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Day of the Dead is just around the corner and one of its most distinctive symbols is the sugar skull. Today, I’d like to share how I make edible sugar skulls quickly, easily, and without eggs.
Now that the Day of the Dead or Día de Muertos has become so popular outside of Mexico, whether from Mexicans spreading their love for it, or tourists visiting Mexico and sharing their experience or even the influence of the lovely film, Coco, sugar skulls can be found everywhere, in every form and every size. They’re in paintings, on dishes, pots, lanterns, shirts, you name it.
But the sugar skulls I’ve known all my life were those made to adorn ofrendas in Mexico during Day of the Dead festivities.
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What is Day of the Dead?
If you’re new to Day of the Dead, the first thing to know is it’s a beautiful festival that we celebrate in Mexico on November 1-2. Day of the Dead shouldn’t be confused with Halloween. In Mexico, families believe their loved ones who’ve passed come to visit once a year on Day of the Dead. Families, schools, churches and stores build colorful ofrendas to receive them.
These ofrendas include pictures of loved ones and some of their favorite things. In addition, candles, marigolds, papel picado and, of course, sugar skulls, or calaveritas de azúcar, as we call them in México, are often included as well. These sugar skulls or calaveritas often have the names of loved ones written on their foreheads.
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What is the purpose of the sugar skull?
According to the Mexican government’s website as well as Mexico desconocido, sugar skulls originated in the mesoamerican culture, and represent a departed soul. Their purpose is to remind us of the inevitable passing from life to death, and to remind us that the dead are always among us.
As I mentioned before, sometimes you see the name of loved ones on the forehead of a sugar skull. But, in Mexico, families also sometimes buy or make sugar skulls with the names of living people on them. In this case, it is meant to remind us of our inevitable destiny.
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Can you eat sugar skulls?
Most sugar skulls are made with non-edible decorations, and some of them are made with raw egg whites, so in that case, it is not recommended. There are other kinds of calaveritas called “alfeñiques,” (photo below) made in the State of Guanajuato and the city of Toluca in Estado de México, among other places, which are skulls and skeletons made with a sugar paste. These are also not recommended to eat.
However, with my recipe, these sugar skulls are completely edible, as long as you use edible decorations, too. That makes it a fun activity to do with the kids this time of year.
If you decide to make these edible sugar skulls, be sure to snap a photo and share it with us on social media using the #mamalatinatipsrecipes hashtag. I’d love to see it and have a chance to share it as well. Here’s the recipe.
Easy and Edible Sugar Skull Recipe
Makes 10 x 1 1/2-inch mini skulls
Prep time 2 minutes
Start to finish: 55 minutes (including 30 minutes resting time, but not including decorations)
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of water
- 1/8 teaspoon extract of your preference, like vanilla, lemon, almond, etc
- Writing icing tubes in several colors
- Other edible decoration items
You will also need
- 1 skulls mold
- 1 baking sheet
- Aluminum foil
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees F (approx 95 degrees C). Cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil.
In a bowl, combine sugar, water and extract of your choice. Using your fingers, combine everything really well until it feels like slightly wet sand.
Take the mold and pack the sugar really well, pushing with your fingers until every space of the mold is filled up. Turn them over carefully on the aluminum foil-prepared baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes.
Take them out of the oven and let them cool down, approx 30 minutes.
Open your icing tubes and start decorating. If you need inspiration, check out my photos or visit my sugar skulls board on Pinterest.
You can use colors and designs as you wish, every skull is expected to be unique. If you don’t have all the colors, try mixing the ones you have, I made purple out of blue and red, for example.
Tip: If you want to add a layer of colors, one on top of the other, like the eyes, for example, be sure to allow enough time to dry between layers.
Let the skulls dry completely and they will be ready to be displayed or eaten.
Read more about our family’s and others’ Day of the Dead traditions. Check out My Son’s Day of the Dead photo essay, a Short Guide to the Meaning Behind a Traditional Day of the Dead Offering. If you are a Coco fan read, Fun Facts about the Skeletons of Coco, The Music of Coco, and My Review of Coco.
I hope you have a lovely Day of the Dead celebration.