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Soap dough (vegan, palm-free)

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 800 g soap

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There’s nothing special about soap dough, you can use any soap as soap dough. There is no secret ingredient or special technique. The trick is to NOT cure the soap, so that it stays soft. In other words, the soap doesn’t dry out and harden. However, not all soap recipes are the same, and a good soap dough is one that is soft, smooth, pliable, and not sticky. Sorcery soap has a book with 20 awesome soap dough recipes, including tallow recipes, vegan recipes, palm free recipes, and lots more. The recipe I’m giving you here is one that I use in my soap making classes, and I’ve tweaked it a little bit to make it even better.  It is vegan, and palm-free like all my recipes here!

In addition, I’ll show you a handy method to make several colours at once, without the hassle of lots of washing up to do! I’m lazy and hate washing up 😉

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For this batch, I’m using the new mica colours from Pure Nature.


If you have never made cold-process soap before, I strongly suggest you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first.

Before starting, please read the safety and precautions post, especially since this tutorial requires the handling of caustic soda!

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ONE: To prepare the lye, first measure out the water in a heat proof container or jug. Then, in a separate container (I use a little plastic cup for this), weigh out the caustic soda. Make sure you are wearing protective goggles and gloves, then, carefully, add the caustic soda to the water (NEVER THE OTHER WAY ROUND!), and avoiding any splashes, stir until the lye water is clear. Set aside to cool.

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TWO: In a separate large Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil and cocoa butter. Either heat in the microwave (if using a Pyrex jug) or on the stove (if using a pot), until the oil and butter have completely melted.

You’ll notice the recipe contains a high percentage of coconut oil and cocoa butter. This allows the soap to thicken to the right dough consistency, without having to cure it. I found that if I used too many liquid oils, the soap would be too soft to work with.

THREE: Weigh out the olive oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil and cocoa butter. Add the titanium dioxide and give the oils a good stir to disperse the titanium dioxide through the oils. Then, let the oils cool down to room temperature. This part is important. The oils need to be lower than 30 C or else you risk the soap gelling, and you want to avoid that.

The reason for adding the titanium dioxide is to make the base colour whiter, which will make the other colours brighter and more intense.

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FOUR: Now you have two options, you can either use cups or containers to mix your colours in, or what I like to do, is add the soap and the colours to zip lock bags and mix it in there. In either case, prepare your cups or your ziplock bags and have your mica colours ready (I’m adding them straight to the soap without mixing them with oil first). The recipe will make for 8 colours of about 100 g each, so you need 8 cups or 8 sandwich sized ziplock bags.

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FIVE: Make sure you are still wearing your goggles and gloves. Once the lye and the oils have cooled down to room temperature, carefully add the lye to the oils and then using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified (does not separate) and thickened to thin trace.

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SIX: Now add about 100 g of soap to each cup or ziplock bag. Don’t worry, the ziplock bags will stay put. It’s not as difficult to pour into them as it may seem. Also if you are planning on doubling the batch, make sure you use bigger ziplock bags. If you fill them too full, you risk them popping leaks when you squish them later.

SEVEN: Next add the colour to each cup or ziplock bag, and zip them up. I used 1/2 teaspoon of mica for each. It sounds a lot, but you’ll need that amount to make sure you have rich colours and not pastels. It isn’t enough colour to stain your wash cloth or hands, but could give the lather a slight tinge. However, soap dough is usually used to decorate other soaps, so the little bits of soap dough on your soap won’t have an impact on the overall soap.

Then using your hands, and sitting comfortably in front of your TV with your favourite sitcom, squish and squash the little bags to mix the colour into the soap. I did some yesterday, while waiting for my son at his trampolining course. And that did get me some curious looks and questions from the other parents! Btw great way to promote your business at the same time too!

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If you are using cups, mix the colour thoroughly into the soap and then either use plastic wrap to cover each cup airtight, or pour it into a ziplock bag. (See now you have to use ziplock bags anyway!)

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EIGHT: Leave the little bags or cups in a cool area overnight. Check the consistency the next day. It should be ready to use but will probably still be a little sticky. You can use cornflour to dust the dough to stop it sticking as you work with it, or you can leave it for about a week in your ziplock bag or an airtight container. By then the stickiness should be gone.

To work with your dough, remove as much as you need. Knead it to soften it up. Dust the tools and the surface you’re working on with cornflour to prevent the dough sticking to it. A trick I learned from a cake decorator is to add a little cornflour in a muslin bag or cloth and tie it up, and use that as a little dust stamp. To stick dough bits together, use a little water to wet the surface and that will make it stick again.

Once you’ve finished your masterpiece, you might want to spritz it with water or lightly brush it with a wetted soft paint brush, to give it shine and get rid of the powdery look.

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You can store the soap dough in your ziplock bags or an airtight container for several months or more. I’m still using some dough from last Christmas, which was more than eight months ago!

Once you added the soap dough decorations to your soap, the soap will start to harden and firm quickly.

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Soap dough

  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print
Before starting, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, free from any distractions!

Ingredients

  • 240 g olive oil
  • 200 g coconut oil
  • 120 g cocoa butter
  • 40 g castor oil
  • 80 g caustic soda
  • 180 g water
  • 1/2 t titanium dioxide
  • 8 different mica colours

Directions

  1. Add 180 g of water to a heat proof jug or container. Weigh out the caustic soda and carefully add it to the water, avoiding any splashes. Gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved and the lye water is clear.
  2. In a large heat proof Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil and cocoa butter. Heat in microwave (if Pyrex jug) or stove (if pot) until all the oil and butter have melted.
  3. Add the olive oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil and cocoa butter.
  4. Add 1/2 teaspoon titanium dioxide to the oils and give it a good stir. Set aside to cool down.
  5. In the meantime, prepare your ziplock bags. You will need 8 and make sure they’re all open.
  6. Once the lye and the oils have cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are still wearing protective goggles and gloves, carefully add the lye to the oils.
  7. Using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified to a thin trace.
  8. Pour approximately 100 g of soap into each bag.
  9. Add 1/2 teaspoon of mica to each bag and zip the bag shut, removing as much of the air as possible.
  10. With your hands, gently squish and squash the bags until the colour is thoroughly mixed into the soap.
  11. Set the bags of soap in a cool area overnight to set. They can be used immediately, though it’s better to leave them for a week before using.
  12. Keep the dough stored in the ziplock bags or an airtight container to keep the soap soft and pliable. You can store the dough for at least several months.

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Soap cupcakes

Difficulty: Advanced
Time: 1 1/2 hrs
Yields: 6 cupcakes

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Soap cupcakes are probably my favourite kind of soaps to make. I love playing around with soap, and cupcakes has a lot of playing and creativity involved. There’s the icing to pipe in all kinds of different ways and colours. You can play around with the fragrances and designs of the cupcakes, including choosing a fun cupcake carton. But most of all, I love decorating the cupcakes. You can add glitter, little parasols or flags, or make your own decorations using soap dough.

Don’t be put off by the ‘advanced’ level, and even if you think your piping skills aren’t up to scratch (you should have seen my first attempts!), with a little glitter on top, I bet they’ll look fantastic!

If you have never made cold-process soap before, I strongly suggest you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first.

Before starting, please read the safety and precautions post, especially since this tutorial requires the handling of caustic soda!

Preparation: Before starting, make sure you have all your equipment and material laid out and ready to use. Prepare your piping bag, putting in the tip or nozzle. And prepare your soap colourant according to the supplier’s instructions. Lay out the cupcakes cartons, setting out a couple extra in case you have surplus soap.

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ONE: To prepare the lye, first measure out the water in a heat proof Pyrex jug. Then, in a separate container (I use a little plastic cup for this), weigh out the caustic soda. Make sure you are wearing protective goggles and gloves. Carefully, add the caustic soda to the water (NEVER THE OTHER WAY ROUND!), and avoiding any splashes, stir until the lye water is clear. Set aside to cool.

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TWO: In a separate large Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil and cocoa butter. Either heat in the microwave (if using a Pyrex jug) or on the stove (if using a pot), until the oil and butter has completely melted.

The recipe uses a large percentage of hard oils and butters, to ensure that the soap will thicken enough to be able to pipe it as icing on top of the cupcakes. Because of the proportion of hard oils, you will also need to work fast, because the soap mixture will reach trace quicker than the usual recipes containing less hard oils.

THREE: Weigh out and add the olive oil, sunflower oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil and cocoa butter, and give it a quick stir.

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FOUR: Make sure you are still wearing your goggles and gloves. When the lye has cooled down to room temperature, carefully add it to the oils and then using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified (does not separate).

FIVE: Add your fragrance or essential oil and give it another quick stir. Make sure the fragrance or essential oil that you are using do not accelerate the soaping process. You don’t want the soap to thicken and solidify in your piping bag! It’s happened to me a few times!

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SIX: Pour about half of the soap into a separate container or bowl. One will be the uncoloured icing on top, and the other will form the coloured bottom part of the cupcakes.

SEVEN: To one pot add your soap colourant, and mix, using a whisk or stick blender, until you have reached a thin-medium trace. If you leave it too thin, the soap won’t support the icing. If it is too thick, you won’t be able too pour it.

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EIGHT: Pour the coloured soap into the cupcake cartons, filling it to about 1/2 to 1 cm from the rim. Depending on the size of the cupcake cartons, you might have a bit more or less than 6 cupcakes.

NINE: Using your stick blender, mix the remaining uncoloured soap until it has thickened enough that you can pipe it. Scoop the soap into your piping bag, and then pipe the top of the cupcakes into nice swirls.

If you would like a white icing, you can add a 1/2 teaspoon of titanium dioxide mixed with a little oil to the soap before stick blending it to thick trace. You can find more hints on soap icing and how to pipe soap here.

TEN: You can sprinkle some glitter or add other decorations to your cupcakes, or leave them just as they are. I’m using silver Bio-glitter from Pure Nature. And the little pink soap balls I made with soap dough. You can find the tutorial for soap dough here.

Leave the soap cupcakes to cure for at least 6-8 weeks before using. Because they are cold process soap, you can leave them unwrapped.

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Soap cupcakes

  • Difficulty: advanced
  • Print
Before starting, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, free from any distractions!

Ingredients

  • 200 g olive oil
  • 260 g coconut oil
  • 200 g sunflower oil
  • 100 g cocoa butter
  • 50g castor oil
  • 114g caustic soda (NaOH)
  • 230 ml water
  • 30 ml fragrance or essential oil
  • soap pigment or dye
  • optional: glitter and decorations
  • piping bag and tip
  • 6 cupcake cartons

Directions

Preparation: Set out all the equipment you need, including the piping bag and tip. Prepare the soap pigment or dye according to the supplier’s instructions.

  1. Measure out 230 ml of water into a heat proof Pyrex jug. Weigh out the caustic soda and carefully add it to the water, avoiding any splashes. Gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved and the lye water is clear. Set the lye aside to cool down.
  2. In a large heat proof Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil and cocoa butter. Heat in microwave (if Pyrex jug) or stove (if pot) until all the oil and butter has melted.
  3. Add the liquid oils to the melted coconut oil and cocoa butter, and give it all a quick stir.
  4. Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are still wearing protective goggles and gloves, carefully add the lye to the oils.
  5. Using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified.
  6. Add the fragrance and give it another quick pulse to mix in the fragrance. Avoid the soap mixture getting too thick at this point.
  7. Pour half of the soap into a separate bowl or container.
  8. To the remaining soap in the pot, add your colourant and whisk or stick blend to medium trace.
  9. Pour the coloured soap into your cupcake cartons, filling it to about 1/2 to 1 cm from the rim.
  10. Using your stick blender, mix the uncoloured soap until it is thick enough to pipe.
  11. Scoop the soap into the piping bag (make sure the tip is already inserted in the bag) and then pipe it in swirls on top of the cupcakes.
  12. Optional: sprinkle with glitter or add other decorations
  13. Leave the cupcakes to cure for about 6-8 weeks before using.

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Soap dough

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 500 g of soap

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I often get asked about a special soap recipe, because most soap makers don’t realise that any soap will work! Soap dough is actually a normal soap recipe that has gone through the saponification process but hasn’t been allowed to dry out (cure). It’s not a special formulation and doesn’t contain any special ingredients. Really, any soap can be used, and I often use my left over soap from other projects, either cut offs or the leftover in my soap pot, and will it turn into little soap beads or other soap decorations for my cupcakes. The trick is, as mentioned before, to not let the soap dry out. As long as you store it in an airtight plastic bag or container, the soap dough will keep for at least a month or longer.

You don’t have to use a special soap dough recipe, any left over soap that is still soft enough can be used!

However, there are times when you do need a bit more soap dough for larger projects, or if you want to prepare a batch ahead, so I have added a special soap dough recipe at the end of this blog post, which will give you a nice white soap base, like the one in the picture below. You can make the soap as usual using the cold process method, letting it set in the mold overnight, before unmolding and storing it in a plastic bag. The soap should be soft and pliable. If it is too wet and sticky just let it dry out a little longer. You can either use the soap as it is, or add micas, soap colourants, or natural colourants to colour the dough.

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The consistency of the soap should be like play dough – easy to knead and mold. If the soap is a little too sticky, you can mix in a little corn starch. Take as much soap as you need for the project, and leave the rest in the bag, as not to dry out. Knead your soap before using. The warmth of your hands and the friction will help soften the soap and make it easier to work with. I do recommend wearing gloves, especially if the soap is less than 2 weeks old, although I have to admit I’m don’t always wear gloves when playing with my soap dough.

If you are very creative, you can shape your dough into any little creature or object. It’s just like working with play dough. There are some very creative people out there, have a look on YouTube and search for polymer clay or fondant miniature tutorials. To paint the shapes, mix a little mica with alcohol and using a small paint brush, just paint on the mica (for example eyes, shading, etc).

Here are some simple tutorials to check out and get you started:

You can also use little silicon molds, such as berries or shells. Just press the soap into the mold and then carefully unmold. You can use the shapes straight away, but if you are planning on storing them, let them cure for a few weeks to harden before placing them into a container.

My favourite use for the soap dough is making little mica coloured soap pearls, which are so easy to make and great for embellishing your soap creations. Just roll your soaps into little balls with your hands, and place them in a little cup or container. Add a little mica, depending on how many beads you are making, about 1/4 teaspoon should be more than enough, and then swirl the beads around in the mica. When you take out the beads, give them a little shake to remove the excess mica, and store them in an open container to harden them and finish curing.

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Here’s my favourite dough recipe, although as I mentioned before, you can just as easily use any left over soap from another project.

To make the dough base as white as the little shells in the picture above, I added titanium dioxide, which you can get from Pure Nature.

Soap dough recipe

  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print
Before starting, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, free from any distractions!

Ingredients

  • 140 g olive oil
  • 100 g coconut oil
  • 100 g sunflower oil
  • 100 g cocoa butter
  • 10 g castor oil
  • 60 g caustic soda
  • 140 ml water
  • 1 teaspoon titanium dioxide

Directions

  1. Measure out the water into a heat proof Pyrex jug. Weigh out the caustic soda and carefully add it to the water, avoiding any splashes. Gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved and the lye water is clear.
  2. In a large heat proof Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil and cocoa butter. Heat in microwave (if Pyrex jug) or stove (if pot) until all the oil and butter has melted.
  3. Add the olive, sunflower and castor oils to the now-liquid coconut oil and cocoa butter, and give it a quick stir. Set aside.
  4. Prepare the titanium dioxide, by mixing 1 teaspoon of titanium dioxide with 2 teaspoons of water.
  5. Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are still wearing protective goggles and gloves, carefully add the lye to the oils.
  6. Add the titanium dioxide mixture.
  7. Then, using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified and thickened to medium trace.
  8. Pour the soap into the mold and leave to set overnight.
  9. The next day, unmold and check if the soap is not sticky anymore. If it is, let it cure for another day or so, just enough to dry it out a little more, but not enough to harden.
  10. Cut the soap up into cubes and knead them together, to make it soft and pliable. Make sure you are wearing gloves! The soap is still zingy!
  11. Store the soap dough in an airtight container or plastic bag until needed. It will keep for a month or longer.

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Holly Berry soap

Difficulty: Advanced
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 1000 g soap or 10 bars

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Holly Berry fragrance from Candlescience is known for seizing, but the fragrance has such a lovely delicious Christmas scent, that I really wanted to give this a try and I wasn’t disappointed. This is probably my favourite Christmas soap!

I’ve rated this tutorial as ‘advanced’, but there are several ways you can make it easier for you:

  1. use a different fragrance that you known won’t accelerate or seize, for example Mistletoe from Candlescience
  2. leave out the mica lines
  3. make sure you soap at low temperatures (room temperature)
  4. have everything prepared
  5. and work fast! Very fast!

The mold I used for this soap is the silicon loaf mold  with wooden support box from Pure Nature, which holds approximately 1200 g of soap.

There is a preparation part, which you should do about a week before. A good tip is to do a preparation session for Christmas, where you make a batch of soap and use that to make all your embeds, cut outs, etc.

If you have never made cold-process soap before, I strongly suggest you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first.

Before starting, please read the safety and precautions post, especially since this tutorial requires the handling of caustic soda!

PREPARATION: You can either take the leftover soap in the pot from an earlier batch and wrap it in a little glad wrap so that it will cure but not harden. Or I used cut-offs from a soap, which I placed in a little plastic bag to keep soft. A couple of days later, I formed them into little balls with my hands. The soap was cured by then, so using my bare hands was fine. If you are worried, or have sensitive hands, wearing disposable gloves works just as well. I placed the little balls into a small container into which I added about 1 teaspoon of red wine mica. And then just swirl the container around, until all the balls are covered in mica. You will need approximately 30 little balls.

Note there are both large and smaller balls, the larger ones I’m using for this tutorial. The smaller ones will be for a later tutorial.

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Preparation is the key to this soap. So make sure you have all the equipment and ingredients all laid out and prepared before you start.

COLOUR PREPARATION: You will need two little containers. To one container add and mix 1 teaspoon of lightweight oil and 1/2 teaspoon of irradiant white mica. To the second container add 1 teaspoon of lightweight oil and 1/2 teaspoon of designer green mica. Also set aside 1 tablespoon of red wine mica into a little container with a small sieve utensil (see picture in STEP FIVE) ready for use.

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ONE: Prepare your lye, making sure you are wearing protective goggles and gloves, and set aside to cool. Because this soap will accelerate and/or seize, you won’t need any sodium lactate in this recipe.

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TWO: In a separate large Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the olive oil and castor oil. I am not using any hard oils in this recipe, since I know that the fragrance will accelerate and possible seize the soap,  I will need to keep the soap as fluid as long as possible. Hence using only olive oil and castor oil.

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THREE: When the lye has cooled down to room temperature, carefully add it to the oils and then, using a whisk, stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified (thin trace).

FOUR: Add the Holly Berry fragrance. I am using a stick blender here, but only for a very quick pulse to mix everything together. As you can see in the pictures, it already started to accelerate. So I suggest to just use your whisk to mix in the fragrance, if you don’t want to risk it, or to keep the stick blending to a minimum.

FIVE: Pour about one third of the soap into the soap mold and then sprinkle the red mica  over the top. The easiest way is to use a little sieve like I am using.

Pour or scoop another third of soap carefully over the soap, trying to not disturb the mica too much. You might need to use your spatula to even out the surface. Sprinkle another layer of mica over the soap.

Lastly scoop the last remaining soap into your mold and smooth it out carefully. This will probably be the most difficult part, since your soap will most likely have started to set already.

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SIX: Drizzle the white mica/oil mixture over the surface and then using a chopstick swirl and shape the surface of the soap. Because holly is a naturally prickly plant, the jagged and rough surface will accentuate this!

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SEVEN: Using the green mica/oil mixture, place some drops onto the surface and using a toothpick, stretch the colour out to make it appear like the leaves of the holly. Add two or three berries (the little red balls) to each leaf and gently push them in a little. Lastly, sprinkle a little of gold or bronze glitter on some of the white parts of the surface.

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EIGHT: Leave the soap to set and harden overnight. Soaps that seize or accelerate quickly will harden very quickly as well. The next day you should be able to unmold and cut your soaps into bars. Leave the bars of soap to cure for another 6-8 weeks.

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Noel

  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print
Before starting, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, free from any distractions!

Ingredients

  • 750g olive oil
  • 50g castor oil
  • 100g caustic soda
  • 200 ml water
  • 30 ml Holly Berry fragrance from Candlescience
  • 1/2 teaspoon irradiant white mica
  • 1/2 teaspoon designer green mica
  • roughly 1 tablespoon of red wine mica
  • 2 teaspoon of lightweight oil, i.e. rice bran oil
  • approximately 30 little ball embeds
  • gold or bronze glitter

Directions

  1. Preparation
    1. from a previous batch, use the leftover soap in the pot to form 30 little balls of about 1/2 cm diameter each
    2. add the balls to a container, into which you have added 1 tablespoon of red wine mica, and swirl until all the balls are coated with the mica
  2. Colour preparation
    1. First container: 1 teaspoon of lightweight oil and 1/2 teaspoon of irradiant white mica
    2. Second container: 1 teaspoon of lightweight oil and 1/2 teaspoon of designer green mica
  3. Measure out 200 ml of water into a heat proof Pyrex jug. Weigh out 100 g caustic soda and carefully add it to the water, avoiding any splashes. Gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved and the lye water is clear. Set aside to cool down.
  4. In a large Pyrex jug or pot, weigh and add 750g olive oil and 50 g castor oil.
  5. When the lye has cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are still wearing protective goggles and gloves, carefully add the lye to the oils.
  6. Using a whisk, stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified.
  7. Add 30 ml Holly Berry fragrance and still using a whisk, stir until the fragrance has been well incorporated into the soap. SOAP WILL ACCELERATE AND MAY EVEN SEIZE – FROM THIS POINT ON YOU WILL HAVE TO WORK VERY FAST
  8. Pour 1/3 of the soap into the soap mold and sprinkle a layer of red wine mica over the top.
  9. Pour or scoop another 1/3 of soap into the mold, careful not to disturb the mica, and even out the surface with a spatula. Sprinkle a layer of red wine mica over the soap.
  10. Scoop the remainder of the soap into your mold and even out the surface with a spatula.
  11. Drizzle the white oil/mica mixture over the surface of the soap and, using a chopstick, swirl and shape the surface.
  12. Place drops of the green oil/mica mixture on the surface and using a toothpick stretch the drops to resemble holly leaves.
  13. Add 2-3 berries (little red soap balls) to each leaf.
  14. Sprinkle a little gold or bronze glitter into some of the white areas of the surface.
  15. Leave to harden overnight.
  16. The next day, unmold and cut into bars. Leave the bars to cure for another 6-8 weeks.