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decorated sugar skull on plate with icing and spoons around

Low Carb Sugar Skulls for Day of the Dead

Make these no-sugar  calavaras de azucar, or low carb sugar skulls.  Using a basic recipe for the Indian treat Barfi (or Burvi), you can make these skulls with ricotta, monk fruit sugar and whole milk powder.  Don't forget a little spice and naturally dyed sugar glaze for decorating. 

Course Dessert
Cuisine Mexican
Cook Time-ish 20 minutes


For the Low Carb Sugar Skulls

  • 4 Oz. Butter, melted
  • 3 lbs. Whole Milk Ricotta, drained*
  • 2 1/2 Cups Whole Milk Powder
  • 1 1/2 Cups Monk Fruit Sugar, powdered
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. Nutmeg

For the Naturally Dyed Sugar Icing

  • 1 Cup Monk Fruit Sugar, powdered
  • 1 Egg white Or 1 Tbsp. Egg White
  • 1 Tbsp. Milk or Cream
  • Natural Icing Dyes, see article


Instructions for Low Carb Sugar Skulls

  1. Generously grease the sugar skull mold with butter or a light oil like avocado. Remove any extra butter or grease.

  2. In a bowl, mix the milk powder, sugar and spices. Set aside.

  3. Melt the butter in a 12" cast iron skillet, or any quality pan with good heat distribution, on medium heat. A copper bottom pan would also work well. If you don't have either, use whatever large skillet you have.

  4. Using a wooden kitchen spoon, or any heat resistant kitchen tool, add the ricotta and mix into the butter. Warm the mixture and stir frequently to prevent scorching.

  5. Add in the dry mixture and mix thoroughly. It may seem like it will never mix together, but it will.

  6. Gently stir and mash the mixture in the pan and continue to cook over medium heat until it thickens. This can take anywhere from twenty to thirty minutes of consistent stirring to prevent burning. You want it very dry so that the mixture will come out of the sugar skull mold.

  7. One the mixture has thickened and is much drier than when it started out, it's time to put it into the mold. You should be able to pinch some out of the pan and have it hold it's form without sticking to your fingers.

  8. Working quickly press the mixture into the mold.** Be sure to press the mixture in firmly so that each part of the mold is covered. Allow to sit in a cool, dry place for several hours or overnight.

  9. When the mixture has dried a little further in the molds and is slightly movable within them, turn over and gently bang to release the sugar skulls. Place them on individual plates to decorate.

Instructions for Naturally Dyed Royal Icing

  1. Mix all ingredients together to desired consistency. It should be smooth enough to pipe from a piping bag but not so wet it runs down the skull.

  2. Break into even amounts and place into ramekins. Mix in dyes of desired colors. Natural dyes can be more muted than chemical dyes, but not always. Don't be shy about adding color until they're just like you want them.

  3. Decorate as desired. A frosting piping bag will make this easier. You can also use a plastic storage bag with small corner cut out to use as a tip. You may also use a bees wax reusable wrap in a similar way, though it will be slightly harder to control.

Recipe Notes

*To drain the ricotta, simply place it into a cheese cloth and allow it to hang for ten or twenty minutes.

**According to the sugar skull mold company, the molds can take up to around 125F/52C degrees of heat. If the mixture is too hot, simply cut at it with your spoon to even it out and cool it just a bit.  You don't want it too cool, or the mixture won't bond and it will end up crumbly.  However, too wet and the mixture won't come out of the mold without sticking.  It may take one or two tries until you learn just the right texture.  The upside is that you can eat any batches that don't turn out the way you want!