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Spiced Mexican Chocolate Cake Sugar Skulls

Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack | August 19, 2022

Celebrate Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos, with fun and flavorful mini chocolate skull cakes. The rich, moist texture of the cakes is nicely complemented by undertones of vanilla, chili powder, coffee, and cinnamon. The best part? The decorating. Learn how to create beautiful sugar skulls by following Yvette’s sugar skull decorating tips.

Prep Time
15 minutes
Cook Time
30-35 minutes
Cook it With Our
Mexican Chocolate Cake Sugar Skull Recipe


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 ½ cups butter, softened 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup freshly brewed hot coffee


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Prepare Skull Cake Pan with baking spray, or brush with butter and dust with cocoa to give the skulls a fun look. 
  3. Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, instant coffee, and salt together. 
  4. In a separate bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugars together until creamy and lightened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Then, add vanilla extract. 
  5. Put the mixer on low speed, then in 4 additions, alternate between adding buttermilk and the dry ingredients. Mix until smooth. Add hot coffee slowly until well combined. 
  6. Fill each well of the Skull Cake Pan no more than ¾ full—about ½ cup of batter each. Gently tap the pan on top of the counter to evenly distribute batter and eliminate air bubbles. 
  7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan 15 to 20 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack. Repeat with remaining batter. 
  8. Serve with roasted berries, dust with powdered sugar, or garnish as desired with royal icing, writing gel, little candies, or sprinkles. For more decorating tips, check out our guide. 
 Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack
 Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack
Contributed By: Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack

Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack is a native Texan, on-camera host, home chef, award-winning food blogger, and author of Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor. She shares cherished family Mexican recipes and heartwarming family stories on her food blog, Muy Bueno

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