Colorful sugar skulls adorn alters to give thanks to the spirits during Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. A decorative sugar skull is easy to make with a skull mold. Tinted icing makes it festive.
1 medium 2-piece plastic skull mold (3-by-4-by-4-inch); piping bags fitted with small decorating tips
For the skull: Combine the granulated sugar and meringue powder in a bowl, then add 2 teaspoons water and mix by hand until it feels like moist sand. Check if there is enough moisture by squeezing some sugar paste in your hand; if it maintains its shape, it's ready to mold. If it falls apart, add more water until you reach the desired consistency.
Continue to stir the sugar mixture as you mold the skull, to keep the moisture evenly distributed. Press the sugar paste into the front skull mold. Scrape off and clean the back of the mold with a bench scraper, then unmold the skull onto a piece of cardboard. Repeat with the back skull mold. Let the skull halves dry 8 hours or overnight.
For the icing: Combine the confectioners' sugar, meringue powder and 3/4 cup water in a large bowl. Mix slowly with an electric mixer until it forms stiff peaks; the icing should be pure white and thick, but not fluffy and bubbly. Apply a thin layer of icing to the flat side of one of the skull halves, then use it to "glue" the two halves together. Let sit until dry, about 1 hour.
Add food coloring to the icing (divide into several colors, if desired) and mix with a rubber spatula until the color is uniform. Transfer icings to small piping bags fitted with decorating tips and decorate the skulls as desired. Let sit until dry, 3 to 4 hours.
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