Holly decorated soap

Holly Decorated CP Soap with Hidden Swirl Tutorial

holly soap

Holiday soaps are some of my favorite soaps to make.  The holiday soap featured in this tutorial has simple holly leaves and berries with a hidden surprise swirl for bathers.  A few simple techniques can make a big impact in this multiple technique soap.  I made this tutorial in 2013 for my newsletter and the Saponifier magazine, but never posted it to my blog.

This tutorial will walk you step by step in a simple hidden swirl within the soap as well as icing the holly and berries on the top using cake decorating supplies.  The recipe can be replaced with your own favorite formula.  The scent can be altered to complement your own tastes.  In other words, be creative and have fun developing your own version of this soap.

Holly Decorated CP Soap with Hidden Swirl Tutorial 

Difficulty: Advanced
Time: 1 hour
Yields: 5 pounds of soap
Recipe type: Cold Process Soap

Ingredients & Equipment:

By weight unless otherwise stated
15 oz Sunflower oil
15 oz Sweet Almond oil
10 oz Coconut oil 76°
10 oz Avocado oil
5 oz Palm oil
20 oz Distilled water, by volume
7.4 oz Sodium hydroxide
2 oz Kringleberry fragrance oil, by volume
1/4 tsp Red iron oxide
1/4 tsp Green oxide
1/2 tsp Titanium Dioxide
1/2 tsp Pearly White mica

Standard soapmaking equipment plus the following:
5 lb Slab mold
#68 Wilton Leaf Tip
#2 Wilton Tip
Decorator bag
Decorator coupler (optional)
2 Squirt bottles


Safety: Follow proper safety guidelines for making cold process soap including goggles, gloves and long sleeves. Kids, pets, and distractions should be away from work area.

Prep: Begin by prepping your ingredients.  Measure the fragrance oil and set aside.  Pigments have a habit of remaining clumpy, so add about 1 tbsp of your quick mix oils to one container and blend with the green pigment using a mini-mixer working out any clumps.  Do the same with the red pigment in another container and white in a third container.  Place some of the red colorant mixture in a squirt bottle, and some of the green in the other squirt bottle.  Line the slab mold if necessary.  Set your ingredients aside.

Prep the decorator bags.  First cut the end off of the bag just enough that the tip can fit through the opening but not fall out.  Place the leaf tip in one bag and screw on coupler to hold it in place.  Place the #2 tip in the other bag and screw on a coupler to hold it in place.  The easiest way to fill decorator bags is to place the bag in a tall glass and fold over the remaining bag on the outside of the glass creating an open tube.  Prep the bags in glasses ahead of time.

Holly 1

Step 1: Mix the lye and water solution and set aside. Mix and melt the oils.  Allow the oils to cool to 100-110 degrees F.  Allow the lye to cool a few degrees cooler than the oils.  Add the lye solution to the oils and mix with a stick blender. At a moderate trace (like runny pudding with definitive trace) separate 2 cups of soap from the mixture.  Place 1 cup of soap mixture in each squirt bottle and shake to blend the colorant into the soap.  Then add the fragrance oil and titanium dioxide to the remaining soap mixture in the bowl.

Holly 2

This particular fragrance has an incredible holiday berry scent with touches of pine from Nature’s Garden.  Its flaw is that it does cause ricing.  This does not mean that you can’t use this scent, however, you will need to blend the soap mixture longer.  I usually let the soap rest for 2-3 minutes between blending when ricing has occurred and the mixture will usually return to its original state and rapidly trace.   For this soap, I wanted a nice thick trace just like frosting on a cake.   If you want to avoid the ricing, choose a fragrance oil that you know and trust.  Once the soap is back to a normal state and is at a thick trace, pour all but about 2-3 cups into the slab mold.

Step 2: Most people like to swirl soap at a very thin trace, but this does not mean you can’t swirl at a thick trace.  In fact, when the soap is thick it is a perfect time to make a surprise swirl, one that doesn’t show up until the bar of soap has been used for a while.  It’s like the swirl magically appears just when you think you are left with a plain bar of soap.  To create a hidden swirl, squirt 3 lines of green soap lengthwise across the slab of soap.  Then add 3 alternating lines of red soap lengthwise across the slab of soap.

Holly 3

Step 3:  For this soap, I used the handle of a spoon to snake back and forth across the slab widthwise swirling the colors.

Holly 4

Then in one corner snake back and forth diagonally across the slab.  Finally make one more diagonal snake motion starting at a different corner (any except the one diagonally across or you will be retracing the same swirl).  Because the soap is thick, the swirl will stay on the surface.

Holly 5

Step 4: Next, place the remaining white soap from the bowl on top of the swirl and spread smooth, like icing.  If your slab mold has dividers, put them in the mold.  If not, you can make small marks where you intend to cut the soap so you know about where to place the holly.  Put the remaining green soap from the squirt bottle into the waiting decorator bag with the leaf tip, and the red soap into the other decorator bag.  Remove the bags from the glasses and smooth the soap toward the tip.

Holly 7

Step 5: Now you are ready to decorate the top of the soap.  Holding the bag at a 45 degree angle and placing the tip where you want the leaf to start, meaning the wider part where a leaf comes from a stem, gently squeeze the bag and pull the tip in the direction of the leaf.  Release the pressure as you near the end and tilt the tip upwards so none spills out.  Repeat this process making 2 leaves per soap.

Holly 8

Step 6:  Now take the red bag, hold it at a 45 degree angle, and gently squeeze making a dot below the leaves like a berry.  Tilt the bag upwards so soap does not spill out until you are ready to make the next dot.  Continue making 3 dots per soap just below the holly leaves.


Step 7: Once complete, sprinkle the soap with a little shimmering white mica or skin safe glitter and allow to set for 24 hours.  Release the soap from the mold and allow to cure for 4-6 weeks.  Enjoy your holiday soap.


holly soap