Posted on

Alfeñique sugar art in Mexico

Alfeñique is a type of sweet confection molded into a shape. It is made of cane sugar and other ingredients.

In Pre-Hispanic Mexico, indigenous cultures elaborated figures of amaranth and wild honey or syrup extracted from corn, fruit, the heart of the maguey plant.

Due to colonization, these ingredients had to be replaced with cane sugar, the cane sugar integrated in the elaboration of confections. The technique of making sculptures from sugar cane was also introduced.

In colonial Mexico, sugar art sculptures also became part of Day of the Dead celebrations.

In colonial Mexico, sugar art sculptures also became part of Day of the Dead celebrations.


The creation of sugar art consists of elaborating caramelized sugar confections.

Some families in Mexico have created alfeñique art for generations, and some molds used go far back in time in Mexico.

Liquid sugar is poured into a mold, traditionally a clay mold. In Mexico, some molds have been passed down from generation to generation. These sculptures are then decorated with colored icing, metallic paper, feathers, beads, glitter, fabric, and a wide variety of other materials.

The sugar art of alfeñique consists of a sugar paste that is shaped like clay. Artisans tint the sugar art using different colors. They create detailed works of art from alfeñique.

The paste is used to create all kinds of figures, including various animals, like chickens, pigs, horses, etc.

Animals are popular.

Artisans also create skulls and coffins.

Currently, the key producing cities in Mexico of alfeñique figurines are Toluca, San Miguel de Allende, and Guanajuato.

Alfeñique Fairs

In Mexico, there are regional fairs that celebrate alfeñique art form. These include such cities as Leon, Puebla, and Toluca.

In Mexico, there are regional fairs that celebrate alfeñique art form.

The different regions make alfeñique figurines based on local tradition and ingredients.

While sugar art is sold as candy, most people usually do not consume the confections.

Day of the Dead sugar art

Alfeñique sugar art sculptures are important during Day of the Dead celebrations. Alfeñique sugar art takes the form of colorfully decorated skulls (calaveras de azúcar), skeletons, coffins, and crosses.

Since Day of the Dead celebrations are considered joyous, bright colors and smiling skulls are featured sugar art. Children play with the sugar art skeletons and coffins as if toys. Just as they are enjoyed by children attending the festivities it is presumed also by the spirits of the dead.

Skulls are an important symbol in Mexican culture and art, and it is common to find sugar art skulls.  They often represent respect, and humorously, their beloved ancestors. Alfeñique sugar art skulls can also bear the name of a deceased loved one.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is al-calavera-small-1-224x300.jpg

Alfeñique sugar art is also commonly used in Day of the Dead ofrendas (altar offerings) and placed on graves.

For Day of the Dead traditions, small alfeñique sugar skulls are set out on November 1st to welcome the spirits of departed children. Larger alfeñique sugar skulls welcome adult spirits the following day.

If kept dry, sugar art is durable, and can be kept year round.

Author: AllGoodsOnline