SEATTLE — Dia de Los Muertos - Day of the Dead -  is approaching this weekend, beginning October 31 and continuing through November 2. There are plenty of traditions that play an integral role throughout the observance, and one of them is creating and decorating calaveras, sugar skulls, to honor loved ones who have passed away. 

Fara's ofrenda
Fara's ofrenda includes items that honor her grandmother, grandfather, and father.
New Day Northwest

Artist Fara Arteaga walks us through how to design our own calaveras and the meanings behind Dia de los Muertos cultural traditions.

RELATED: Day of the Dead Festival comes to Tacoma

Sugar Skull Decorating Workshop

Join Fara for an afternoon of decorating your own sugar skulls while sipping Mexican hot chocolate and learning more about the Day of the Dead holiday on October 30, 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM, at Impact Hub Seattle, 220 2nd Ave South, Seattle.

Fara's Mexican Sugar Skull Calavera Recipe

Sugar Skulls are a traditional folk art form in Mexico. They are used to celebrate Day of the Dead on November 1st and 2nd . Mounds of colorful sugar skulls are sold in the open air village markets. Spirits of the dead are welcomed back to their homes with beautifully decorated Ofrendas made by loved ones. Sugar skulls, marigolds, candles, incense and special foods are important elements of the Ofrenda. Sugar Skulls are colorfully decorated with icing, feathers and bright foils and can include the name of the loved one being honored. Sugar Skulls if kept dry can last for years 

You will need:

  • Sugar Skull Mold 
  • Cardboard Squares 
  • Sugar 
  • Meringue Powder 
  • Water

 Mix 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. (for a 5 pound bag of sugar, use 1/4c. meringue powder and 10 teaspoons of water. Yield 20 med skulls). Mix ingredients well with your hands until every bit of sugar is moistened. The mix should feel like beach sand. 

To Mold- Pack sugar mixture firmly into the mold. Use a straight edge to scrape the back of the mold flat. Pack down some more. Place the cardboard square over mold and invert. Lift mold off carefully. If the sugar mixture does not fall out of the mold easily it is too wet. Re-mix with a bit more sugar. If the sugar mixture comes out and has cracks it is to dry. Re-mix adding water a spritz at a time. 

To Dry- The molded sugar skulls need to air-dry on their cardboards overnight. When the skulls feel totally dry and hard they can be moved and decorated. 

Royal Icing 

You will need: 

  • Powdered Sugar 
  • Water 
  • Meringue Powder 
  • Gel/Paste Colorants

Mix 2/3 cup water, ½ cup meringue powder and 2lbs of powdered sugar in stand mixer for about 9 minutes. A stand mixer is best as the icing is thick and heavy. I recommend not mixing more than 2 pounds per batch. Store in a tightly covered container. 

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