Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sugar Skulls

Don't Laugh.....

This is my first stab at making sugar skulls (under the tutelage of my friend Danine), and I kind of forgot I suck at icing work. They look more like Luchadores....

Oh well – it was super fun! The boys had fun too and admired their handiwork.

Danine and I made the raw skulls in molds a week ahead of time, at her house, then let them dry. I didn’t document it but the process is simple enough. I purchased most of the supplies from (which also has great, step by step instructions).

I am not of South American or Mexican descent, but I love to explore all the food and craft related ceremonies of different cultures, and of course, I am particularly attracted to something that melds skulls with roses!

Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) is not directly related to Halloween, and is celebrated on November 2nd (so you've got plenty of time to do this if you're interested!)
It is an ancient celebration traced back to indigenous Aztec cultures. The festivities involve visits to the graves of ancestors and loved ones, to both honor the dead and to commune with them; have your own prayers heard by those in the spirit world who may be better poised to help you. Sugar skulls are just one of the many foods and beverages which are prepared specifically as offerings to the dead.

While this is a good craft for kids, nobody eats the skulls – so just make that clear to everyone beforehand. They aren’t poisonous or anything but it’s just not recommended. Mine did nibble on a little one (it’s very hard to resist a skull entirely made of sugar and icing).

Hawk works on decorating a mini skull (we printed out inspiration pics from online).

Marley and Danine Decorate.

Here are Danine's (Danine is much better at it than I am....)
Sugar Skull Altar


What you’ll need:

For Skulls:

Skull Molds
Meringue Powder
A big bowl
Index cards or squares of cardboard

For Decorating:
Powdered Sugar
Meringue Powder
Gel food coloring
Icing bags
Paper bowls
Plastic spoons
Other stuff you may like to stick on your skulls: colored foil, mini roses, beads, jewels, glitter.


The following instructions are taken directly from (so hop over there if you have more questions and need more photos);

"Sugar Skull Recipe:

Do not make sugar skulls on a rainy or high humidity day. They will not turn out.
Please don't forget the meringue powder!
It's necessary for the sugar skull recipe.
Meringue Powder Brand
Do not use meringue powder from hobby shops or cake supply shops as it's usually diluted and cut way too much for use with heavy granulated sugar. It's ok for icing, just it will not hold together sugar skulls! We get calls daily from teachers & folks who's sugar skulls are "sandy" and not sticking together and have a big mess on their hands and don't have enough time to get new meringue powder and redo the project. Start right from the beginning! The only reliable meringue powder is the one we sell or that of Sur La Table gourmet kitchen shop/ catalog.

Mix together well in large bowl:
1 teaspoon Meringue Powder for every cup of granulated sugar used.
Step 1: Mix dry ingredients well.
Step 2:
Sprinkle sugar mixture with 1 teaspoon water per cup of sugar used.
Variation: Colored Skulls
Most people prefer white skulls the first time they make them, but if you'd like colored sugar skulls, add paste food coloring TO THE WATER. For a 5 pound bag of sugar, use 1/4 cup meringue powder and 10 teaspoons of water. Yield 5 large skulls or 20 medium skulls or 100 mini skulls or any combination.
For a 10 pound bag of sugar, use 1/2 cup meringue powder and 7 Tablespoons water. Yield 10 large skulls or 40 medium skulls or 200 mini skulls or any combination.

Meringue Powder is a MUST and cannot be omitted. It is difficult to find, but may be ordered in 4 oz, 8 oz or 1 pound packages on our sugar skull molds and supplies page. Meringue powder is what makes the sugar and the icing hard. Its main ingredient is powdered dry egg whites & starch, but it also includes vegetable gum, cream of tarter, calcium lactate, malic acid & sodium aluminum sulfate. It's totally edible. 

Mix well with hands until every bit of sugar is moistened. If your fingerprints remain when you squeeze the sugar in your hand, it is ready to mold. (Right) It should feel like cool "beach sand."
If it doesn't hold together, mixture is too dry. (Left)
Remember, water sinks, so keep the sugar mixture mixed up frequently as you make your sugar skulls.

If all the sugar mixture does not fall out of mold easily, it is too wet. Re-mix with a bit more sugar. Hand wash and dry your mold after every 5 skulls to avoid sticking. Most Sugar Skull makers will have a collection of molds to make the molding process more enjoyable.

To Dry

All sizes of the molded sugar skulls need to air-dry on their card boards from 8 hours to overnight before they are ready to decorate. Medium and Mini skulls may be decorated after they are completely dry.

Royal Icing Recipe (for decorating):

Mix 2/3 cup water, 1/2 cup meringue powder and 2 pounds powdered sugar with an electric/stand mixer until icing peaks (about 9 minutes!) Don't mix up more than 2 pounds at a time. Keep in a tightly covered container. DO NOT REFRIGERATE.

Royal icing is a cement type icing used for gingerbread house construction. It isn't very tasty, but it is strong, dries pretty and lasts. Use ONLY concentrated paste food colorings (NOT liquid food coloring from the grocery store!) Yes, we have 12 great colors on our sugar skull molds and supplies page.

Mix icing & paste colors in disposable cups. Use pastry bags and metal decorating tips if you are a pro or into cake decorating. Yes, we have great disposable pastry bags on the Order Page!
Add 2-3 ounces of Royal Icing (no more than 1/4 full). Squeeze to decorate.

Calculate each 5 pounds of sugar skulls will need 2 pounds of powdered sugar Royal Icing. Most skull makers prefer 5-6 paste colors to decorate with and at least one pack of colored tin foil. Yes, we have tin foil in deep Purple, Magenta, Orange, Gold and Red, see sugar skull molds and supplies page."

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