Sugar Skull Cookies

The best sugar cookie recipe gets better when made into Mexican sugar skull cookies just in time for Dia De Los Muertos or your Halloween gathering.

Aren't these just the cutest? Auntie and I spent a few days baking and painting and drinking coffee and KahĂșla cocktails and just letting our inner artist come out.

We did have help with some skull cookie cutters I picked up last year. 

First you stamp the rolled out cookie dough then flip the cutter over and cut out the cookie. We wanted a white palette to paint so we made some royal icing, using a third of it to pipe a border around the edge and thinning out the rest to cover the cookie (this is called "flooding").

We used little picks, called scribers, to manipulate the royal icing, moving it around to cover gaps and pop bubbles. The icing did fill in some of the details from the stamped design so we tried to get it on as thinly as possible. It left enough to give us general ideas to work from.

Personally, I had fun using what I could see of the design as a springboard for my imagination. Between Auntie and I, we had lots of food coloring markers to choose from. If you're more ambitious and good at piping (we are not), you could pipe your decorations onto the cookies, coloring your royal icing with food color gels. That's just a tad more advanced than my skill level. Just sayin'. I know my limits. Hah!

Why this is my favorite sugar cookie recipe

The cookie recipe is a good basic sugar cookie dough based on my chocolate peppermint cookies.

This is  a great recipe to use because:

  • It comes together fast
  • It's super easy to double
  • Uses ingredients you probably already have in your pantry
  • You don't chill this dough so you can roll out and bake immediately
  • The baked cookie just barely rises so it holds its shape really well, making it perfect for using cookie cutters with
  • Tastes like a butter cookie and isn't overly sweet

Whether you celebrate the Day of the Dead or are just looking for something to bring to your Halloween party, these are super fun to make and taste great.

They're also a great activity to do with your kids. They'll love "coloring" their cookies and eating their little masterpieces!

Until next time friends … xo, Ani

Dia De Los Muertos Sugar Skull Cookies
The amount of cookies listed is approximate if you roll out your dough to ¼-inch thickness and use the skull cutters I used. Your amount may vary depending on the cutters and thickness of the dough. This dough doubles easily. The royal icing recipe is enough for a double batch. If it's more than you need, cut it in half or simply store the leftover icing in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a month. Beat it on high to reactivate and thin with water if needed when you're ready to use again. You should be prepared to make these in stages: bake and ice the cookies one day, leaving them to set overnight and decorate on day 2.

Makes about 20 cookies


For the cookies:

1 ½ cups powdered sugar
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

For the icing base recipe:
3 tablespoons meringue powder
4 cups powdered sugar
5-8 tablespoons water, more as needed depending on use (piping or flooding)

Special equipment:
skull cookie cutters
writing piping tips, a small one for the outline and a slightly bigger one for the flooding
disposable piping bags
food coloring markers


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make the dough: Cream together the sugar and butter on medium-high until light, fluffy and pale yellow, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and extracts and beat until well incorporated, about 1 minute.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the sifted flour to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, fully incorporating before adding each additional cup. Don't worry if the last ½ cup is too much for your stand mixer to handle. The dough needs a little kneading. Dump the dough onto a clean work surface and knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball, much like playdough. This might take up to 7-10 minutes (lightly wet your hands if the dough sticks to them; I find I don't need to wet mine as the more I work the dough, the less sticky it gets).

Divide the dough in half, returning one half to the bowl and cover with a cloth to keep from drying out. Roll out the dough to ¼-inch thickness. Use your cookie cutters to cut out shapes. If using the skull cookie cutters, first stamp the design in the dough, flip the cutter over and cut out your shape. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking pan about a 1/2-inch apart. Bake for 9 minutes. The cookies will still be quite pale but set. Remove the cookies from the oven and leave them in the pan for 5 minutes. The residual heat will allow them to continue baking without getting any color. Then remove them to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before icing.

Make the icing: While the cookies are cooling, make the icing. Sift together the meringue powder and the powdered sugar directly into the bowl of your stand mixer. Add 5 tablespoons of water. Starting at a low setting, beat for 30 seconds, then change the speed to medium and beat until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. If your icing resembles paste instead of thick frosting, add more water, a teaspoon at a time. Once you've achieved the stiff peaks, remove a third of your icing to a separate bowl and add water, a tablespoon at a time to get a consistency like regular frosting. This will be your outlining icing. Thin the remaining icing to the consistency of a runny honey. This will be your flooding icing. cover icings with a damp kitchen towel until ready to use.

Ice the cookies: Once the cookies are completely cool, prepare your piping bag with the smaller piping tip. Add some of the piping consistency icing, twist the top to keep the icing from seeping out, securing it with a rubber band if desired. Place your cookies on a cookie sheet with a cooling rack inserted so any excess icing can drip off and outline your cookies. Prepare a second piping bag with a slightly larger tip and fill with the flooding icing. Carefully pipe this onto the cookie in concentric circles starting at the outer edge and working inwards. Don't worry about overlapping. Pipe leaving about an ⅛-inch or less between strokes; the icing should fill in on its own. Flood only two or three cookies in a row, then stop and use either a skewer, toothpick or a scribe to move the icing around and fill any crevices and popping any small bubbles. Repeat until all the cookies are iced. Allow to set over night in a cool dry space.

Paint the cookies: Using food coloring markers, paint on your designs. Feel free to let your inner artist out.

Cookies will keep up to a week in an air tight container.

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Some items used in this post include:

 You  might also like:

Brown Sugar Madeleines
Cinnamon Pinwheel Cookies

Triple Chocolate Sandwich Cake Box Cookies


  1. I love these cookies! They are so festive and I love switching up the colors to match other holidays, too.


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