Welcome to the next recipe in my very Canadian quest to maple syrup ALL the things! This lovely, creamy bar of maple syrup soap incorporates a wee bit of dark maple syrup for added lather and the fun of knowing you’re sudsing up with the best pancake topping/natural sweetener/Canadian energy drink around. Come, step into my syrupy soaping lair…
Adding extra sugar to soap not only increases lather—it also increases the risk of your soap overheating, cracking, curdling, and scorching. Yay! This is because adding sugar causes soap to heat up a lot more than it usually does during saponification. To be honest, this is my first forray back into sugary soaping since my second and third batches of soap ever. You see, my first ever batch went so well that I thought I was basically a soaping guru, so I dove into a beeswax and honey bar that promptly curdled on me in the pot before saponifying into some seriously crumbly, ugly soaps. Sad. I tried that recipe twice, resulting in lots of crumbly brown soap, before backing off the sugar train as a far more humble newbie soaper.
It’s now been about five years since those fateful initial botched batches, so I thought I’d give sugary soaps another go. I’ve learned a lot about making soap in the last half decade (!)—especially when it comes to room temperature soaping, which seemed like a great place to start when we’re worried about soap overheating. In addition to combining my ingredients at room temperature I also used a cavity mould (rather than a loaf mould) to reduce the heat capacity of the soap as it saponified (think of lots of little ice cubes vs. a giant block of ice; the cubes freeze faster) and I put that cavity mould in the freezer for the first three hours after pouring.
Because I am a maple syrup snob I was sure to use good, dark maple syrup. You want B or C grade, not A grade. B and C grade maple syrup have loads of deep, rich maple flavour while A grade is sadly lacking in that department. You can use A grade if that’s all you’ve got (honestly, there’s so little syrup in this soap that you’ll never notice a difference), but I would recommend keeping your eye out for the dark stuff for your day to day maple syrup eating needs. (Please don’t use fake maple syrup aka pancake syrup, I have no idea how that’d work out here.)
You’re probably thinking the amount of syrup here looks woefully small, and you’d be right. The more syrup, the more problems we’ll encounter with overheating, so I followed the general rule of thumb for honey (a very popular soaping sugar), which is approximately one teaspoon of honey per pound of oils. You’ll also notice I didn’t include any essential oils or fragrance; that’s because I wanted to reduce the variables (and potential ingredient waste) for this somewhat timid tip-toe into the world of soaping with sugar.
In the end, these bars of maple syrup soap turned out beautifully! I’m beyond thrilled that I’ve finally had a sugary success; watch for some honey soap soon, I’m sure I won’t be able to stop myself!
Maple Syrup Soap
Per 500g (1.1lbs) oils:
- 2 tablespoons white kaolin clay
- ¼–½ teaspoon brown iron oxide (optional)
- 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
Calculate to 5% superfat
Begin by calculating out your recipe for the amount of soap you want to make to get the finite amounts of the fats, water, and sodium hydroxide (unsure about how to use SoapCalc? I made a video to walk you through it!).
Because we’re concerned about this soap overheating, I would really recommend soaping at room temperature. There are two kinds of room temperature soaping: in the first you make your lye water, melt your oils, and let everything come to room temperature before combining the two parts and carrying on. In the second you mix up your lye water and add it to your un-melted fats while the lye water is still hot, using the heat of the lye water to melt the oils.
I used heat-free room temperature soaping for this soap. I’ve discussed it pretty thoroughly in this post. However, instead of creaming the oils, I just mashed them up a bit with a potato masher to break them up before adding the hot lye water to melt everything (in theory). I found I wasn’t crazy about this method with this recipe as the lye water didn’t melt all the solid fats; I had to pull out my immersion blender to get all the remaining solid bits to blend into the batter, which left me quite worried I’d end up with a false trace. So, I’d recommend the melt everything first, let it come to room temperature, and then combine variety of room temperature soaping for this recipe. I’ve covered that in this post.
Once you’ve achieved trace, blend in the clay and iron oxide (if using). Now it’s time to drizzle in your maple syrup! Resist the temptation to add more unless you really know what you’re doing. Add the syrup and blend it in with your immersion blender.
Pour the soap into a cavity mould (be sure to put on the mould on a cookie sheet if it’s silicone so you can move it!), smooth out the tops of the bars with the back of a spoon, and place them in the freezer for three hours. If you’ve only got a loaf mould, put it in the freezer for at least four hours to help counter the fact that it’ll have a much higher heat capacity than the batter in the cavity mould.
Because the colder temperatures will slow saponification, I left my soap in the mould for about forty-four hours rather than twenty-four. When I removed the bars from the cavity mould they were firm, with characteristically tacky bottoms. Leave the soap to age for at least three weeks before using and enjoy!
I used a blend of safflower and rice bran oils instead of my more standard 25% olive oil as they were nearing the end of their respective shelf lives; if you don’t have them feel free to use 25% olive oil instead.