Succulent Rose: with piped soap embellishments & butterfly swirl for the Greatcakes Soapworks Challenge
As a passionate newcomer to the art of soap making I delight in every opportunity to learn and practice. A few months ago I signed up for the Soap Challenge Club where members receive a monthly tutorial curated by soap artist, Amy Warden. This month's challenge is to create a soap using piping; a technique used in cake decorating to shape buttercream icing into swirls, rosettes and other floral embellishments. I was excited to give it a try.
The rules for the September Soap Challenge include:
Inspired by Amy's tutorial and the advice of the featured soap artists, I launched into a YouTube marathon, watching numerous videos on piping with buttercream icing. This helped me get a feel for the process including how to hold the piping bag, when to apply pressure and when to pull away. While observing the cake decorators at work I fell in love with the look of piped roses and succulents. I decided they would be the focus for my challenge soap which would be scented with a lovely mix of rose fragrance oil (FO) and ylang ylang essential oil (EO).
The next step was to formulate the recipes. I decided to break the project into two batches created over two days. On day one I would pipe the roses and succulents. On day two I would pour the base and add the embellishments. This approach would allow plenty of time for me to learn and practice while testing multiple recipes.
First up were the roses and I wanted to create two styles: white with pink edges using piping tip #104 and white with green edges using piping tip #102. I prepared each bag by aligning the narrow end of the piping tip with the bag seam, then smoothing a thin column of coloured batter along the seam before filling the rest of the bag with white batter.
With piping nail in hand I was ready to begin and that’s when the nerves started to kick in, but they soon faded away as I realised that any imperfections in technique or inconsistency in petal size resulted in a more natural look which I loved. By the third rose I had relaxed and began embracing the process.
With the roses and succulents complete I was done soaping for the day with plans to continue the following morning. I took some time that evening to consider the composition and cut lines. I also wanted to make sure the finished loaf would fit into my mitre box cutter when the loaf was laid on one side. Once the roses an succulents had firmed up I used the bottom of the mold to map out the general positioning of each element.
Session 2: Pouring the base & placing the decorations
I had a butterfly swirl in mind for the base with a hand swirled top. I thought this might work nicely with the roses and succulents – a garden theme. For this recipe I dropped the shea butter ratio to 12% and removed the water discount. I think I might have added the fragrance too early and/or stick blended for too long. Either way the batter firmed up too fast so I decided to create a different soap that I named La Belle Rose and planned to try making another base for my soap challenge soap later that day.
For the next try I made a few adjustments and included sandalwood EO in the rose FO and ylang ylang EO mix, which I then added to the soap batter after colouring and just before pouring. This made a world of difference and once the base was poured I began placing the roses directly on top. I really like the look of the swirls with the piped roses ...
... but this is a piping challenge, so I continued by adding the succulents. Next, I mixed more colours with the remaining batter from the base pour (I made a little extra) for the final details. I went with deep green, deep green with extra mica, dark pink and white. I set the coloured batters aside to firm up, stirring every five minutes as suggested by featured soap artist, Carolyn Newton and within 30 minutes the batters were ready to pipe.
With the two dark greens I piped a variety of leaves and bud bases using three leaf tips and a small round tip. This time I used a coupler on my piping bag so I could switch out the tips on the fly. Next, I striped a fresh piping bag with lines of dark pink before filling with white. I used this to pipe the rosebuds with a small round piping tip before setting the loaf aside to cure.
After two days of anticipation the soap was ready to cut. I was excited to inspect the butterfly swirl and to see how it looked with the piped soap embellishments. With a slow steady hand and a sharp knife I mapped out the cuts and sliced away, and what a delightful reveal! This is my favourite soap creation so far. It did take a long time to create, but I hardly noticed as I thoroughly enjoyed the process. I will definitely be piping soap again soon.
Big thanks to Amy and the soap artists who contributed to this month's tutorial! It was so much fun. And best of luck to this month’s soap challenge entrants. I cannot wait to see your wonderful creations and to hear about your process. The feedback, advice and support given within the community is so inspiring and truly valued.