Celebrate Halloween with a cute Sugar Skull Layer Cake. Moist chocolate cake is frosted with vanilla and chocolate buttercream stripes, colorful rosettes and piped marigolds. A colorful sprinkle mix and marshmallow sugar skulls adorn the top of this Dia de Los Muertos inspired cake.
I received product samples from sponsor companies to aid in the creation of the #HalloweenTreatsWeek recipes. All opinions are mine alone.
I have known about the Mexican Dia de Los Muertos holiday for a while, but never appreciated it’s meaning and beauty until watching Disney’s Coco. The vibrant colors and significance of the day is beautiful, and I tried to capture that lively essence in this Sugar Skull Layer Cake.
Sugar Skull Layer Cake:
I used this chocolate cake recipe from Liv for Cake. She makes the most gorgeous cakes and I have used a few of her recipes before. It is such a rich, moist and flavorful chocolate cake. For this cake, just like the recipe, I used 3 6-inch cake pans. I like making 6-inch cakes because there is just the right amount of cake for my friends and family.
Chocolate cake is a family favorite, and this recipe contains 3/4 cup strong coffee. For those that don’t drink coffee on a regular basis, you will definitely be able to notice it. Coffee enhances the chocolate flavor, and I love adding it to chocolate cakes.
Vanilla and Chocolate Buttercream:
Two different buttercream recipes are in this cake. I made a full batch of my vanilla almond buttercream and a half batch of my chocolate buttercream. Vanilla almond buttercream is the filling between the layers and the crumb coat. Then it is used in both the main frosting portion, and separated and colored for all the rosettes and piped marigolds. I am in no way a buttercream flower expert. I have lots of practice ahead of me to be good, but a couple Youtube videos later, I attempted the marigolds. They are a good start and a flower that I will continue to practice.
The chocolate buttercream is essential because it is easier to dye it black with little gel color, than start with a base of while and use a lot of black food coloring. I used to do that – start with a base of white – and it was way too much gel coloring. Starting with chocolate as a base is great for those darker colors like black and maroon.
Sprinkles and Decorations:
Sweets & Treats is my go-to sprinkle Heaven! They seriously have the cutest sprinkle mixes. I used their Monster Mash sprinkle mix for my Purple Velvet Halloween Layer Cake last year. I created my own sprinkles for this cake from a number of Sweets & Treats sprinkles. I used the Rainbow Brite sprinkle mix and added in black, lime, and purple jimmies for my own Dia de Los Muertos sprinkle mix. Sweets & Treats also has a Sugar Skull sprinkle mix, but it had a bit more white and pink than I wanted.
The marshmallow sugar skulls on top were from Treat Street. I based the buttercream rosette colors off of them. I wanted a bright and vibrant assortment, and the skulls are the perfect cake topper.
Tools, Tips and Tricks for Sugar Skull Layer Cake:
- Here are some of my favorite piping tips, including the 8B, 1M, 18, 2D, 104, and the 59 which I used for the marigolds here
- Acrylic cake disks help make even sides easy. I have both the 6.25 cake disks and 8.25 cake disks for my cakes.
- I use a rotating cake stand when frosting my cakes, along with a decorating comb for both straight and striped sides.
Sugar Skull Layer Cake
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups Dixie Crystals Extra Fine Granulated Sugar
- 3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup strong coffee, hot
Vanilla Almond Buttercream
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup shortening
- pinch salt
- 8 cups Dixie Crystals Confectioners Powdered Sugar
- 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon butter extract
- 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 2 tablespoons milk
- red, blue, lime, orange, purple, egg yellow and gold gel food coloring
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- pinch salt
- 3 1/2 cups Dixie Crystals Confectioners Powdered Sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2-3 tablespoons milk
- black gel food coloring
- Heat oven to 350F. Prepare 3 6-inch cake pans with shortening and dust with cocoa powder. Place parchment rounds in the bottom of each and set aside.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Slowly whisk in hot coffee.
- Add wet mixture into dry and beat low until combined moving up to medium for approximately 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and remix if necessary.
- Divide batter evenly between cake pans and bake for 30 minutes, or until cake tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes then place on wire rack to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for easier leveling.
Vanilla Almond Buttercream
- Place butter and shortening into bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment. Add salt. Whip for 3-5 minutes until light and airy. Scrape down sides of bowl.
- Add 3 cups powdered sugar and mix on low to combine. Add in vanilla, butter and almond extracts then combine.
- Add 3 cups powdered sugar and mix on low to combine. Scrape down sides as necessary.
- Add in remaining 2 cups powdered sugar. While on low, add in milk and mix to combine. Beat on medium-high for 5 minutes to whip. Scrape sides of bowl and re-whip if needed.
- Remove and tint 1/2 cup frosting each for red, orange, lime, blue and purple. Place in piping bags with various tips: 1M, 8B, 18, 2D, 32, etc. Remove approximately 1 cup and tint gold, then one drop egg yellow for marigold color. Place in piping bag with 59 piping tip.
- Place butter into bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment. Add salt. Whip for 2-3 minutes until light and airy. Scrape down sides of bowl.
- Add powdered sugar, cocoa, and vanilla, and mix on low to combine.
- While on low, add in milk and mix to combine. Beat on medium-high for 5 minutes to whip. Scrape sides of bowl and re-whip if needed.
- Add in approximately 1-2 teaspoons black gel coloring, until desired dark gray. Color will deepen as it sets. Mix to combine, scrape down sides of bowl and mix again to combine.
- Place half into piping bag with 8B piping tip. Place some into tipless piping bag for stripes. Place remaining into small bag with 18 piping tip for decoration.
Cake Assembly and Decoration
- Level cakes. Place a small amount of frosting on cake board to secure cake. Place bottom layer on cake board. Add frosting to cake and level with offset spatula (approx 1/4 – 1/3 cup). Repeat with second layer.
- Place last layer on top upside-down and apply a crumb coat* over cake. Place in freezer for 15-20 minutes.
- Using acrylic cake disk, frost sides smooth with cake scraper/comb. Use striped cake comb to prepare frosting for black buttercream. Place in freezer for 10 minutes to chill.
- Pipe black buttercream into stripes and smooth with cake scraper. Pipe border and rosettes on side. Place sprinkle mix along bottom of cake and sprinkles along the top. Insert marshmallow sugar skulls and freeze while preparing marigolds.
- Pipe marigolds on parchment squares and freeze until able to handle. Pipe a small amount of frosting on the back of marigolds and attach onto cake. Pipe additional rosettes and icing where needed.
- Serve or refrigerate then bring to room temperature before serving.
Check out the amazing #HalloweenTreatsWeek recipes from our bloggers today!
- Chocolate Candy Witch Cauldrons from Big Bear’s Wife
- Candy Corn Fudge from Fake Ginger
- Candy Corn Layer Cake from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Candy Corn Cookie Bars from 4 Sons R Us
- Halloween Potato Eyes from Pastry Chef Online
- Monster Munch Chex Party Mix from I am a Honey Bee
- Gluten Free Chocolate Monster Cookies from Frugal & Fit
- Caramel Sprinkle Baked Donuts from Cookaholic Wife
- Ghostly Popcorn Balls from Our Good Life
- Hocus Pocus Spell Book Brownies from Cheese Curd In Paradise
- Mummy Cake Pops from Jen Around the World
- Zombie Chocolate Donuts from Kelly Lynn’s Sweets and Treats
- Black Cauldron Bubbly Cupcakes from Daily Dish Recipes
- Boolicious Caramel Chocolate Covered Fruit from Everyday Eileen
- Jack-o-Lantern Candy Bark from Sweet Beginnings
- Caramel Apple Blossoms from For the Love of Food
- Monster Marshmallows from Shockingly Delicious
- Halloween Muddy Buddies from Back To My Southern Roots
- Mummy Crinkle Cookies from Creative Southern Home
- Sally’s Sugar Cookies from The Spiffy Cookie
- Eyeball Thumbprint Cookies from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
- Eye of Newt Halloween Wands from Who Needs A Cape?
- Halloween Brownie Pudding Parfait from Desserts Required
- Halloween No Bake Cheesecake from Lemon Blossoms
- Halloween Dipped Ice Cream Cones from West Via Midwest
- Pumpkin Soup with Savory Spices and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds from Nancie’s Table
- Halloween Stuffed Chocolate Whoopie Pies from Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Death by Chocolate Dessert Ball from Strawberry Blondie Kitchen
- Jack o Lantern Bundt Cake from The Redhead Baker
- Frankenstein Cupcake Cake from Jonesin’ For Taste
- Chocolate Truffle Pumpkin Spider Cake from Sweet ReciPEAs
- Spooky Sprinkled Brownies from The Beard and The Baker
- Halloween Candy Charcuterie Board from Pint Sized Baker
- Halloween Monster Buttermilk Pancakes from Katie’s Cucina
- Sugar Skull Layer Cake from Love and Confections
- Mummy Meringue Pops from My Sweet Zepol
- Halloween Hidden Bat Loaf Cat from Savory Moments
- Vegan Halloween Cookies & Cream Fault Line Cake from The Baking Fairy
- Halloween Corn Chip Dessert Bars from Intelligent Domestications
- Oogie Boogie Meringue Cupcakes from A Blender Mom
- Smores Ghost Brownies from Books n’ Cooks
Happy Halloween! It’s October which means it’s time for Spooky Season and this year’s #HalloweenTreatsWeek event! #HalloweenTreatsWeek is hosted by Angie from Big Bear’s Wife & its a creepy and haunting week-long event is filled with some amazingly wicked Halloween treats, recipes and some frightfully fun giveaways.
“When witches go riding, and black cats are seen, the moon laughs and whispers ‘tis near Halloween.”
For the 2nd annual #HalloweenTreatsWeek event we have 41 fantastically talented bloggers that are sharing their favorite Halloween recipes throughout the week! There are going to be over 160 Halloween themed recipes shared during this year’s #HalloweenTreatsWeek and we can’t wait for you to see them all! Follow the hashtag #HalloweenTreatsWeek on social media and look at the bottom of each post to see all of the Halloween recipes that we’re sharing!
Plus, don’t forget that we have 6 (six) great giveaways for you this week thanks to our amazing sponsors!
Scroll down to take a look!
Prize #1 — Dixie Crystals is giving away a “Dinner and Dessert Set” – ONE 6-Quart Cook & Carry Programmable Slow Cooker, a Pyrex mixing bowl set plus some fun Dixie Crystals items like a Dixie Crystal Apron and Cookbook!
Prize #2 — Adam’s Extract is giving away – 1 Gift Pack – including 4oz Adams Best, 1.5 oz Peppermint, 1.5oz Almond, 1 bottle vanilla cinnamon sugar, 1 bottle pumpkin pie spice
Prize #3 —Wilton is giving away a Texturra 7-Piece Bakeware Set
Prize #4 — Sweets and Treats Shop is giving away a large baking box of goodies! Sweets and Treats will send one lucky winner a large assortment of sprinkles and lines and other samples of their products!
Prize #5 — Treat Street USA is giving away a set of Holiday Treat Decorations (1 Gummy Assortment, 1 Marshmallow Snowman, 1 Toy Solider and 1 Gingerbread Men)
Prize # 6– Litehouseis giving away the following: 1 Litehouse® Honeycrisp Apple Cider, 1 Litehouse® Old Fashioned Caramel, 1 Litehouse® Pumpkin Spice Caramel, 1 Litehouse® Butterscotch Caramel & 1 Litehouse® Chocolate Dip, Snack Packs
Giveaway open to US Residents 18 years or older. All entries will be verified. No PO Boxes Please. Prizes will be sent directly from sponsors to winners, bloggers are not responsible for prizes. This giveaway runs from October 7th – October 13th at 11:59PM EST. Winners will be selected soon afterward and contacted by e-mail. Winners will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. There are a total of 6 (six) prizes and therefore we will have a total of 6 (six) winners. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law.
These posts and recipes are part of the week-long event, #HalloweenTreatsWeek but all opinions are 100% mine! We would like to Thank our amazing sponsors: Dixie Crystals, Adam’s Extract, Wilton, Sweets and Treats Shop, Treat Street USA and Litehouse! These wonderful sponsors provided the prize packs for our giveaways and also sent samples and products to the #HalloweenTreatsWeek bloggers to use in their recipes.
Simply stunning cake!!!
Thanks Katie. Can’t wait to show you how to make this one!
Your cake is amazing! I love the colors and it would be so perfect for a Halloween party!
The colors are my favorite part!
Amy (Savory Moments) says
The colors on the cake are so vibrant and amazing! The stripes on the sides are so perfect, too!
Thank you! I can’t wait to practice more striped cakes
Dorothy Reinhold says
The skulls! Those colors!! This cake is gorgeous!
Thanks Dorothy! I love the bright colors and contrasting black and white
Why are your cakes for perfect!!!! hahaha it’s amazing and I love it so much!
LOL. There are definitely flaws, but I love the practice – and my family and friends love to eat them! 😉
Karyn M Granrud says
LOVE IT!!! One of these day I’m going to try making a striped cake… they scare me… I think the cake looks great and I love the bright pops of color with the black and white background.
Thanks Karyn. This was actually my first striped cake. I can’t wait to do my next one!
Betsy Cohen says
Terri, you outdid yourself with this one. GORGEOUS!
Terri Steffes says
You win the internet with this GORGEOUS cake. I absolutely think this is the best Halloween treat I have laid eyes on.
Aww thanks so much Terri. I had fun coming up with the design
I love using 6 inch cake pans too! Your cake is fabulous and so colorful!! Total WOW!
Thanks so much Karen. 6-inch cakes are the perfect size!
This cake is just gorgeous! Love how you incorporated those skulls!
Thanks Samantha! I love how colorful it turned out
Cheese Curd In Paradise says
The frosting colors are perfect with the skulls! I am just loving this!
Thank you so much! I am totally in love with this cake and can’t wait for Halloween to create another fun one.
Totally in awe of your piping skills! This cake ROCKS!
Thank you so much! I love making fun cakes and practicing new techniques.