Make a Sugar Skull for Dia De Los Muertos

Every year as Dia De Los Muertos nears, I swear to myself that it will be the year I make a calavera from scratch. Calaveras are sugar skulls that can be eaten and placed on altars. They’re synonymous with Dia De Los Muertos!

When considering making them, I always thought it would be too daunting, and I somehow talked myself out of the process by assuming the sugar wouldn’t stick in order to form the skull. This year, I told myself no more excuses. I looked online for a mold and found a good one at Mexican Sugar Skull. I ordered it, followed the directions on how to make the calavera, and decorated my skulls as I wished.

I made a bunch of them, and called over a few friends and my mom to have a decorating party. As we decorated our skulls, we talked about the loved ones we have lost over the years, and how we felt about the loss, what we missed about each of them. We shared our stories over laughs, tears and royal icing.

Here is a step by step photo gallery on how to make your own. You will need a skull mold to get started.

  • Calavera / Sugar Skull 1 of 16

    Celebrate Dia De Los Muertos on November 2 with an authentic calavera! Here's how to make one at home.

  • Dry Ingredients 2 of 16

    In a large bowl, add in granulated sugar and meringue powder. Mix well with a fork until completely combined. 

  • Sprinkle with Water 3 of 16

    Add in water, and then mix with hands until all the sugar is moistened. It should feel like beach sand. Soft to the touch and easily sticks together when you squeeze some together in your hand. 

  • Firmly Fill the Mold 4 of 16

    Fill the mold with the sugar mixture. Using a butter knife, scrape the back of the mold to rid of excess sugar. 

  • Push It All the Way in 5 of 16

    Pack in a little more sugar to make sure the sugar has filled the entire mold. Pay extra attention to the chin and edges. 

  • Place on a Hard Surface 6 of 16

    Place on a hard surface. I also used pieces of hard cardboard  or paper plates to invert the mold onto. Let the skulls dry for six to seven hours. 

  • Scoop out the Center 7 of 16

    Once they are dry enough to handle, carefully scoop out the center of the skulls with a spoon, leaving the skull wall 1/2 inch thick. Let dry for an additional 12 hours. 

  • Royal Icing 8 of 16

    Using white royal icing, pipe around the edges of the skull. Then do the same to the back side of the skull. Stick the two pieces together to form your calavera.

  • Calavera Comes Together 9 of 16

    Align the two pieces together with the royal icing holding them firm together. Then let them dry for an hour before decorating. 

  • Foil Eyes 10 of 16

    I started with the eyes. I cut two circles of foil paper, and filled the eye cavities with royal icing then stuck the foil into the cavities. 

  • Headband and Nose 11 of 16

    I used balck royal icing and outlined the nose in black. I then followed the gap where the two pieces of the skull came together and dotted it with blue royal icing. 

  • Flower Eyes 12 of 16

    Using the smallest metal decorative tip on my royal icing, I outlined the eyes with orange royal icing into a flower shape. Next, I filled in the petals. 

  • The More Details, the Better 13 of 16

    I added a simple mouth, and two flowers on the side of the neck. I also used metalic edible pearls and made arches around the eyes. 

  • Foil Top 14 of 16

    Another nice touch is adding a piece of foil to the top of the head. I also surrounded the foil with little dots of purple royal icing. 

  • Group Shot 15 of 16

    Here are a few skulls drying.

  • The Other Skull I Made 16 of 16

    I went a little more crazy with this one. I  added a lot more detail to the top of the skull, and added flowers around the front of the chin. Adding tears to the eyes is something found on lots of calaveras. 

    Remember your loved ones this Dia De Los Muertos!

Ingredients for sugar skulls / calavera:

  • granulated sugar
  • meringue powder
  • water

I used 6 cups of granulated sugar, 6 teaspoons of meringue powder, and 6 teaspoons of water for my calaveras. It made 5 large skulls total. Slightly bigger then my fist.

Ingredients for royal icing:

  • 4 – cups powdered sugar
  • 3 – tablespoons meringue powder
  • 6 – tablespoons warm water

Other supplies you may use:

  • colored foil paper
  • sequins
  • beads
  • soda pop tops


  1. For every cup of granulated sugar use 1 teaspoon of meringue powder and 1 teaspoon water.
  2. First mix dry ingredients together…. granulated sugar and meringue powder.
  3. Then sprinkle with water. The mixture should feel like beach sand.
  4. Firmly pack sugar into mold. Using a knife scrape the back of the sugar mold for an even back. Then add in a few more pinches with your finger tips.
  5. Invert the mold onto a hard surface. Use a paper plate or card board piece.
  6. Let the skulls dry for 6 to 7 hours.
  7. Once the skulls are hard enough to touch, use a spoon and scoop out the middle. Leaving a 1/2 inch thick wall around the edge. (make more calaveras with extra sugar)
  8. Let the hollowed skulls dry for an additional 12 hours.
  9. Then make royal icing by mixing powdered sugar, meringue powder, and warm water together. It will form a thick paste. Divide the icing into separate bowls and color with concentrated paste food coloring of your choice. I made six different colors. Then place the colors in disposable piping bags fitted with a decorative metal tip.
  10. Then using a white royal icing trace along the lines of the two pieces of skull that come together. Avoid piping the neck with royal icing.
  11. Align the two pieces together and allow to dry before decorating.
  12. Decorate the face any way you like.
  13. Enjoy!

For more recipes from Nicole Presley click over to her blog: Presley’s Pantry 

Get social with Nicole on Twitter and Facebook.

Nicole loves pinning. Follow her on Pinterest 

Article Posted 2 years Ago
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