How to Make Sugar Skulls for Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead is the Mexican holiday that honors the deceased. Learning how to make sugar skulls is a creative and fun way to enjoy the holiday and celebrate loved ones.

Celebrated on the first two days of November each year, the tradition of making sugar skulls for Day of the Dead is believed to have originated in Mexico. These sugar skulls are truly pieces of artwork, and are meant to be given as gifts (they’re too pretty to eat anyway, right?). Learning how to make sugar skulls is a project that is best enjoyed with family and friends.

These step-by-step instructions from will take you through the process of making sugar skulls for Day of the Dead. If you want to make the best sugar skulls, this is the article for you.

How to Make Sugar Skulls

The Day of the Dead is a national holiday celebrated on the first 2 days of November in many Latin American countries. It is observed to honor the deceased. In Mexico, where the tradition is believed to have originated, skulls are popular symbols of the holiday and are portrayed on decorations, masks and costumes. Special confections known as sugar skulls are made to be given as gifts.

Things You’ll Need

  • Skull molds (optional)
  • Decorations of choice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 small egg whites (or whites from 1 large egg)
  • 1 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch


Learn How to Make Sugar Skulls

1.  Prepare the dough to make sugar skulls by sifting the powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl and combining the corn syrup, vanilla and egg whites in a small bowl until well blended. Then add the liquid mixture to the bowl containing the sugar.

2.  Use your hands to mix the sugar and liquid together until it begins to form a soft dough. When the texture feels a bit gritty and pulls away slightly from your fingers and the side of the bowl, shape into a large ball. Refrigerate the dough ball for about 30 minutes.

3.  Dust a clean, dry work surface (such as a counter or pastry board) lightly with the cornstarch and coat your hands with it. The cornstarch will help to prevent sticking while you work with the dough.

4.   Pull off 1 heaping tbsp. of dough at a time and form each into the shape of a skull. Alternatively, if you are using molds, you may press the sugar dough into each mold. Set the sugar skulls in a cool, dry place to harden overnight.

5.  Decorate your sugar skulls the following day. You might paint them with a small, soft paintbrush dipped into food coloring. You can also decorate them with sugar frosting (the kind that hardens) using a pastry bag or frosting tip.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the dough becomes crumbly, add 1 tsp. of water. If it is too moist, add 1 tsp. of sugar.
  • If the sugar skulls do not dry completely, place them in an oven at 200 degrees F until dry.
  • Sugar skulls are intended to be given as gifts to the living as well as for offerings to honor the dead.
  • If stored in a cool, dry place, sugar skulls will keep for up to 1 year.
  • Sugar skulls will not turn out well if you make them during rainy or humid weather.

If you follow each step, making a Mexican sugar skull is a lot of fun and not very difficult. Mexico is a country rich in culture, and the art of making sugar skulls is some very sweet proof! Learning how to make Mexican sugar skulls for Day of the Dead will prove a very delicious process with a beautiful end result.

And for delicious Mexican creations that are meant to be eaten, visit us at Ixtapa for an authentic Mexican experience for the whole family.