Welcome to the first 2021 Humblebee & Me holiday project—Frosted Cranberry Christmas Soap! Every year I select two wintery, Christmassy themes and create a collection of highly giftable DIYs around those themes. This year, Frosted Cranberry is one of those themes 😄 I was inspired by the idea of cheery red cranberries coated in a sparkling layer of frost—rich reds, eye-catching shimmers, fresh and juicy scents, and some beautiful cranberry ingredients to boot (I found out after I’d planned out tons of formulations and made this soap that Bath & Body Works has a line of Frosted Cranberry products 😝). As always, we’re starting with the soaps so you’ve got plenty of time to make ’em and let them age before gifting time is upon us!
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This Frosted Cranberry Christmas Soap is really beginner-friendly, so if you’ve been thinking about getting into soaping it is a great place to start. Beginner-friendly thing number one is the fat blend. I used a bag of Brambleberry’s Lots of Lather Quick Mix that I received as part of a PR package from them earlier this year. It was really easy and made for a beautiful batch of soap that came together really quickly. Brambleberry does provide the fat breakdown of their quick mixes so you don’t have to use their pre-blended product (I’ve noted the fat blend in the post as well), but holy moly, the blend sure makes things easy!
I decided not to include any cranberry seed oil in this soap as it’s a fairly pricey oil, but you certainly could if you wanted to. The Brambleberry soap calculator doesn’t have cranberry seed oil as an option, so you’ll need to use Soap Calc (or another soap calculator that does have cranberry seed oil). If you’re working with the component oils you could swap 5% or so of the canola oil for cranberry seed oil and run the fat blend through the calculator like that. If you’re working with the blend you’ll need to do some math to calculate the precise weights of each oil for the precise amount of the blend you’re working with, add in the cranberry seed oil, and then calculate all of that.
Beginner-friendly thing number two is the look of the soap; it’s a simple solid-coloured bar (just like a cranberry!) with a generous dusting of frosty silver-white on top. There’s no need for multiple containers for different colours of batter, and you don’t have to worry about swirling technique or getting the trace level just right for a specific visual effect. Simply bring it to trace, add your colour and fragrance, and pour! Use a spoon or spatula to sculpt the top however you like, dust liberally with mica, and that’s it.
I used an Iced Cranapple fragrance oil from YellowBee to scent the bars; it is capped at 1.39% for usage in soap, which works out to 6.95g fragrance per 500g oils (1.39g per 100g). It’s a really fresh, cool, crisp fragrance—very yummy! If you want something sweeter and warmer, take a look at the White Cranberry fragrance oil that Voyageur Soap & Candle sells. It is capped at 6.8% for soap, so you could use it up to 34g per 500g oils, though I think that would be a bit strong—I’d probably start around 25g fragrance per 500g oils. If you’d prefer to use an essential oil, sweet orange essential oil would be my first choice.
The soap will be ready to slice after about 24 hours in the mould; leave it to age for 3–4 weeks before gifting. Enjoy!
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Frosted Cranberry Christmas Soap
Calculate lye with 5% superfat and “Water as % of Oils” at 32%
Per 500g oils:
- 10g white kaolin clay (USA / Canada)
- Soap-stable cranberry-coloured micas
- 6.95g Iced Cranapple fragrance oil
- Silver-white frosty mica, 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! If you’re using the pre-made mix from Brambleberry it’s easiest to use their lye/soap calculator; the Lots of Lather Quick Mix is one of the options for the fat blend so you can enter the weight of the fat blend (be sure to weigh it—my bag had an extra 50g [1.76oz] or so of fat in it vs. what the label said!) and go from there.
Please ensure you’re familiar with standard soap making procedures before diving in (click that link if you aren’t!).
Put on your safety gear; gloves + eye protection of course, and an apron is also a good idea.
Prepare your mould—I used a loaf mould for this soap, but you could use a cavity mould if you prefer. Melt your oils together in your soaping pot and let your oils cool to slightly warmer than room temperature. Mix up your lye water and let that cool to about room temperature (I always use ice for part of your water to speed up the cooling process).
Once the lye solution and the melted fats have cooled to slightly warmer than room temperature, you’re ready to get started!
Blend the kaolin clay into the fats, and then add the lye mixture to the melted fats. Bring the batter to a thin trace; this will happen relatively quickly with your immersion blender. Once you’ve reached a thin trace, add enough mica to get a lovely cranberry colour, and then blend in the fragrance.
That’s it for the batter; pour it into your loaf mould. If the batter is thick enough to sculpt it up, do that straight away. If it’s too thin, wait 5–10 minutes and try again. Once you’ve sculpted the top (I did a bit of back-and-forth/zig-zagging with the back of a spoon), sprinkle the silver-white mica over the top of the soap to create a frosted look. I tapped my mica through a sieve to get an even coating. Once that’s done, leave it to saponify.
After about 24 hours the soap should be firm enough to slice (though depending on your mould you may want to freeze it first—I used a silicone mould and froze it to prevent denting, but I don’t think you’d need to if you used a brittle mold that you can deconstruct to remove the loaf). Unmould it, trim off any dangly bits, and slice away (I recommend positioning the bars so the mica topping is on the side so you don’t drag mica across the surface of the bars as you slice).
Leave the bars to age (aka dry) for 3–4 weeks before using. Enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because bar soap has a low water content, high pH, and very high anionic surfactant content (soap is anionic surfactant), it is self-preserving. These bars should last years if allowed to dry between uses. If you start to notice orange spots developing on the surface of the soap, throw it away.
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the recipe, you will get a different final product than I did.
- Before you can make this soap you’ll need to calculate it out with a soap calculator to get finite amounts for the fats, water, lye, and add-ins. I have a tutorial on how to do this here.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this formulation, including why they’re included and what you can substitute them with, please visit the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia. It doesn’t have everything in it yet, but there’s lots of good information there! If I have not given a specific substitution suggestion in this list please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- You could use a different fat blend that you like; this is a very simple soap design so you don’t need to worry about the batter being fluid enough for anything fancy.
- You could use a different soft clay; choosing something red/pink could be a different way to get that cranberry colour (just tread carefully with more pigmented clays like the Australian clays… soap that bleeds red is a bit terrifying in the shower!).
- Use whichever high-pH-stable cranberry-ish micas you have.
- You can use a different fragrance oil, just be sure you are within IFRA usage—your supplier should provide this information.
The Iced Cranapple fragrance oil and passionate kiss mica were gifted by YellowBee.
The White Cranberry fragrance oil was gifted by Voyageur Soap & Candle.
The Lots of Lather quick mix and round cavity mould were gifted by Brambleberry.