Riding the Mexican wave: Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos Sugar Skull cookies

At Casa Eats World it’s time a to clean up the cobwebs and dig out our Mexican baubles for Dia de los Muertos, the centuries old Mexican tradition of honouring late loved ones. And by late, I don’t mean they missed the bus. On the Day of the Dead (or days, as it runs over several) people celebrate out of love for the departed though there are those who celebrate from fear as wild folk tales tell harrowing stories of what happens when one neglects the dead. The Eats Worlds? Well, with respect, we’re celebrating out of a love of tacos.

Wee Raffles loves all things Mexican… be it food or wrestling masks, but he has a particular fondness for the colourful sugar skulls that decorate many a Mexican restaurant and the odd arm or leg of tattoo toting friends. So, when he suggested we get our Mexican on this weekend, I was happy to oblige.

Dia de los Muertos and Halloween are both offshoots of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days and given our love of the latter, I figure a little dive into this Mexican tradition will extend our beloved spookfest that little bit longer… and enjoy some top notch nosh while we’re at it. But, there is more to our celebration than quesadillas and ceviche, though they do get a serious look in… after all, this is us.

Despite a proliferation of skeletons and skulls, Day of the Dead festivities aren’t gratuitously dark or gory… unlike the night of the undead that is Halloween.

Instead Dia de Los Muertos melds Native American traditions with Spanish Catholic beliefs in an exuberant and colourful carnival of love. Filled as it is with music and colour and noise – something we’re all quite proficient at making around here – it’s a celebration of those who we’ve lost, but it’s not a sad holiday.

That the lives of the departed are celebrated, instead of their deaths mourned, is what makes Dia de los Muertos such a happy event.

In Mexico death isn’t seen as the end of one’s life but as a natural part of its cycle and it is believed that the souls of one’s family travel home to join in the Day of the Dead festivities. People create altars (ofrendas) in their homes in honour of the deceased. In some areas families visit cemeteries to tidy the graves of their loved ones, which they then decorate with pictures, flowers, candles, food and drinks before holding an all-night graveside vigil where they share happy stories of the dead. Tonight we’ll just pop out a few candles and decorate our makeshift altar with some Mexican tin trinkets.

Mexican tin decorations

Without doubt the quirkiest and coolest feature of the Dia de los Muertos festivities are the proliferation of decorative and quite cheerful skeletons and sugar skulls… and as food and treats are a strong theme, Raffles and I have decided to join the Mexican wave and – to a mariachi soundtrack – are taking to the kitchen to whip up some Mexican inspired incredible edible heads…


Sugar Skull Cookies

Sugar skull cookies


130g butter
130g caster sugar
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 egg
250  grams plain flour
Pinch of ground ginger
Pinch of allspice
Pinch of cinnamon
Icing pens to decorate


  1. In a bowl, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla essence and beat well.
  3. Add the sifted flour and spices and stir through until the dough begins to come together.
  4. Divide dough into two portions.
  5. Flatten individual portions, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
  6. Heat oven to 180 decrees Celsius.
  7. Roll out the dough to 5mm thickness and use a gingerbread man cutter to cut out shapes.
  8. Place on lined baking trays in oven for around 10 minutes or until golden.
  9. Cool completely on racks before decorating with multi-coloured icing pens.

For more Day of the Dead inspired sugar treats, check out or recipe our Dia de Los Muertos Pavlova.

33 Comments on Riding the Mexican wave: Dia de los Muertos

  1. Kate
    November 1, 2013 at 11:16 pm (11 years ago)

    They are spectacular! I could have sworn you bought them in a shop!

      November 1, 2013 at 11:19 pm (11 years ago)

      you know me Kate, I’m too stubborn to do shops 😉

  2. Barbara @ www.allmylivesnow.com
    November 2, 2013 at 11:14 am (10 years ago)

    Great educational post. So many folks don’t understand the concept. Love the photos and the recipes look delicious.
    Visiting from The Wondering Brain My favorite posts.

      November 8, 2013 at 9:16 pm (10 years ago)

      It is a beautiful concept I think and something we plan on introducing every year 🙂

  3. Leanne Winter
    November 2, 2013 at 12:58 pm (10 years ago)

    Hi Aleney, what a wonderful way to enjoy Halloween. I love that sentiment that the lives of the departed should be celebrated rather than their deaths mourned. Thanks for the Ceviche de Raffles recipe – looks seriously yum.x

      November 8, 2013 at 9:18 pm (10 years ago)

      It is a beautiful sentiment and one I think is important to teach our kids. It’s amazing what little gems other cultures offer that we can add to our everyday existence 🙂

      November 8, 2013 at 9:18 pm (10 years ago)

      Thanks, they did get eaten though. Devoured in fact 🙂

  4. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    November 2, 2013 at 5:54 pm (10 years ago)

    What a great job you did on the sugar cookies! And ceviche Raffles style sounds delicious! 😀

      November 8, 2013 at 9:19 pm (10 years ago)

      It’s so good, honed over time by my little mans palate 🙂

  5. Go Camping Australia
    November 2, 2013 at 9:43 pm (10 years ago)

    Those sugar skull cookies are works of art. I couldn’t eat them because they look so amazing. Pretty sure with my skills, they wouldn’t look anywhere as good as the ones in the photos.

      November 8, 2013 at 9:20 pm (10 years ago)

      Thanks but they were very edible. And there was much fun in the making as there was in the eating 🙂

  6. Travelling Macs
    November 2, 2013 at 10:20 pm (10 years ago)

    That fish recipe looks really tasty!

      November 8, 2013 at 9:20 pm (10 years ago)

      It is. And so simple to make.

  7. This Ole mom
    November 3, 2013 at 1:22 am (10 years ago)

    Absolutely beautiful sugar cookies they look pretty just sitting on the counter I wouldn’t want to eat them. I love reading different blogs I learn something new every time I follow a new blogger. Thanks for educating me on some Mexican traditions. I had no idea about Day of the Dead festivities .
    Have a great weekend!

      November 8, 2013 at 9:21 pm (10 years ago)

      It was a whole new experience to us too Kim. Thanks for visiting 🙂

  8. laurasmess
    November 3, 2013 at 7:39 pm (10 years ago)

    Dia de los Muertos has always fascinated me. The decorations, sentiment, food… so unfamiliar for us in Western culture who often just stop talking about death and such things. I love the cookies you made… plus Raffles’ ceviche looks so, so delicious. Your kids definitely have refined tastes, I don’t think I even knew what ceviche was until my early twenties! Gorgeous post xx

      November 8, 2013 at 9:24 pm (10 years ago)

      It is fascinating and I really enjoyed delving into that, and the ceviche, with my boy

  9. Lisa@RandomActsOfZen
    November 3, 2013 at 11:48 pm (10 years ago)

    I absolutely love sugar skulls, and yours look gorgeous!!

  10. The Anonymous Blonde
    November 4, 2013 at 2:28 pm (10 years ago)

    Those cookies look delicious! I am waiting on The Day of the Dead to catch on here in the South. We finally have Cinco de Mayo celebrations now. You can never have too many holidays. And I like the aspect of celebrating and remembering our deceased loved ones.

      November 8, 2013 at 9:24 pm (10 years ago)

      NO such thing as too many holidays. We’ll take them all 🙂

  11. elleroy was here (@modmomelleroy)
    November 5, 2013 at 1:12 am (10 years ago)

    Those cookies are wonderful! We celebrate dia de los muertos. In fact, that’s the theme of our dining room. Skulls and skeletons everywhere. 😉

      November 8, 2013 at 9:22 pm (10 years ago)

      I’m so glad to here you celebrate it. It’s a fabulous concept and we love those skulls. Love to see a pic of your dining room 🙂

        November 8, 2013 at 9:22 pm (10 years ago)

        I’m so glad to hear that you celebrate it. It’s a fabulous concept and we love those skulls. Love to see a pic of your dining room 🙂

  12. Michelle Liew
    November 5, 2013 at 1:56 am (10 years ago)

    Fascinating! I guess that what I am scared about when it comes to death is the fact that there would be a vacuum. Interesting traditiona!

  13. Mrs BC
    October 25, 2014 at 1:39 pm (10 years ago)

    I love Dias de la Muertos, and your sugar skull cookies look fantastic!

  14. pearl jolly/pretty mayhem
    October 26, 2014 at 10:04 am (10 years ago)

    Those cookies almost look too pretty to eat! I also loved hearing about the meaning and traditions behind the Dia de los muertos, I’d really love to experience it one day in Mexico.

  15. House in Tillford
    October 27, 2014 at 10:15 am (10 years ago)

    Those cookies are like little edible pieces of art! When I saw the image on the linkup I suspected it may have to do with day of the dead

  16. bakeplaysmile
    October 28, 2014 at 1:33 pm (10 years ago)

    How amazing do your cookies look! They’re so intricate!!! They look to good to eat (almost!). Makes me want to go to Mexico!

  17. hugzillablog
    November 1, 2014 at 8:23 am (10 years ago)

    I know this is from last year but WOW! I can’t EVEN! Girl, you are incredible. It’s hard to impress me with food. You impress me. LOL.

      November 1, 2014 at 8:48 am (10 years ago)

      Thanks lovely. Food’s gotta be fun as well as tasty. But as much as I loved my sugar skulls, they took an age to decorate and this year I think we’ll stick to Mexican take out. 😉


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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