These Dia de los Muertos sugar skulls (aka Calaveras de Azúcar) are a fun and festive decoration that’s perfect for your Day of the Dead celebration. It’s a fun craft the entire family can partake in to honor and remember the dearly departed on this special holiday.

a silver platter filled with red marigolds and undecorated sugar skulls for dia de los muertos

Why We Celebrate Dia de los Muertos

I love to celebrate Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) because it’s a time I truly feel that my ancestors are closer to me, both physically and spiritually. As I tell my children, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our grandparents and our parents. It is because of them that we have life and family, and it’s up to us to keep their spirits alive.

Each year, I look forward to teaching my children new ways to honor and celebrate our departed. I’m sure it might sound odd, to “celebrate our departed”, but to me, it’s healing. This holiday is a time to reflect and remember all the happy memories you had with your loved ones who have passed away and to share those stories.

And the best part is that you don’t have to visit their gravestone or a cemetery to do this. You can celebrate their lives and honor them in your own home with an at-home altar and a traditional Dia de los Muertos craft like homemade sugar skulls (calaveras de azúcar). Besides being cute and colorful, sugar skulls are a beloved icon because they represent the soul of a departed loved one.

It’s also important to mention that sugar skulls are purely a folk art decoration and not food. Again, I do not recommend eating sugar skulls, no matter how tempting they may looks. While the ingredients for the skulls themselves are food-based, they are not edible once they’ve been decorated with sequins, feathers, beads, and glitter.

a blue bag of granulated sugar, a container of meringue powder, and a plastic sugar skull mold

Required Supplies

How to make sugar skulls

  1. First, you need to prepare the sugar mixture to be molded. Pour sugar into a large mixing bowl, and add the meringue powder. Mix well until incorporated. Then, sprinkle the sugar mixture with the water, and combine everything with your hands until it’s the consistency of thick, wet sand. 
  2. Assemble the sugar skulls by tightly packing the sugar mixture into the skull mold. Scrape any excess mixture and create a smooth, flat back of the mold. Press cardboard onto back of mold and flip over. You should be able to easily slide the mold off to reveal a perfectly shaped sugar skull. Once you’ve made all the front of the skulls, repeat steps to make the back of the skulls. Set all of them aside, and allow them to dry overnight.
  3. Spread a thin layer of royal icing on the back of the skulls, and attach the second piece to create the full shape. Carefully remove excess icing. Set aside 30 minutes, allowing the icing to dry and bind the two sugar skull pieces.
  4. Once dry, your sugar skulls are ready to decorate! I like using any craft supplies I have on-hand like pompoms, glitter, rhinestones, and feathers. 
  5. If you’re a visual learner, then watch my video below. 

the sugar mixture for creating these Day of the Dead sugar skulls in a plastic skull mold

Watch and Learn

You might have already seen this video on my YouTube channel. It is by far my favorite video! But before you decorate sugar skulls, you need to learn how to make sugar skulls. Here is a short video to show you how easy it is to make sugar skulls at home.

several undecorated sugar skulls drying overnight in the skull mold

Frequently Asked Questions

Why can’t I eat these Dia de Muertos sugar skulls?

Technically, you could eat them before you decorate them since they would just consist of sugar, water, meringue powder, and royal icing. Just don’t blame me when you get a cavity! The danger comes in once they’re decorated, as those components are not edible.

Can I paint sugar skulls?

Sure! The paint may bleed a little because the hardened sugar mixture is porous, but it would still look nice.

What’s the age range for people who can make sugar skulls?

This is a fun and festive craft anyone of any age can enjoy! It’s a great activity for the whole family to take part in, and it’s a fun activity for kids to partake in while supervised.

Can I make these if I don’t celebrate Dia de los Muertos?

Absolutely! Even if you don’t celebrate or participate in the Day of the Dead, you could use this as a base recipe for making your own sugar skulls for Halloween. Just decorate them in your preferred spooky style! Serve with my Halloween cheese board and some Mexican hot chocolate.

More Dia de Los Muertos Resources

a colorfully decorated sugar skull for Dia de los Muertos with paint, feathers, and beads

If you made these fun and festive Dia de los Muertos sugar skulls, please be sure to rate and review it below!

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How to Make Sugar Skulls (Calavera de Azúcar)

4.5 (2 ratings)
Traditional Day of the Dead Sugar Skulls are decorated with colored royal icing. These are for decoration and are not meant to be eaten.

Ingredients

Instructions 

  • Pour sugar into a large mixing bowl.
  • Add meringue powder.
  • Mix dry ingredients well.
  • Sprinkle sugar mixture with water
  • Combine sugar, meringue powder, and water with hands until fully combined.
  • Consistency should be similar to beach sand.
  • Tightly pack mixture into mold.
  • Scrape excess mixture and create a smooth, flat back of the mold.
  • Press cardboard onto back of mold and flip over. You should be able to easily slide the mold off to reveal a perfectly shaped sugar skull.
  • Set aside and allow to dry overnight.
  • Once you’ve made all the front of the skulls, repeat steps to make the back of the skulls.
  • Once all pieces have dried, spread a thin layer of royal icing on the back of the skulls, and attach the second piece to create the full shape.
  • Remove excess icing
  • Set aside 30 minutes, allowing the icing to dry and bind the two sugar skull pieces.
  • Once dry, your sugar skulls are ready to decorate.

Notes

Makes 2 medium flat back sugar skulls and 1 large 2-sided skull mold.
Calories: 774kcal, Carbohydrates: 200g, Sodium: 3mg, Sugar: 200g

Originally published: October 2016