The challenge of crafting cold processed soap with alcoholic beverages, Pt 1

Not a new topic for anyone around and definitely not a new one for me.  It’s become increasingly a favorite for me and given the numerous successful microbreweries in my neck of the woods, there’s certainly plenty of brewed beverages around from which to choose.  I’ve named several in past posts so I won’t repeat them here for this post.  The one I want to talk about now was the one type I’d yet to make a soap with…until now……moonshine.

Moonshine has a long, storied past along the Appalachian mountains and when it comes to the methods, it’s a family tradition, one passed down for generation after generation, mostly by word of mouth and observation.

One moonshiner, in particular, has gone legal and is now being sold in area ABC stores. Tim Smith created one called Climax and this is the one I used in a cold processed batch recently.  The bottle I had was not full as it was gifted to me from my son who said he can no longer drink it, so I put it to good use making it into a batch of moonshine soap.  Only in North Carolina can we take corn liquor and turn it into a batch of soap! Well, maybe not, but I’ve so far not heard of anyone else trying it.

The main issue at hand about Moonshine is the proof/ percentage of alcohol by volume.  Climax Moonshine is not as high as one might think.  It’s certainly not as high as Everclear, which is typically used for creating a translucent soap, which is sold in North Carolina at 151 proof (75.5% abv).  Climax is 90 proof or about 45% abv. The higher the proof the greater the risk of having a volcano from your soap running over the top of your mixing bowl. That is the one thing none of us wants to happen!  In part two I’ll cover the way I’ve managed to bypass that particular gremlin.


Soapmaking at a glacial pace

One of the most challenging soaps to date was finally finished late last week and cut two days later.  The challenging aspect of it was to make it appear as though a glacial glaze overlaid the exterior sides, freezing snowflakes in place while the center was icy blue and white with glittery snowflakes and surface glitter made the appearance of frozen water and snow.  This year’s version of Snow Queen was that soap.

I’ve made it several times before but with simple, standard swirls of two or three colors in a cold process coconut milk soap.  Ho hum. It got tedious after the third run, so it was time to shake things up.  With the rising popularity of soap dough work with a cp soap, it seemed the ideal opportunity to create something a bit more…. well, more.

The first challenge was getting all the flakes made and for that a set of snowflake punches in three different sizes was used on a snowy white soap dough tinted with mica from Mad Micas.  Here Comes The Bride has the perfect amount of shimmer to it to bring a satin-like sheen to embeds of any type so the flakes were painted with this in alcohol (91%) after they were made and allowed to dry a bit.  The snowflakes took about 4-5 days.  I didn’t work on them non-stop but did other projects in between sessions in order to get up and move around a bit.Snowflake punches

If any of you decide to try these out for fondant or soap dough for your own projects, keep around an old toothbrush and several tooth picks for cleaning out all those tiny crevices.  They get clogged up quickly, causing the punch plunger to become stuck and your flakes will not come out without a fight.  Use the toothbrush to wash out the plunger and punch after use each day.

Once enough flakes were made, the mold was lined with a lip to hold in the M&P that was going to cover the snowflakes placed on the sides.

The ruler made the lip rigid to hold the liquid M&P within the space.  Once the first side was poured then cooled to firmness, the ruler was removed, the paper folded back, and the other side was poured.  The flakes were place shiny side down on the liner, the melted soap poured over them, then left to cool completely.  Once cooled, the paper was rolled back to open up the space so the cold process soap could be poured and swirled within the space.  Above right, you see the channel created by the two sides after they’d completely cooled.  On the left is the ruler offering rigidity to the paper lip that holds the poured side inside while it cools.  In this pic, the mold is laying on its side.

Once the two sides were complete it was a simple matter of making the cold process batch as usual, pouring, swirling then waiting for the top to thicken enough for more flakes to rest on the surface without sinking beneath it.

Long view of top

For this swirl a hanger was used.  The colors were Mad Mica‘s Snow White and Aphrodite Blue.  The top had mica in oil with only one change.  The Snow White was replaced with Here Comes the Bride.  Diamond Dust was scattered across the top after all the flakes were in place. The fragrance, as always, was Snow Witch, which is now available from Arizona Mad Oils, a small specialty section of Arizona Soap Supply that offers the same fragrance oils we came to trust, know & love from Mad Oils.

Snow Queen was then covered with plastic in the mold and chilled to prevent partial gel. After taking more than a week to complete, I didn’t want a partial gel circle to mar the look!

Snow Queen Top & Sides labeled & logo

Here is a side view with a slant to see the top as well. The tops of each ‘ice’ coating was trimmed down to match the height of the CP portion.  The arms of these flakes are very fragile so it was probably not such a good idea to have them sticking up at all.  Next time they’ll be placed flat on the surface.  Quite a few flakes were disarmed in the cutting of this batch.

And so after more than a week’s worth of work on one project we have an outward appearance we are happy with and an interior view that presents wispy swirls and a brisk, cool, yet slightly sweet fragrance (though you can’t tell from your computer screen).

2-Bar image with logo

The top portion had more white added to it for better contrast.  The interior was slightly tinted by the addition of the coconut milk and the slight yellowish tinge of the fragrance oil.  Several things will be changed for the next time I make this batch & fragrance, but overall, I like how it turned out.

Find Snow Witch here.

Find Mad Micas here. Please note the varied choices of colour types.  Choose the type you need based on their stability in your product.

Not sure where I bought the Diamond Dust, but highly recommend using TKB Trading’s Mermaid Collection glitters instead for real sparkle & shine to your product.  They appear white in their containers but with a turn in the light you’ll see a lavender, green, red, blue or silver shimmer to them.  They’re a genuine treat to work with!

Mad Micas has a large selection of glitters from which to choose in addition to bio-degradable micas that are all skin safe!  Check out their collections here. Word of warning – you’ll be hooked for life with this company.  Their customer service is second to none!



















Last Challenge Met

A challenge is a polite way of approaching a dare.  A challenge is a nudge to grow outside your comfort zone, make you step outside your comfy, cozy box and explore new things, be they colours, toppings, styles, etc., without making it a permanent change.  But what if that challenge stirs something new inside you – that need to move beyond where you are in that happy little rut you tend to dance happily within?

Such is the point at which I now find myself.  My husband’s challenges pointed me into a new direction, one of bright colours, happy stylings, different themes & a whole new range of possibility.

He went for the simpler things.  Single note scents to start – Orange, then Pink Grapefruit.

He loved those and was please with the results though I could NOT force myself to make them all one solid colour.  Really when you think about it an orange and a grapefruit are not all one colour, are they?  There’s the rind of course, a deep orange and a bright yellow respectively.  Within that is the pith, which is white.  Snowy white.  Further in is the pulp of each fruit, a paler hue of the outer rind for the orange but a pale strawberry pink in the case of the grapefruit. So of course these first two could not be single colours simply because it wouldn’t match the object they imitated.  However, their fragrances are simple single note scents, pure and delightful!  Nothing else added.  One is orange.  The other is pink grapefruit.

Moving forward he offered several more though initially he’d hesitated to give up the final one until I forced him to spill.  He then listed them.  Something akin to the black cherry, chocolate chip in vanilla ice cream  of the two dudes fame Black Cherry cherries painted something with the gummy candies shaped like adorable little bears Tops a cotton-themed soap

New perspective

and last but not least, those green-gold orbs of wild-growing grapes we find everywhere in our state from mountains to coastal plane. Muscadine Collage

Since learning how to shape cold process soap into hand molded shapes and discovering (to my great delight) that the soap dough recipes lend themselves beautifully to hand piping with pastry bag and tips dedicated to that purpose, I’ve used that method frequently with satisfying & colourful results. The leaves of this batch are a soap dough recipe.

*See the bottom of this post to learn more about soap dough and how to get the wonderful books on the topic from Bee Iyata  of Sorcery Soaps.

Next time you’re given a challenge or a dare, try it (within reason, that is).  You never know what new wonders await you if you go beyond your road often traveled.

Sorcery Soaps Links

Book #1 – understanding the mindset of soap making, the zen of preparing a design from start to finish. A book of how to approach soap, soap dough crafting and your own ideas.

Enchanted Book of Peculiar Ideas and Soap Potions

Book #2

Soap Dough Book of Light and Shadow

This link takes you heavily into the experienced soapmaker’s mind, the techniques you’ll learn and add to your own growing list of how-tos.  This specific link is for the PDF eBook version.  There is also a hard copy version if you prefer.  You can download the PDF and print out exactly what you need when you need it.  This one has 20 recipes for soap dough, all tested and proven by Bee herself.  There are vegan and non-vegan recipes to choose from depending on your personal and customer base preferences.

Book #3

Soap Dough Recipes Only

Don’t need the How-To steps?  Here’s a link to download her third release which is ALL RECIPES  (PDF format link) .  No filler, just recipes.

Don’t have time or a desire to learn how to make it yourself, but want to try it out on a batch of your own soap you’re planning?  She offers dough, pre-made and pre-coloured.  Unscented only (mainly because that would be difficult to match her scents to yours and so many FOs and EOs sold today can alter the colours).

Soap Dough

Soap Dough Palm Base

Follow her YouTube channel

Sorcery Soap YouTube

Follow her blog

Sorcery Soap Blog




















Black Pepper Plot

It’s a plot, a jinx, a bedeviling scent or something along those lines.  There’s no other reason why I can have so much trouble trying to make a small sized batch with such a wonderful, manly scent.  I just can’t figure it out!


The above is a pic of the first batch.  Lovely you might think, but oh the ash that developed was monumental!  I had reduced the water slightly so why it turned out ashy is beyond my comprehension.  The ashing did not go away even with steaming.  I was stuck with it.  Maybe shaving it off slightly would be one thing to try but it turned out so soft, I still can’t mess with it without distorting its shape.  And I reiterate – I reduced the water and the lye was not old. Puzzling.

Well, with the terrible ashy-ness and the softness, there is no way I’m adding it to the collection like this, so these, if they ever firm up enough to clear off the ash, will be cut into samples.  It’s a fabulously fresh, clean scent, elegant, sophisticated and great for either gender, so it really needs to be in the collection, but not with that ashing across its lovely face hiding all the elegant swirls.  With this mysteriously poor showing countered by my determination to have it included in our catalog, I had to try, try again.

Round Two –


This batch was made as a smaller sized batch, poured into a loaf mold (more on that bit later), and the gray color was replaced by a copper-brown that would offer higher contrast to the blue-green.  (Links to the micas used and supplier info can be found at the bottom of this post. I ran the recipe through four different soap calculators and hand calculated as well and came up with the same amount of lye but 4 different amounts of water.  What? So I went with one version that made the most sense to me, crossed my fingers and dove in.

The mold was the glitch in this one.  I grabbed the mold and poured in the base white, did the pours of the blue and the brown for a potential hanger swirl and then it hit me – OMG, this isn’t the right mold!  So the three colors were all poured into the correct size mold, thus creating an unintentional In-The-Pot/Mold-Swirl for the bottom half of this loaf.  I was torn between leaving it to firm up and lay a white top with wispy swirls of what remained of the two other colors or add the white and the bit of colors left and make it a sort of elemental with white and a bit of the other two on top only.  The former won out, so I walked away to let it firm up.  Easier said than done.  It took forever to firm up enough to work with  – about an hour.  Meantime, I’m pacing around, still wondering if I’ve done the right thing.

The bottom was left alone and firmed up nicely, so the white was added on and it didn’t appear to break through – much.  There might be a slight dip here or there, but all in all, it’s only on the top. I think.  The remaining color was added gently, swirled around a bit with a skewer, though I doubt it went far down.  The remaining mica and oil that was to go onto the top was added over the white that was left and poured along one side.

A slightly unorthodox approach, neither one thing or another and yet again another clear illustration of the last post’s discussion of marching to the beat of one’s own drummer. This might have been an entirely separate orchestra.  So, now we wait…..again.

I hope it can come out tomorrow but with this scent I just don’t know.  I’m not saying it’s the fragrance oil.  I really don’t know what the issue is with making this one. All I can say is, I’m just stubborn enough or a big enough glutton for punishment to keep working with it until it’s whipped into shape and does my bidding. Pics when it’s out – if it’s decent.  *cheeky grin*


Micas:  Mad Oils – Hot Man on a Tin Roof

Mad Oils – Peacock

Mad Oils – Snow White

Oils:  Soapers Choice (unable to create link at posting time)

Molds: Candles & Wood Crafts

Fragrance Oil:  Wholesale Supplies Plus – Black Pepper

Alchemist @ Work

Earlier in the afternoon a thought hit me that I wanted to try something.  Now my kids can tell you this can bode well….or not but in this particular instance, I’m hoping for the former rather than the latter.

At the HSCG conference, which I could not attend this time, Kevin Dunn, author of Caveman Chemistry and Scientific Soapmaking spoke on the topic of variations in water within portions of one batch of soap and how it can produce unique effects in your CP soap.  This intrigued me enough to try this with a soap that discolours -deeply discolours. For this I went straight to the one I own that will give me that – Coconut Fusion from Fragrance Laboratory.   Their website offers test batches of several of their fragrance oils so I knew in advance of what to expect with regard to discolouration so this was the ideal opportunity to work with it instead of against it.

I began by calculating the size of the portions by halves, dividing one of those halves into halves yet again.  From this I calculated the amount of fragrance needed for each of those two smaller portions, then cut that fragrance amount by half again.  The largest amount of FO would go into the main (largest) part of the batch.  The rest would be split 2:1 between the two smaller portions.  The amount of soap in these two smaller portions were equal in size, however, their FO amount was not nor was their additional mica.

Fragrance Oil Divided into descending-sized portions

Next I add the coconut milk to the oils, stick blending to a smooth mixture.  Then the lye goes in.  I used silk and coconut milk in this batch simply because I always do.  The gold mica in oil is for the top only. Just because.  Bling is good. Coconut Milk & Mica in Oil These four oils are ones I often use.  I have several soap formulations and a four oil is just one of them.  I don’t have issues with these in soaps – ricing, tendency to separate, misleading false trace, etc., so I went with this one. 4 oils ListingWater, Silk & Lye SolutionI also like to use silk in soaps so that went unchanged as well.  I decided not to go totally crazy with the coconut theme and stuck with regular water, not coconut water.  Maybe later on I’ll try that twist to see what results I get but for this initial trial, it’s plain filtered water, chilled.  (Got a bit of coconut oil on the handle there. Hmf! Messy!)

Once the various parts were blended with a stick blender to emulsion phase,  I stopped and noticed it looked a bit grainy and thicker than I’d expect for so little mixing.  A stir told me it was trying to separate, becoming a bit grainy and going towards a false trace, something of a surprise.  So more blending and it loosened up again, going smoother and surprisingly dark for so early on in the making.  It was a warm beige by the time I was done mixing!  The two smaller portions together were half of the batch but the amount of colour added varied as did the amount of FO.  I added Pearl Basics to one portion and a small amount of Titanium Dioxide in water to this part, stick blended to get it absolutely smooth.  The other small portion had Extra Bright added along with a bit more Titanium Dioxide than the other portion had. The largest portion of the soap had no mica added and no titanium dioxide added.

Given the three levels of water in each part of this in addition to the three different levels of fragrance added, this should give me three different shades of brown due to the discolouration from the FO and a textured look and feel to the surface thanks to the addition of water with the TD.  Time will tell so now we wait until it’s firm enough to come out of the mold and be cut.  Once it’s cut, hopefully the textures will begin to appear.  As the soap dries out at different rates the raised appearance of each colour segment should become apparent.  That’s my hope anyway.  I’ll update with pictures when it’s cut and had a chance to dry out a bit.

Green Tea & Nectarine

Once there was a quiet, unassuming tea leaf, green and summery, subtle and soft, but she wanted more.  She wanted a moment in the limelight where everyone’s eyes were firmly fixed on her and no other.  Yet being the soft-spoken type, this would not happen without a bit of help, so she went in search of a friend to call her own.   One that would walk hand-in-hand with her on those halcyon days of summer when the birds sing and the bees hum all in harmony whilst she savors the sunshine in good company.  As luck would have it, a lonely Nectarine happened by in search of someone who’d be there for him as well.  Being so similar to peach, poor lonely Nectarine was often overlooked or suffered from frequent episodes of mistaken identity.  He struck a chord with this gentle verdant Green Tea upon proper introduction and walked softly towards that summer sunset, happily together, speaking in notes that perfectly matched and complemented one another and they’re forever friends for all time.

IMG_2224 (768x1024)

Well, that’s the story anyway.  A scent blended from two Fragrance Laboratory fragrance oils is a sure winner.  It’s just a given.  Green Tea, a new one to FL’s selection is soft, subtle, mild yet  welcoming part of any spring & summer collection.  If you are a soap maker, this is one you’ll simply have to try to see just what a soothing yet elegant scent it is and how reliably it soaps in the often-befuddling, gremlin-riddled world of cold process.  It’s a dreamboat!  No discolouration whatsoever, no acceleration, just pure luxury and the scent is in a category of its own.

IMG_2227 (1024x768)

The Nectarine is not your mama’s Nectarine.  This one’s more sophisticated, modern, clean, with a green crisp edge that satisfies and evokes a time of sandals, sunshine, and juicy gratifying drinks that the grown-ups only can appreciate.  Leafy green notes from this marry perfectly with the Green Tea to make it a match made in heaven.

With these two, it seemed inevitable they’d go together, though when I bought them that was not the plan.  I’d thought to use them separately, once I had them all out on sniffy strips and had these two close together it hit me in a wave of scent that had my sense reeling, mind drifting, nearly fainting with the headiness of it.  With the help of a lovely lady, Joene Lasky, in a Facebook group we both belong to that’s company run by Cindy Gooding of Fragrance Laboratory,  base notes were added and the fragrance soared into a whole new level of depth and body.

The colours used were from two sources.  The Enchanted Forest (darker green) is from Mad Oils as is the main base soap colour, Celery.  The silvery white is Silver White mixed with Extra Bright from TKB Trading, a reliable, non-crackling white that I’ve begun to use more and more in place of titanium dioxide.  The Silver White makes a sparkling, eye-catching oil/mica swirl for soap tops, too!   The peachy colour is Peach Sunset from The Conservatorie.  These are some of my favorite places to order the micas in soaps of all sorts and my favorite colours used in many, so you see these names frequently linked to their supply sites in here and I add them over and over in case you don’t want to have to dig through the earlier posts to find the link again and again.  These suppliers are ones that many soap makers rely on for excellent stock, customer service, and extensive colour ranges.  In the case of the micas, many are easy to work with but some can be temperamental about changing colour in the high pH of soap making and in most cases each colour from TKB and Conservatorie is tested for CP soap stability.  There are a few exceptions, but over all, they’re pretty good about giving you all the information you need to make a spectacular soap.  I’ve personally found a few that were those exceptions, so one day soon, I’ll gather those together and make a list to let you know which ones were genuine demons in cp soap.  Meantime, here’s to Spring, which begins on Friday of this week and all that it brings with it! Namely warmth & sunshine!

A quick add-in for the sliced images from this morning’s cutting of Green Tea & Nectarine –

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Hana No Kaori

A while back I made some embeds, lovely pearly white flowers that would be perfect for use on an exotic fragrance, but I left them unfragranced so they could be used in any soap.  They were tinted with mica, a thin brush and quietly tucked away to wait patiently for their turn to step into the limelight.  Today turned out to be that day after all.  It originally was not planned to be so, but the lightning speed of the white portion of my soap batch today changed the original plan to “just get it in there and do the best you can”  It was a loose soap until the FO was added but as with most florals, you can expect something like warp speed, and this was no exception.  But it’s too beautiful a scent to skip because of a little thing like acceleration.  Onward and upward!

This FO has notes of lilies, osmanthus, blush rose, Japanese wisteria, fern, ozone, blue delphinium, baby’s breath, pink freezia, over a light delicate musk.  You open the bottle, breathe gently inward and you cannot stop the sigh that escapes.  It’s as inevitable as a sunrise.  Some might even moan just a bit, but in lady-like fashion of course. It’s elegance, sophistication and innocence in one unforgettable scent.  This FO, called Hana No Kaori defies description as no words truly do it justice.  You just have to sample it for yourself and one sniff is all it will take. It’s available from Fragrance Laboratory.  Get at least a pound because you know once you’ve gotten it into your fragrance cabinet you’ll want it in body scrub, body souffle, lotion, shampoo and bar soaps!  Put it in everything, like Grandma says.  It’s absolutely gorgeous!

I’d really wanted a mostly white bar with just the lightest trails of colour done by hanger swirling & something really simple yet elegant on the top, but the soap was much too thick to do such work neatly, so I really have no idea how this came out inside.  I’ll try the plans on another batch one day using a different FO, a fruity one, for the design I’d wanted to do.  But this one is still ideally suited to the flowers topping this loaf.  It’s an excellent plan B design and a top notch FO!  Just remember to keep it simple!

This soap is not yet named.  Hana is the fragrance oil's name only.
This soap is not yet named. Hana is the fragrance oil’s name only.