Sugar art goes back to the days of the New World Italian missionaries in the 17th century. Little sugar lambs and angels were made to adorn the altars of the Catholic Church at Easter time. Mexico is rich in sugar production but too poor to purchase decorations for their new church. So sugar art was used to make angels, sheep and sugar skulls. Sugar skulls represent departed souls. Early sugar skulls were adorned with the persons name written on the forehead and placed on the gravestone to honor the return of the spirit
The day of the dead celebrates the memories of our loved ones who are now gone. Art, cooking, music, building and friend all are joined together to remember, have fun and learn lessons of the person who has passed.
There is nothing as beautiful as a big, fancy, unusual sugar skull! Why not try your hand at making your own.
Powdered/Icing Sugar (for the royal icing)
Sugar Skull Molds
Some cardboard panels or flat plates
- one sugar skull mold kit
tip: When combining ingredients to make sugar skulls there is one guiding principle: for every cup of sugar, you should add 1 teaspoon of meringue powder and 1 teaspoon of water. Large skulls require about 2 cups of sugar and medium skulls require 1 cup. Adjust your measurements according to how many skulls you'd like to make.
If you're making a lot of skulls, you can use 1/2 cup of meringue powder and 7 tablespoons of water for every 10 pounds of sugar.
Mix together the granulated sugar and the meringue powder, and then add the water. One tsp of water per cup of sugar doesn't sound like much, but a little goes a long way.
Thoroughly mix everything together (I just use my hands) for about 5 minutes until each grain of sugar is moistened and the consistency is like beach sand. To test that it's ready, form a tight clump with your hands and make an indentation with your thumb. If your thumbprint remains and the clump doesn't fall apart, the mixture is ready. If it's sticky and clumps very easily, you probably added too much water. It's not too hard to get the right consistency, but it's important because if it's too moist it will stick to the mold, and if it's too dry the skull will fall apart once the mold is removed.
Take the mixture and pack it tightly into the sugar skulls molds. Then use the back of a knife to scrape off any excess sugar.
Firmly hold the carboard or plate over the mold, flip it over, and place it on a flat surface. Now you can carefully remove the mold to reveal your sugar skull.
It's now time to air-dry your sugar skulls for 5-6 hours prior to scooping (step 4). Scooping is necessary for large skulls, but optional for medium skulls, and unecessary for small skulls.
If you're not going to scoop your skulls, let the parts dry for 12 hours and they'll be ready to glue together with royal icing(Steps 5 & 6).
If you're just using the front parts of the skull, you don't need to worry about scooping or gluing with royal icing. After 12 hours you can jump straight ahead to decorating your sugar skulls!
Scooping is important for large skulls (optional for medium skulls) because it shortens drying time, makes the skulls lighter, and makes the two sides (front and back) easier to glue together.
After drying for 5 to 6 hours, the skulls are fragile, but just stable enough to handle, while the center is still soft enough to be scooped out. Use a spoon to scoop out the center (avoiding the neck area), leaving a half-inch gap to the edge. Deposit the sugar mix into a bowl because it can be reused to make other skulls. Once you're done, let the parts dry for another 6 hoursand then they'll be ready to glue together.
Once your skulls are dry it's time to make royal icing which is what you'll use to glue the front and back parts together. It dries really hard (no refrigeration necessary) and lasts a long time. Royal icing is a simple recipe consisting of powdered sugar, meringue powder and water.
The measurements for royal icing are as follows: 1 pound of powdered sugar, 1/4 cup of meringue powder, and 1/3 cup of water. This will be enough for a dozen or more sugar skulls.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly for 5 mins. An electric beater is best, but a wooden spoon or spatula does the job. Keep mixing until the icing is thick enough that it peaks. If it's not thick enough you'll have a hard time sticking your skulls together because the back part will keep sliding off.
Press the front and back parts together to form a complete sugar skull. Icing will probably be squeezed out through the gaps. Run your finger along the edges to remove extra icing, then let the icing dry for 1-2 hours and your skulls are ready