Welcome to the start of the 2017 Christmas DIY season! As usual we’re kicking off with soaps so they’ve got plenty of time to age while we round off our gift sets with other goodies like lotions, lip balms, body butters, and other varieties of pampering goodness. The Vanilla Spice theme is one you’ll be seeing carried through to lots of other delicious projects, so if you like it, make sure you’ve got the essential oil blend on hand—it will definitely be making some repeat appearances! But for now, let’s make some Vanilla Spice Christmas Soap.
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I owe Crystal a thanks for this theme—she sent in a recipe request for something similar to the (discontinued) Christmas Vanilla Spice scent from The Body Shop. I have no experience with the original, but I loved the idea of sweet, warm vanilla accented with holiday spice notes as a theme, so here we are!
These bars are mostly a deep, warm brown with a lighter, nougat-y pot swirl, a spoon-sculpty topping, and a healthy dusting of a beautiful antiqued glitter. The scent blend is a combination of benzoin resinoid (that’s our vanilla note), spiced up with some cinnamon bark, clove bud, and nutmeg essential oils. I know cinnamon bark has gotten a bit pricey in the last few years, so I’ve kept the amount fairly low. If you don’t have it you can try using cassia instead, though I haven’t tried it myself.
I wanted to ensure I’d have a fairly lightly traced batter to work with, so I tweaked my usual fat ratios to tip the balance more towards softer oils, like rice bran and avocado. By reducing the tallow amount and using avocado oil instead of shea butter I created a batter that could be worked with much longer without getting thick and pudding-like. I also worked with this batter a bit warmer than room temperature—the oils were just slightly warm to the touch when I added the lye solution.
Since this soap contains cinnamon essential oil it tends to get rather hot in the mold, so I recommend not covering or insulating it, and leaving it somewhere relatively cool to saponify. I did all those things and still got a bit of a crack across the top within the first two hours, so you may even want to pop yours in the fridge for the first couple hours, especially if your mould is better insulated than mine.
The final bars smell amazing and look like artisanal fudge—you might want to warn your recipients lest they end up having some sudsy burps!
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Vanilla Spice Christmas Soap
Calculate to 5% superfat
Per 500g oils:
- 2 tbsp white kaolin clay
- 21g | 0.74oz benzoin resinoid
- 5g | 0.18oz cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) essential oil
- 2g | 0.07oz clove bud essential oil
- 1g | 0.03oz nutmeg essential oil
- Warm brown mica pre-dispersed in rice bran oil, as needed
- Titanium dioxide, pre-dispersed in rice bran oil, as needed
- Antiqued gold glitter, as needed
2020 update: Given the irritation potential for the spice essential oils, I’d recommend using a vanilla spice fragrance oil rather than the essential oil. Please refer to supplier documentation for maximum usage rates for the particular fragrance oil you’re using when used in soap/rinse-off products.
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 (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 one container with a pouring spout 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).
While everything is cooling, weigh out your essential oils, and measure out the clay. Whisk the pigments into a bit of rice bran oil until smooth; I used about 1/2 tsp brown mica, and 1/2 tsp titanium dioxide
Once the melted fats and lye water are just slightly warmer than room temperature, follow standard soap making procedure to bring them to trace. Once you have a relatively thin trace, blend in the essential oils, kaolin clay, and about half of the brown mica to make a warm, light brown batter.
Now it’s time to divide up our batter! Pour about 20% of it into the small pitcher and leave the remaining batter in the pot. Add some titanium dioxide to the 20% and blend to combine. Add more brown mica to the pot to ensure there’s a good amount of contrast between the two colours.
Drizzle the light batter over the dark batter and then pour the lot into your mould stirring as little as possible to prevent over-mixing. Sprinkle the top with glitter, and leave it for about twenty minutes to set up a bit before sculpting the surface of the soap with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle more glitter on top when you’re done sculpting. Leave to saponify for 48–72 hours. Remove from the mould and slice, and then leave to age for at least four weeks before using or gifting. Enjoy!