A Fresh Look at Halloween Candy

Celebrate Día de los Muertos with sugar skulls from the bakery, or make your own

A Fresh Look at Halloween Candy
Photo by John Anderson

Calavera de Azucar: Mexican Sugar Skulls

Sugar skulls are used in Mexico to celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), traditionally celebrated on Nov. 1. These simple yet creepy candies are very popular with children, and in Austin they can be found at La Mexicana Bakery (1924 S. First, 443-6369). Each skull is lovingly handmade, sequin-eyed, with colorful icing details. They're available in three sizes: large ($5), medium ($3), and small ($1.50).

Because sugar is the primary ingredient, they're inexpensive to make and a very fun project for kids, slackers, and goths! Tesoros Trading Co. (1500 S. Congress, 447-7500) sells sugar-skull molds for $14 each, and the molds come with a recipe and instructions. More artistic home skull-crafters may have the confidence to form sugar skulls freehand, as was done traditionally.

Recipe for Calavera de Azucar (Sugar Skulls)

What you need:

2½ cups sugar

Egg white from 1 extra-large egg or 2 small eggs

1 teaspoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cornstarch, about a half-cup, for powdering surface

Colored sprinkles

Food coloring

Fine paintbrush

A Fresh Look at Halloween Candy
Photo by John Anderson

Colored icing

Time required: 10 minutes to make the candy dough.

1) Sift sugar into a large mixing bowl.

2) In another bowl, mix the egg whites, corn syrup, and vanilla.

3) Slowly pour the liquid into the powdered sugar. Mix with your hands until a sandy dough forms.

4) Form dough into a ball. At this point, you can continue, or you can refrigerate dough for later use.

5) Lightly dust surface with cornstarch, as well as your hands. Pinch off a heaping tablespoon of dough, and shape it into a skull.

6) If you're using them, lightly press colored sprinkles into the soft candy.

7) Let the candy dry overnight.

8) When candy is dry, use the paint brush with food coloring to decorate the skulls. Or you can use frosting (one that will dry hard) with a fine tip to decorate them.

9) Hand them out as is, or wrap in a small cellophane bag tied closed with a small ribbon.


1) The skulls may not dry completely on a humid or rainy day.

2) The dough should be the consistency of damp sand, just moist enough to hold together. If the dough is too dry and crumbly, add 1 teaspoon of water at a time to moisten.

3) If dough is too moist, add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until dough is the right consistency.

4) If the candy has trouble drying completely, place in a 125 degree warm oven until dry.

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Calavera de Azucar, Mexican Sugar Skulls, Día de los Muertos, Halloween, recipe, DIY

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