Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sugar Skulls

Sugar Skull Recipe

Do not make sugar skulls on a rainy or high humidity day. They will not turn out.

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.

Yield Table

Mold Size
# of Skulls
Sugar (pounds)
Meringue Powder

10 lbs
1/2 cup
7 Tablespoons


10 lbs
1/2 cup
7 Tablespoons

10 lbs
1/2 cup
7 Tablespoons

5 pounds of sugar = approx. 10 cups
10 pounds of sugar = 21 cups
3 teaspoons = 1 Tablespoon

Meringue Powder Conversion Table


Cups (approx.)
4 oz. Jar

1 cup
16 T
48 t.
8 oz. Jar

2 cups
32 T
96 t.
1 lb. Bag

4 cups
64 T
192 t.

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. Meringue powder is what makes the sugar and the icing hard. The main ingredient is powdered dry egg whites and starch, but it also includes vegetable gum, cream of tarter, calcium lactate, malic acid and sodium aluminum sulfate. It's totally edible.

Powdered sugar for Royal Icing

1 pound box = 3
1/2 cups 2 pound bag = 7 cups (do not sift Powdered Sugar)

Measurement: 3 teaspoons make a Tablespoon
4 Tablespoons make 1/4 cup
7 Tablespoons (21 teaspoons) of Meringue Powder = 1/2 cup

Obviously, as stated, this is the recipe for sugar skulls. I can safely say I do not know one American that has made one for eating purposes. However, it seems that tattoo magazines are starting to become filled with tattoos of sugar skulls. Dia De Los Muertos = Day of the Dead. The tradition and celebrations are rooted in the Aztec culture but in the past centuries has been integrated with Catholic customs. Originally the Aztecs, and the Mayans, kept the actual skulls of those who had passed to use for the celebration of their passing (yes celebration). As a tour guide in Mexico told me, ‘any reason to drink tequila is a good one’, Dia De Los Muertos is no exception. The celebration reigned for a month long instead of the two days like it is now.
The incoming Spaniards were a little put out by the partying taking place around random skulls. So they made the holiday ‘more Christian like’ and integrated with All Souls Day. Originally it was celebrated in the beginning of August due to the belief August was watched over by "Lady of the Dead". Today most of the traditions are pretty standard. Candles and flowers on graves, toys for kids and tequila for adults, and food for the dead. In Mexico, especially more rural areas, alters are still built in people’s homes to remember the dead. The sugar skull tattoo is just one of the many symbols of a people celebrating death. There really isn’t anyway a candy could have a negative connotation. Now the detail is starting to become more intricate and the designs are being placed on painted women instead of a basic mask. The original masks worn were usually in shape of an animal or a simple painted mask. The Virgin Mary is also becoming a popular base to put these designs on. The Lady of Guadalupe is seen now as a clash between Mexican culture and Spanish culture brought from Spain. Either way, today she is a major part of the Day of the Dead celebration.

The sugar skull tattoos will probably keep rising in popularity as people become more involved in other cultures and in a way it is a good thing that there more positive influenced tattoos.

sugar skull photo:

tattoo one: Brian Simpkins