Decorating Skull Cookies for Halloween and Day of the Dead

decorating halloween cookies

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Everyone knows that Halloween is October 31. Less well-known is that the Mexican holiday The Day of the Dead (El Dia de los Muertos) begins the same night as Halloween and is celebrated November 1 and 2. That makes decorating cookie calaveras--Spanish for "sugar skulls"--a very timely late-October activity.

Cookie skulls can be as colorful or monochromatic, fanciful or fear-inspiring, as you wish to make them. To decorate, you'll need a fair amount of icing; for each color, you'll want to make both piping icing and the slightly thinner flood icing.

How to decorate cookie skulls

After you have baked and cooled your skull-shaped cookies (skull cookie cutters are available for order online), your next step is to prepare the icing. Mix two consistencies of icing: one for piping and a thinner one for flooding. Divide each batch of icing into as many cups or bowls as you have planned for your cookie design and mix in the food colorings. Spoon the icings into separate pastry bags fitted with tips, making sure you close the back of the bags with rubber bands or twist ties.

Start by creating a base layer: use the piping icing to outline the edge of your cookie, then fill in the rest of the cookie with the flood icing. Let the bottom layer completely dry before moving on to the details. Depending on how many cookies you are decorating, your first cookies could be ready by the time you finish applying the base layers for the rest of the cookies.

The obvious features to make with different colored piping and flooding icings are the eyes, mouth, and nose. Once you've created a face for your skull, add designs to fill the rest of the space. Some possibilities: curlicues, swirls, flowers, and hearts.

True calaveras are made entirely of sugar and traditionally offered as gifts to the dead and left on memorial sites as decorations--and therefore are often inscribed with the name of the deceased. Whether you are giving these to the dearly departed, to your living friends, or as a treat to yourself, your recipients will certainly appreciate your colorful cookies for Halloween or Day of the Dead!


No time for Halloween cookie decorating? Cookies By Design makes baskets full of beautiful skull and skeleton cookies accompanied by a customizable message cookie to help you say, "Happy Halloween" or "Feliz Dia de los Muertos!" as well as a spooky Halloween cookie cake!