Today we’re kicking off the 2019 holiday making season with our first Christmas soap and the launching of our first 2019 Christmas theme—Cranberry Orange! This theme will be starring ingredients like juicy-smelling cranberry seed oil, cranberry seeds, orange essential oil, suitably hued micas and pigments, and possibly some of the actual foods as well. This swirly cold-processed soap features cranberry seed oil, cranberry seeds, orange essential oil, and some beautiful micas to create some lovely swoopy swirls.
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Our fat blend for these bars is fairly soft to make the swirling as easy as possible. The bulk of the blend is liquid oils; mostly olive, but there’s also some castor to really amp up the lather and a touch of beautiful cranberry seed oil to bring in some cranberry goodness, as per our theme. Coconut oil brings the bubbles, and tallow hardens up the bars. If you don’t want to include the cranberry seed oil in a soap (it’s definitely an indulgent choice!) you can feel free to use more olive oil instead; it likely won’t have a noticeable effect on the end product.
The colours in this bar come from some micas and titanium dioxide. Because I was including titanium dioxide I also incorporated a bit of a water discount to reduce glycerin rivers; a trick I learned from Auntie Clara. The water discount also further amplifies the need for the fat blend to be on the softer side—a steep water discount combined with lots of hard fats tends to make for a soap batter that gets quite thick, quite quickly.
For scent, I chose to use straight five-fold orange essential oil. If you have some litsea cubeba/May Cheng essential oil that could also be a good thing to include; it’ll help anchor the citrus essential oil (a good idea as citrus essential oils don’t typically stick around in soap for very long). You could also use a fragrance oil—something citrussy would be very appropriate, but I’ve also got a “cranberry salsa” fragrance oil that smells divine and would be brilliant throughout this series. Whatever you use, make sure you’re familiar with how it behaves in soap batter so you don’t end up with a surprisingly fast trace and un-pourable batter.
To top these bars you’ll need a hefty dose of gold mica and some red cranberry seeds. We’ll be sculpting the top of the bars up into a bit of a soapy mohawk, liberally coating that in gold mica, and then sprinkling the cranberry seeds down the centre of the mohawk. If you don’t have cranberry seeds I’d look for some other small red thing—a chunky bio-glitter could work well, or perhaps some red jojoba beads? If you wanted to get extra fancy you could create some red soap dough, sculpt that into “cranberries”, and use that!
Because this soap batter is on the softer side I’d recommend making these bars no later than mid-November if you intend to gift them around mid-December—we’ll want a good three to four weeks of aging time, depending on how dry your home is.
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Cranberry Orange Christmas Soap
Calculate to 5% superfat with water at 25% of the oil weight
Per 500g fats:
To colour (all as needed):
- Orange mica, pre-dispersed in olive oil
- Red mica, pre-dispersed in olive oil
- Titanium dioxide, pre-dispersed in olive oil
- Gold mica, for topping
- Cranberry seeds, for topping (USA / Canada)
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 procedures before diving in (click that link if you aren’t!).
Prepare your mould—you’ll want a loaf mould for this soap. Melt your oils together in your soaping pot, and have two extra containers with pouring spouts handy (I use these awesome funnel pitchers). Let your oils cool to slightly warmer than room temperature. Mix up your lye water and let that cool to about room temperature (you can use ice for part of your water to speed up the cooling process).
Arrange your work area so you can easily grab your essential oil, micas, and clay. Prepare your mould by lining it, if required.
Now you’re ready to get started! Begin by blending the white kaolin clay into the fats. Once that mixture is smooth, add the lye water and bring the batter to a thin trace. Blend in the essential oil. Divide the batter into three rough parts between your two containers with pouring spouts and the original soaping pot.
Using the pre-dispersed micas, colour one part orange, one part red, and the last part white with titanium dioxide (it’ll be more of a pale yellow because of the essential oil—that’s ok).
Now it’s time to pour the soap! Pour the orange part, then the white part, then the red part (watch the video to see this in action). Using a hanger-swirl tool (I used a Nite-Ize gear tie), do two “U” hanger swirls. Sharply knock the mould on the countertop to knock out any air bubbles, and leave the soap for about ten minutes to thicken up a wee bit.
Once the soap has had a chance to thicken a little, use a spatula to sculpt up a bit of a “mohawk”. Dust the entire top of the soap generously with gold mica. Sprinkle some cranberry seeds down the ridge of the “mohawk”, gently patting them into the soap with the back of a spoon.
Leave the soap to saponify and set up for about 72 hours before slicing. Be sure to slice the soap through the side, rather than through the top, so you don’t drag cranberry seed and mica through the bars. Leave the soap to age for 3–4 weeks before using or gifting. Enjoy!