day of the dead cookies
In high school, I was fluent in Spanish. I had taken Spanish classes since the seventh grade and by the time I was 17, I could write full essays in the language. I even dreamt in Spanish a few times.
And then, time passed. And I forgot most of it. These days, I can barely understand a quarter of what they’re saying on Telemundo (which I don’t actually watch, for the record, but sometimes stumble upon in random bouts of channel surfing, JUST FYI).
What I do remember, however, was everything there is to know about Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Why that, of all things? Because of the sugar skulls, obviously.
Dia de los Muertos is a big holiday in Mexico, celebrated on November 1 and 2 every year to pray for and remember loved ones who have passed away and to support their passage through the spirit world. People will build huge altars with food, drinks, flowers, pictures and decorations like those sugar skulls I mentioned, elaborately decorated in bright colors and intricate designs. It’s actually really stunning to see these altars in person — I remember seeing a full replica of one on a Spanish museum field trip in Chicago in high school.
On that same museum trip, I came home with a sugar skull (as a… souvenir?). I remember how pretty it was, how the designs were so beautiful and colorful and delicate. And how sad it was that it was made of sugar and yet was completely inedible.
While I do love me some pan de muerto (this lady has some great recipes for it!), I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make sugar skulls in cookie form when I came across the idea in my Martha mag. Thin, chewy chocolate cinnamon cookies topped with royal icing and candies decorated to look like sugar skulls, but you can actually eat them? LET’S DO THIS, I said to myself.
One batch of cookies, a bowl of icing and a boatload of candy and sprinkles later, here we are.
I obviously love the look of these colorful, playful cookies — they are just begging to use any of that lingering Halloween candy (I’m looking at you, giant impulse-buy bag of candy corn) or to serve as an excuse to buy more Halloween candy (I’m looking at you, mixed bag of M&Ms and Reese’s peanut butter cups). But the chocolate cinnamon roll-out cookie base is the real winner here in the taste department. I love how soft and chewy they are, and their flavor reminds me a little bit of Mexican hot cocoa. And here is where I let you in on the secret that I actually made a double batch of the cookies and froze half of them, unfrosted, to save for Christmas. Or for next week, when I run out of this frosted batch and really need more chocolate cinnamon cookies in my life (hey, it happens).
So the moral of this story? You can forget all the Spanish you ever learned, but you should never forget about those sugar skulls. You never know when that memory might come in handy to make some pretty cute and delicious cookies.Print
Day of the Dead Cookies
- Prep Time: 1 hour 15 mins
- Cook Time: 8 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour 23 mins
- Yield: Yield varies
For the chocolate cinnamon cookies:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling dough
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup ground cinnamon
- Pinch salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
For the icing:
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk
- Skittles candies, sprinkles (jimmies and nonpareils), candy corn, M&Ms candies, cinnamon hearts, candy-coated sunflower seeds, licorice, etc.
- In medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt until well combined.
- In large bowl, beat butter and powdered sugar on medium speed 1 minute until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture until just combined.
- Shape dough into disc, then wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Use oval, egg or skull-shaped cookie cutter to cut dough into shapes. Space cookies 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
- Bake cookies 8 to 10 minutes until crisp and set. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.
- To make icing: In small bowl, stir powdered sugar and milk until well combined. Transfer to quart-size resealable plastic bag. Snip off one end.
- Outline cookie edges with icing, leaving small border. Fill in center with more icing, using toothpick to spread out icing.
- Decorate cookies with assorted candies, sprinkles, etc.
Keywords: Halloween, Dia de los Muertos
I’m the same-I was so good at Spanish and I’ve forgotten so much of it 🙁 but at least your brain has its priorities straight! Remember the party and remember the food! These cookies are so cute and pretttyyyyyy
This just makes me smile so much, it looks so fun!!! And haha I remember taking Spanish in high school… I even think I was the president of Spanish club for a year but the only thing I managed to organize then was a quesadilla party after school. These would have been way more delicious!
Some of my favorite school memories are from Spanish class. It’s so sad that I can no longer speak it either. I remember more of the three years of ASL I took than my five years of Spanish. LOVE these cookies!! So much fun! Great activity for kids and for those of us who are still kids at heart. 😉
These are adorable — I just stumbled and now I’m off to pin and share — I love how easy they look — they just make me smile 🙂
These are so cute! What a great idea.
I took 8 years of French, and when I went to France this spring I couldn’t even BEGIN to follow a conversation. It made me so sad. Wouldn’t it be great if languages were like riding a bike?
Kayle — Ha, I will always remember the food. 😉 Thanks so much!
Erica — Quesadilla party?? That sounds pretty awesome to me. 🙂
Lauren — All I kept thinking when I was making these cookies was how much I felt like a kid in art class. 😉 So fun, though! Thanks, darlin’!
Sue — Thank you so much!! They make me smile, too. 🙂
Katie — They say it comes back to you really quickly if you spend a lot of time in the country where they speak the language… so maybe you should go to France for, like, a month, and take me with you. 😉
I really think that’s the only option at this point 🙂
Hahaha! Oh man. My mom still likes to bring up the fact that I took five years of spanish and cannot remember a lick of it now. Dia de los Muertos though! We had our own in spanish class and brought in treats and made little alters every year. Very fun and memorable. These cookies, wow! You are a perfectionist. I cannot imagine how long it took you to put those little sprinkles on one by one.
These look awesome!!
Those are awesome! Perfect for Halloween, great recipe 🙂 Pinned!
These are adorable. I bet my niece and nephew would have a ball helping to decorate them. Cultural education should be fun!
So cute Stephanie!!!
Such a great idea! These cookies are so cute! My spanish class would love them.
What a fun idea!
This is really cute!!
Nice blog, nice everything.
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