Why I Make Soap That Looks Like Dessert
When people see soap that looks like pie, cake, or cookies their reactions are all over the place.
- “That might be the coolest thing I have ever seen!”
- “Ummmmmm . . . why?”
- “How irresponsible and dangerous! What if a child takes a bite?”
So why WOULD a person make soap that looks like a dessert?
I have always loved all kinds of food, but I have a special weakness for sweets. I even love pictures of food. I am fascinated by food-styling photos of all those fancy-pants foods on Instagram and Pinterest. And the more intricate and beautiful the food is, the more it looks like art to me. These gourmet foods are so pleasing to look at and that’s before you even take your first bite.
And since I have a wicked sweet tooth, I especially love colorful, ooey gooey, gorgeous desserts. I love them SO much that I could almost marry a crème brulee or a chocolate éclair! Although I’m not sure I could stay faithful . . .
What if a dashing French Macaron came along somewhere down the road and flaunted its exquisite, not-too-sweet, meringuey goodness? Or what if I accidentally came across an irresistible Boston Cream Pie on the internet? It could all end up in a sticky, sugary, messy scandal.
On second thought, I’d better stay single so I won’t be tied down to any one dessert.
I’ve also always loved cooking and baking. As a kid, I whipped up my first recipe from a Walt Disney cookbook. It was a Daisy Duck recipe called ‘Daisy’s Divinity’.
At the time I had no clue what divinity was (it’s a fluffy, creamy candy made with egg whites), but that was the only recipe that we already had all the ingredients for, so that’s the one I made. And so began my fascination with food and cooking.
Then, about five years ago, I tried my hand at soapmaking and discovered that was another thing I really enjoyed doing.
How I got started with the obscure hobby of soapmaking is the subject of another blog post, but it didn’t take long before I realized something; soapmaking has a lot of similarities to baking. In both activities you mix together some ordinary ingredients, then that mixture undergoes a transformation, and voila! The separate things have become something new and different.
In the same way a baker may collect many different cake recipes, soapmakers collect many different soap recipes. Even many of the ingredients used in cooking can also be used in soapmaking.
Depending on my recipe, my soap might include coconut oil, olive oil, sustainable palm oil, milk, cream, beer, water, lard, fruit puree, carrots, sugar, salt or one of many other food ingredients. Then I add a couple of non-edible ingredients and the mixture transforms into a bar of soap. I can even make vegan soap.
But how can you eat an ingredient like olive oil but also use olive oil to wash your body and condition your hair? How can one thing be used in so many different ways? How intriguing !
And that’s where another one of my interests comes into the picture; science. Science is behind the various methods used to change one thing into something else. There is a chemistry and a science to cooking and there is a chemistry and a science to making soap. Yet another similarity between the two.
Disclaimer – Just because I am interested in science doesn’t mean I’m a brainy chemist or anything. Hahahaha! That is soooo not the case. I only know the basic chemistry of why and how certain ingredients turn into soap.
So don’t ask me about DNA, RNA, metabolic pathways, the theoretical efficiency of photosynthesis, or something like that. I will just stare at you blankly and ask if you have any coffee cake.
And then we come to the artistic aspect of cooking, baking or soapmaking. That’s when you take things to the next level because you envision something more. That’s when your handmade item becomes an artisan product.
Artisan products are usually made in small batches, and they can become quite popular as they begin to take on the style and ‘flavor’ of their maker. Artisanal products can include everything from making jewelry, baked goods, craft beers, handmade soap or any other specialty you can think of.
Like the folks who run your local cupcake specialty shop or that gourmet bistro in your town, my handmade soap is not a mass-produced product. My soap did not come off a conveyor belt in a factory somewhere. My soap is not full of chemicals and preservatives that would make it last decades on a warehouse shelf. My soap is made fresh daily and made predominately of food-quality ingredients.
For those customers who have been with me for years, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been making a lot more foodie-type soaps lately. No worries; I will continue to make your favorite bars of super-gentle soap. It’s just that I am expanding my horizons!
There are several reasons for this. One of the reasons is that it’s just plain fun! Because of my love for dessert and all things sweet and beautiful, I’ve discovered I love creating dessert-type soaps.
Another reason is because it’s a new challenge. For instance, to decorate my soap cakes with soap frosting, I had to learn to pipe fresh, soft soap through a pastry bag, just like a baker or pastry chef pipes real frosting. But this is a tricky thing because the fresh soap mixture starts off at the consistency of a thin, runny pudding, and you certainly can’t pipe that out of a pastry bag. It’s a runny mess. Go ahead – ask me how I know that.
So when I make soap frosting I have to wait until the soap reaches exactly the right consistency; not too thick, not too thin. Everything must be juuuuust right.
I can’t wait too long or the mixture starts to harden into a solid soap texture that will no longer go through the piping bag and decorating nozzle. Ask me how I know that.
For those who may be curious about how a soap cake is made, I first mix up a batch of soap and pour it into a round silicone cake pan. This will harden into the round bottom base of the cake. I let the soap harden for 12-24 hours, before I pop it out of the pan and onto my work surface where I slice it.
Then I mix up another batch of fresh soap for the soap frosting. That’s where it really gets tricky.
I only have a small window of time in which to pipe the soap frosting onto the base of the cake. I have to judge the consistency correctly, then work quickly. The soap frosting is slippery and messy to work with, and there is not much time to add the soap embellishments (like soap berries or soap cookies). There is also a limited time in which to fix mistakes.
Unlike real frosting, I can’t touch the mixture without gloves at this point because it can burn the skin. And, unlike real frosting, I also can’t lick the soap frosting bowl, which is a major drawback for me. A girl has to keep up her strength while crafting.
When I make my dessert soap, I use a lot of actual cooking tools in addition to my soapmaking supplies. I keep one set of baking tools for real cooking and one set for soapmaking, because nobody wants real brownies that taste like soap. In addition to all the cool tools I get from my wonderful soap supply companies, I also buy Wilton decorating tips as well as Lekue silicone pans.
Aside from the fun and the challenge of making these dessert soaps, another reason I’m doing more of it is because it opens up a new area of sales for me. As with all handmade soap, the new soaps that look like pies, cakes, tarts and cookies are unique, therefore they make great gift items.
We all have a few friends or relatives who are difficult to buy for because they already have everything. But what are the chances that person has some handmade soap? And what are the chances they have handmade soap that looks like a miniature pie? Or handmade soap that looks like it has seashells embedded in it?
These new soaps also make excellent favors for all kinds of parties and events. My pre-sliced soap cakes can double as a centerpiece and then guests can take home a slice as a memento. Not to mention they make a neat topic of conversation at your event. Or, if you participate in fundraising, consider buying an entire, pre-sliced soap cake and putting it up for auction at your charity event. I’m even beginning to get some specialty boutiques who are buying these cakes to display in their shops, where they sell them by the slice.
If you give soap as a gift and your recipient is socially-aware, you’ll get extra bonus points if they know your gift is handmade. That’s because more people are beginning to realize just how important it is to our economy to buy from small businesses instead of solely from giant corporations.
Many of my customers buy extra soap (regular bars or dessert-type) to keep on hand for those times when they unexpectedly need a quick, last-minute gift. It sure beats having to run out to the store on a weekday evening to try to find something. We’ve all been there!
Consider handmade items for:
- Birthday parties
- Baby showers
- Teacher’s gifts
- Corporate conferences
- Retirement parties
- Christmas gifts
- Housewarming gifts
- Hostess gifts
- Bunco night with the girls
- Secret Santa gifts exchanges
- As a thank you for your neighbor, coworker, hairdresser, etc.
As for those who think, ‘How irresponsible and dangerous! What if a child takes a bite?’, let me assure you, I am not irresponsible. Just ask my friends, family and coworkers. They can list my many faults :-) but being irresponsible is not one of them.
My dessert soaps are clearly labeled ‘Soap’ and ‘Do not eat’. They are geared and marketed toward adults, teens, and children over 5 years of age. I’m not marketing them to young children. I have other soap that I make especially for the little ones. If you have any doubts whatsoever that your child or grandchild might eat the soap, I encourage you to buy one of the children’s soaps instead. When in doubt, don’t buy the dessert soap.
Remember when children used to be punished for swearing by having their mouths washed out with soap? And that was commercial, store-bought soap full of all kinds of chemicals. I’m not saying that the old-school soap-in-the-mouth punishment was right or wrong, but it does put this whole thing in perspective.
Physicians report that most soap is non-toxic. It’s soap, not arsenic :-)
By contrast, commercial hand sanitizers ARE something to be concerned about. The alcohol in those products can be dangerous to young children. Again, that is just to help keep everything in perspective.
But, if worse comes to worst, and your child gets hold of some of my soap and actually chews it up and swallows it, yes, it will taste terrible. And, yes, eating soap may cause your child to run to the bathroom all evening, or it may even cause your child to throw up. But then, so will eating too many candy apples at the county fair ;-)
The Enchanted Bath
Huntington, West Virginia, USA
For wholesale inquiries or special event orders, please email
TheEnchantedBath (@) gmail.com.