This beautiful dusty-blue gradiated Winter Wonderland Christmas Soap is my last soap of the 2016 Christmas soaping season, and I love it. I tried a new technique for the first time, and while I’m super excited to play with it more and improve, I’m still really happy with how these bars turned out.
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I’ve been really inspired by the work of Linda O’Sullivan on Instagram lately (seriously, go creep her feed and prepare to be awed!), so that’s where the inspiration for these bars came from. She makes the most stunning ombre/gradient soaps and I’ve been swooning over her beautiful bars for months now, and I finally worked up the courage to try it.
Something I was really interested in trying was this technique for getting perfectly level layers. I tried it, and while I obviously didn’t nail it, I have a few ideas as to why. First off, my trace wasn’t thin enough in most of my layers, so I didn’t get that automatic even settling out that thin liquids will do in a container. I did tweak this recipe from my usual base recipe to drop the shea so I could have a thinner trace, but it clearly wasn’t enough. Noted for next time!
Second, I didn’t wait long enough between pouring the layers, meaning the layer beneath hadn’t had enough time to set up and support the layer being poured on top. Next time I do this, I’ll probably wait ten minutes between layers to try and prevent this. And third; I didn’t use a level to check that my surface/mould was level, so I suppose if I want to keep doing soaps like this, I should buy one.
I used indigo to colour the soap, and I am smitten with it. It gives a much more muted, cooler blue than ultramarine blue, and I love its subtlety. You can absolutely use blue ultramarine instead if that’s what you’ve got, or if you want a brighter blue.
The scent blend is a lovely, cool one for winter; mostly soft spearmint with a crisp hit of cajeput and a warm, subtle vanilla base note from some benzoin. Yum! Anyhow, let’s dive in. I’m glad I filmed this recipe so you can see how I did it, because writing it all out was a bear and I’m still not sure it’s much clearer than mud 😛 If you make these Winter Wonderland Christmas Soap bars I’d love it if you shared a photo with me via Facebook or Instagram 🙂
Winter Wonderland Christmas Soap
Calculate to a 5% superfat
Per 500g oils:
- 18g | 0.63oz spearmint essential oil
- 7g | 0.25oz cajeput essential oil
- 5g | 0.21oz benzoin essential oil
- Titanium dioxide, as needed
- Indigo powder, as needed
- White glitter or silver mica, as needed
- Extra soybean oil, as needed
Kick things off by calculating out your recipe for the amount of soap you’re making to get the finite amounts of the fats, lye, and water. Unsure about how to use SoapCalc? I made a video to walk you through it! Please ensure you’re familiar with standard soap making procedure before diving in.
Prepare your mould—you’ll want a loaf mould for this soap. Weigh out your essential oils into a container with a pouring spout. Melt your oils together and transfer them to a container with a pouring spout (my 700g batch just fit in a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup and that was perfect). Let your oils cool to room temperature. Mix up your lye water in a container with a pouring spout (I use a pitcher that is only ever used for lye water) and let that cool to room temperature as well (you can use ice for part of your water to speed up the cooling process).
Mix about a teaspoon of your glitter/mica with some soybean oil in a small bowl and set that aside.
Divide the weight of your fats by 5, and write down that number. Divide the weight of your lye water by 5, and write down that number. And finally divide the weight of your essential oils by 5, and write down that number. For my 700g batch, that ended up being 140g of oils, 73g of lye water, and 8g of essential oils. I recommend rounding all your numbers down to account for the inevitable loss of some ingredients to the containers they’re in.
Set out five small bowls to measure your colourants into. For my 140g layers, I used 1/4 tsp titanium dioxide per layer, and from the second to fifth layer, I used progressively more indigo powder. Layer two had ~1/32 tsp indigo powder in it, and I roughly doubled that for each layer, but it was a lot of eyeballing and adjusting the colours based on what the dishes looked like all lined up. I was aiming for enough contrast to be noticeable, but nothing too extreme so I got that gradient look. You’ll need to whisk about 2 tsp of soybean oil into each dish so you can get a good feel for how the titanium dioxide and indigo are blending together (I got this awesome 12-pack of teensy whisks that has been super useful for all kinds of projects). Do be sparing with the indigo root as it is quite potent, and feel free to use the appearance of my dishes as a rough guide.
Now it’s time to prepare your work space. You’ll need a smaller container to blend your oils and lye together in (your soap pot will be too large unless you’re making a massive batch). I used a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup and that worked really well. Set out your five dishes of pigment. You’ll need your scale, so make sure you have that, and make sure your 1/5 weight measurements are written down somewhere you can easily refer back to them. You’ll want some flexible silicone spatulas on hand, as well as your immersion blender and some paper towels. Make sure you have a larger spoon or spatula to use as a pouring buffer as well. If you want to make sure your layers are even, use a level to ensure your mould is perfectly level.
Once your oils and lye water have both settled at room temperature, you can get started!
We’ll be bringing each layer to trace separately. To start, weigh 1/5 of the oils and 1/5 of the lye water into your smaller mixing container. You must do this by weight! Bring that to a thin trace, then blend in 1/5 of the essential oils and the white pigment blend. Pour that into your mould.
Layer #2! Weigh 1/5 of the oils and 1/5 of the lye water into your smaller mixing container. Bring that to a thin trace, then blend in 1/5 of the essential oils and the palest blue pigment blend. Using the larger spatula as a shield, pour the soap over the spatula and into the mould, on top of the white layer (watch the video to see what that looks like).
Repeat for layers #3–5, taking care not to let your trace get thick or the layers won’t settle out well on their own.
For the topping, drip the glitter/oil mixture over the top of the soap and use the tip of your spatula or a toothpick to swirl it around in an abstract manner. Cover the soap and leave it to saponify for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, remove your soap from the mould and slice it; be sure to slice it through the side so you don’t drag glitter through the bars with your knife. Leave the soap to age somewhere cool and dry for at least three weeks before gifting. If you want, a day or two after cutting you can use a vegetable peeler (or a fancy soap beveler) to bevel the edges of your bars. I waited a couple days so I was less likely to damage the soft soap when handling it.
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