Sugar Skull Cakes

Sugar skull chocolate mini cakes - October 01, 2017 by Luna

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Sugar Skulls

These cakes are easy and fun. I used a King Arthur Flour mix and more importantly a technique I picked up from their excellent bakers to give the cakes a delicate texture. The white icing is a very basic glaze recipe and I painted the cakes with pure food coloring and a paintbrush.

image of decorated sugar skull cakes
decorated sugar skull cakes

A Note on Technique

This recipe like many KAF gluten free cake recipes uses a technique you have probably seen in a classic chocolate chip cookie recipe or baking cakes from scratch: cream the sugar and butter together before adding the flour(s). They actually have a flour-neutral blog post all about the technique of creaming butter and sugar to incorporate tiny air bubbles into your pastry, giving it a light and airy texture. Adding the flour/cocoa mixture alternately with the water at the end allows you to maintain this texture as you incorporate the final ingredients. This produces a light cake with a fine crumb, a really great texture.

image of cake ingredients

King Arthur Flour Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

KAF Recipe

  • 1 cup King Arthur Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Mix
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Grease and flour the cupcake pan using a gluten free flour of your choice or a bit of the KAF Baking Mix.

Whisk together the baking mix and cocoa.

Beat the sugar, butter, vegetable oil, and vanilla together until well blended and lighter in color.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until just incorporated after each addition. Stir in the baking mix alternately with the water.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean and the middle springs back when pressed lightly, 20 to 25 minutes for skull cupcakes.

Remove the cake from the oven, and set it on a rack. Allow it to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before removing it from pan.

Cool completely before icing.

image of uncooked cake batter
into the oven

image of cooked cakes
out of the oven

image of cooked cake
out of the pan

Basic White Glaze

  • 1/4 cup butter (half a stick), melted
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons warm milk

Set your cakes on a cooling rack over a large plate or baking sheet to catch the runoff icing.

Mix the powdered sugar and melted butter together. Add the milk slowly to achieve the right consistency. The milk should not be hot, but room temperature or slightly warmer to avoid re-solidifying the butter. Test the glaze by dripping a bit on a plate; it should flatten out into an appropriate thickness. Pour by spoonful over cooled cakes--if they are still warm the glaze will run off too quickly.

Allow the glaze to cool and harden completely.

image of freshly glazed cakes
pouring the glaze

image of painted cakes
painted cakes


Pour a couple of drops of pure food coloring of the desired colors onto a non-staining surface (Pyrex works well). With a new artists paintbrush (one never used for non-food-safe pigment) paint desired patterns onto the glaze.

image of decorated sugar skull cake
decorated sugar skull cakes

image of decorated sugar skull cake
decorated sugar skull cakes

image of decorated sugar skull cake
decorated sugar skull cakes

image of decorated sugar skull cake
decorated sugar skull cakes