An Ode to Sugar Skull

I decided to transfer this tutorial over to pay homage to my old blogging home, She served me well for the past six years as a gateway into the pastry and blogging world. RIP.

I molded these skulls LAST year around this time so that I could decorate them, but never got around to it. So they sat on my shelf for literally a year, and here we are again. They are traditionally made using sugar, water, and meringue powder but we’re going to replace the meringue powder with starch because… well, who needs eggs?

I would recommend starting with the large mold, because they are way easier to decorate. I own the large and medium “Oaxaca” molds, and all I can say is whoever can decorate the small molds and make them look good is my hero.

Sugar skulls are traditionally decorated with royal icing, but I chose to use vegan buttercream simply because, well… I wanted to. :)

What you need: sugar skull mold (if you live in Austin, you can find these at Tesoros around Halloween), piping bags, piping tips (#2, #3, and #8 are good ones to start with), gel food coloring, and a sheet pan or plate for drying.

Sugar Skull Recipe
makes 1 large sized ‘Oaxaca’ skull, front only

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 t cornstarch
  • 2 t water*

*for a colored skull, add a tiny amount of gel food color to the water prior to mixing.

Directions: (read the better version here) Mix all ingredients in a bowl- it should feel like wet sand. Pack sugar mixture into mold, and allow to dry about 5 hours. The mold comes with two sides, a front and a back. I didn’t need my skull to be 3D, so I took the lazy man’s approach and just used the front (face) side. Hollow out the skull if you’d like to re-use the sugar for other skulls, or just to make it lighter. You don’t have to hollow it out, it will just take longer to dry. Allow to dry completely overnight (at least 12 hours).

Decorating Buttercream:
Don’t eat this. Trust me, it’s not worth it.

  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 2-3 T water

Directions: Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream shortening until smooth. Add powdered sugar. Add water 1 T at a time, until frosting is no longer dry. Whip for 2 minutes, or until fluffy. To color, use a TINY amount of gel food coloring (think of the gel coloring as food coloring concentrate), and mix. Load the piping bag (fitted with a piping tip) with colored frosting, and decorate!

Entry filed under: Recipes, tutorials. Tags: , , , .

March 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm 2 comments

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bianca Lucchesi  |  September 26, 2012 at 3:36 am

    I loved to see a vegan recipe that doesn’t need the egg replacers! That’s hard to find in Brazil and I would love to do the skulls for día de los muertos. I just have one question: the “t” in the recipe stands for teaspoon or tablespoon?
    Thanks in advance!

    • 2. Kristen  |  October 30, 2013 at 11:19 pm

      “t” is teaspoon, and “T” is tablespoon! :)


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