Decorating sugar cookie skulls can be a lively part of a Day of the Dead party for kids of all ages. To expedite cookie decorating, it makes sense to prepare the dough, roll out, cut out, and bake the cookies one day, then decorate the next. If you want people to engage in actually rolling and making the cookies, perhaps roll out and bake a portion of the dough ahead, so that at least some of the group can begin decorating. In either case, you want plenty of work space, covered with plastic, or easily washable tablecloths. The number of cookies you can make will vary greatly with what kind and size of cookie cutters you use. You can get at least five dozen three-inch skull cookies out of this recipe. You can halve the recipe if you’re not making cookies for a large event.

  • 7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
  • Additional unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Royal icing (see recipe below)
  1. Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Cream together in a stand mixer the butter and sugar over high speed for 5 minutes, until mixture is light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed to medium and pour in half of the eggs. Stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl. Add remaining eggs and vanilla. Pour in half of flour mixture and continue mixing until combined. Stop mixer and scrape down sides. Pour in remaining flour mixture and beat again at medium speed just until combined. Divide dough into four balls, cover them with plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. (The dough can be made a day ahead. It will need to sit out again at room temperature at least a few minutes to soften enough to roll.) Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. Sprinkle flour on a work surface and rolling pin and roll out first ball of cookie dough ¼ inch thick. Form cookies with cutters. If you are using the cookie cutter stamps that leave decorative lines in the dough, be sure to get a good, deep impression when forming each cookie. Lay cookies on an ungreased baking sheet with at least ½ inch of space between them. Take each ball of dough out of the refrigerator as you are ready to use it. As needed, sprinkle more flour on the work surface and rolling pin.
  3. Bake cookies 7 to 9 minutes, until just set and before they begin to brown. Cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer with a spatula to baking racks or absorbent paper. You can reuse cookie sheets, but each will need to cool before using again. High-Altitude Adjustments At Santa Fe’s 7,000-foot altitude, use ¾ teaspoon baking powder and a very scant 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Add 1 tablespoon of water to the eggs when whisking together. At altitudes in between, split the differences.


Our skull cookie cutters/stamps are from Fred & Friends, and we found them at Doodlet’s, in Santa Fe (120 Don Gaspar; 505-983-3771). They can be bought online at many other retailers this time of year. Various other skull cookie cutters, including the widely available Wilton brand, can be found at kitchen shops and party supply stores.