knead until the sugar sticks together well. If this takes more than 3 minutes add a drop more water and continue kneading. Note: be careful of adding too much water.
Pack the sugar tightly into the mold.
Use a spatula or ruler to scrape the excess sugar off the mold. This will provide a flat surface.
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Disclaimer: The information presented here is accurate to the best of my knowledge and common chocolate making practices as of the time of this writing - originally published in August 2006 and updated in November 2010. The author and the publisher accept no liability for the use or misuse of any of the information presented in this article. This article is presented for informational purposes and is used at your own risk.
Author: Bob Sherman
Publisher: Bobby's Craft Boutique Inc.
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