Sugar skull blanks can be made long before Day of the Dead

Sugar skull blanks can be made long before Day of the Dead

Angela Villalba

Summertime is a great time to make your sugar skulls for upcoming Day of the Dead festivities!  Once dry and packed away in a cardboard box, a sugar skull blank can last for several years… just don’t store in a plastic covered box.

Warm days are perfect for making skulls outside on picnic tables and keep the messy sugar outdoors. Groups of kids & adults can make a lot of sugar skulls in an hour or so. Just make sure that your humidity is 60% or less – the egg in the meringue powder doesn’t set up if the humidity is high.  

The most popular sugar skull to make is our Original Medium skull, which is a quarter pound skull with a big, bulbous head – lots of room to decorate.  This one piece skull is fast to make and 42 skulls come from a 10 pound bag of granulated sugar.

I can cast 42 skulls in about an hour by myself if I have all the supplies ready to go.

The Original medium skull is the favorite for big sugar skull parties, school projects, Sunday school & fundraiser events at museums & street fairs. 

Medium sugar skulls are the size of a tangerine and take less than 15 minutes to decorate by children or adults.

The volunteers at the Longmont Museum in Colorado now make over 2500 Original Medium sugar skull blanks in the summer for their big Day of the Dead fundraiser.

The sugar skull mix devised by Angela Villalba back in 1999, is a recipe of granulated sugar, commercial grade meringue powder and a bit of water. Once compressed into the sugar skull molds she and her friend, Carolyn Potter carved, (and now number over 25 unique molds for sugar & chocolate), the sugar air-dries overnight before decorating begins.

Decorating with the recommended Royal Icing recipe is best because once dry, your beautiful sugar skull will last 8-10 years before deteriorating!  Pre-Kinder children can decorate fabulously colorful sugar skulls next to their parents and all will be heart-felt additions to the ofrenda. Have at least 5 deep, bright colors of icing made and pieces of colorful tin foils that are traditionally used by Mexican sugar skull makers. Tin foil is used for the eye socket, mouth and the stripe across the forehead. This space is used to write the name of the honored loved one before placing the sugar skull on the ofrenda altar or the tomb. 

Most sugar skulls in Mexico are purchased the week before November 1 at open air markets, or in front of the cemetery walls. The seller will always have a bag of dark icing to write the name on the forehead for the customer buying the skull.

Colorful, elaborate sugar skulls are an annual tradition and come in small almond size to basketball size skulls. But all have the same basic elements. They represent a departed soul. Colored tin sparkles in the eyes, forehead and mouth. Then icing decorates the rest.  

Royal Icing takes about 20 minutes to beat, add the colorant and load into disposable icing bags – and there is no quick substitute available at the grocery store in tube or can – but it’s worth the effort as

To make things easy , we offer complete kits for family or school on our website: All decorating supplies, sugar skull molds and chocolate sugar skull molds can be purchased individually.   

Sugar skull making instructions & recipe cards are sent with every sugar skull mold, but also viewable on the website.  Our online Yield Tables can help you calculate how much sugar & supplies will be needed for the size skull you desire. We invite our customers to email us their questions to assist them in figuring out their large event projects or classroom needs. 

Sugar skulls have become the centerpiece of the American family tradition of celebrating Day of the Dead. This beautiful tradition is growing rapidly all over the U.S.  A person who has fallen in love with Day of the Dead and how it allows for expressing love for their “muertos”, will invite other friends & family over for a Day of the Dead party. Sometimes it’s a potluck of favorite dishes of the deceased, sometimes it’s easy by picking up trays of delicious Mexican food from a local restaurant.  Food, music, marigolds, candles decorate the living room where a table is prepared to receive photos and significant mementos of the muertos. Everyone arrives with their ofrenda contribution as well as some food or drink. Children and adults can sit around decorating sugar skulls, snacking on tamales while telling stories of the departed loved one’s lives.  The focus in on how the people “lived” their lives. The fun, relaxed gathering is a great way to share family traditions and memories – funny stories and struggles, which keeps the memories alive. 

While it’s difficult to recreate the same experience as Mexicans have in their villages, where people celebrate for 2 full days at home and at the local cemetery, this is a very fine way to embrace the authentic traditions and incorporate it into a meaningful experience here in America.