How to make “calaveras” or Mexican sugar skulls
A few years ago I was in search of a good recipe for making “calaveras” Mexican Sugar Skulls for Day of the Dead. I didn’t really know where to begin so I started search endlessly on the internet. Most of the recipes I came across were the same, however I noticed the key ingredient in most all of the recipes was meringue powder, and while I have meringue powder at home, I didn’t think traditionally that that would be a key ingredient to the many market places selling them in Mexico… Really? Meringue powder? (which is what…powdered egg whites?) How do you even say that in Spanish….anyway…more on this later.
First I know I needed a mold, so I went online to www.mexicansugarskull.com and ordered a few molds (some large, some small). It is essentially a plastic clear mold, nothing too fancy.
So while in my kitchen experimenting with the mixture, I thought of first trying the recipe with just egg whites to help cement the sugar together (that sounded a bit more “traditional” to me, and maybe leave the skulls out in the sun or bake the skulls at a low temperature to speed the setting process.
Lo and behold, they came out perfectly without having to resort to meringue powder. So if you can score yourself a sugar skull mold, this is what you will need:
- 6 cups granulated sugar
- Water in a misting bottle
- 2 egg whites
That’s it..and that’s how I have been making them ever since!
Put the egg whites in a big bowl, pour in the sugar, and start mixing and churning together until the sugar feels like wet sand. The goal is to get the sugar as dry as possible but still stick together in the mold. (but not too dry).
Sparingly spray the sugar mixture with a bit of water .
Take a spoonful of the mixture and put it into the skull cavity and press down and continue until the mold is full. Pack firmly so that the sugar is packed hard into the skull cavity. Overfill the mold.
Take a flat spatula, straight edge, or hard piece of plastic or cardboard and scrape away the excess sugar from the cavity until it is flush and level.
Carefully pull the mold off of the sugar. You will know if the correct consistency if the mold comes out easily.
Then, very carefully, place your skulls on a cookie sheet and leave outside if sunny or in a 200 degree oven for about 30 minutes. They will need a few days of drying before they will be hard enough to decorate and handle.
Decorate away! We use colored foil, sequins, and colored royal icing in various colors, etc.
Easy perfect Mexican Sugar Skulls!
Have a great day!