Luxury Goat Milk Soap: Recipe and Tutorial

Cee from Oil & Butter is my favorite soap blogger for many reasons. She is generous with her expertise and her ideas. Her soap looks incredible (and her photographs are beautiful). She is knowledgeable and friendly. She shared a recipe and tutorial for a Luxury Soap two years ago, and it looks so gorgeous that I have been dying to try it. In the spirit of Cee’s original post, I share my recipe, advice, and reflections.

Luxury SoapIngredients

Lye Solution

  • 291 g goat milk
  • 85 g coconut milk
  • 155 g lye

Oils

  • 56 g mango butter
  • 57 g shea butter
  • 225 g coconut oil
  • 200 g palm oil
  • 430 g olive oil
  • 57 g avocado oil
  • 57 g sweet almond oil
  • 56 g castor oil

Additives

  • 1.5 t honey mixed with 1.5 t distilled water
  • 68 g fragrance (I chose Brown Sugar and Fig from Nature’s Garden)
  • 2 t Diamond Dust Mica dispersed in the sweet almond oil
  • 1 T sodium lactate

Equipment

First, a quick note about grams as opposed to ounces. I use grams to measure the weight of my soap ingredients because grams are more precise than ounces, even if you are measuring tenths of an ounce. I always recommend that soapmakers use grams, and whenever I use a recipe someone else has posted, I convert it to grams using SoapCalc.

This recipe was adapted from Cee’s own Luxury Soap recipe. I removed the jojoba oil mainly because it’s terrifically expensive. I don’t have much of it right now, and I prefer to use it for leave-on products like lotions, like other soapmakers. It’s perfectly fine in soap, however, and I didn’t remove it because I thought it shouldn’t be used. Using it would certainly have added a bit of decadence to an already almost sinful soap, but I think the recipe is plenty luxurious without it, too. I didn’t have chamomile extract, so I didn’t use that either. Aside from removing the jojoba and chamomile extract, I tweaked the numbers of the other oils and swapped almond milk for coconut milk. Otherwise, the recipes are quite similar.

I began by preparing the oils. First, I measured out the butters.

Mango ButterMango butter is truly wonderful. It is similar to shea butter in some respects in that it has a significant amount of unsaponifiables, meaning that more of the conditioning and moisturizing qualities of the butter make it through the saponification process. It also contributes to a creamy lather.

Shea Butter I added the shea butter to the mango butter. I use shea butter and/or cocoa butter in almost all of my soaps because I love what it does for skin. It does speed up trace, so be careful.

Coconut OilIn with the coconut oil. It’s so hot here today that it’s completely melted already. Actually the mango butter was kind of soft as well. It’s usually a little harder (and almost brittle) than it was today. Coconut oil is great for bubbles—it contributes to fluffy lather and cleansing as well as bar hardness. I use coconut oil in almost all of my soaps.

Palm OilThe last hard oil is palm oil, which I use because it contributes to bar hardness, stable lather, and conditioning. I use it in a lot of my soaps.

What I like to do is put all my hard oils in the soap bowl together, then melt them in the microwave. It saves time as opposed to melting each separately and adding them together. I warmed these oils for about one minute (try 30-second bursts). At that point, the shea was almost melted, so I stirred it until it was completely melted.

Olive OilA quick word about olive oil: you can use any grade of olive oil in soap, but I always use pure golden olive oil. I don’t think it’s necessary to use extra virgin olive oil in soapmaking. In fact, it’s not different enough from pure golden olive oil to warrant its own category in SoapCalc, though olive oil pomace is. I personally don’t use pomace because pure golden olive oil is available at my local discount membership warehouse for a really good price (and no shipping). I use olive oil in every single soap I make. It’s highly conditioning and contributes to stable lather and bar hardness. I believe it to be the single best soaping oil there is.

Soft Oils

I prepared the soft oils—olive oil, avocado oil, and castor oil—measuring them out one at a time, and then adding them all to the melted hard oils and butters.

Avocado oil contains vitamins A, D, and E, and contributes to the bar’s conditioning properties.

Castor oil is the best source of ricinoleic acid and make the lather much fluffier and more stable. I use castor oil in most of my soaps. Castor oil is also a natural humectant, which means it draws moisture to the skin. I usually only use 5%, except in shampoo bars.

Mica Added

I added my Diamond Dust Mica to the sweet almond oil, mixed it with a small hand mixer, and then added the sweet almond oil to the rest of the oils. Sweet almond oil is another of my favorite oils. It contributes to a stable lather and conditioning bar. It works well as a carrier oil for colorants, too. It’s also great in lotions.

I blended the oils so that the Diamond Dust Mica would disperse. Look at that pearly sheen!

Diamond Dust Mica

I believe this mica is probably similar to Bramble Berry’s Super Pearly White Mica. That lovely, pearl sheen will not completely make it through the soapmaking process, but if you use it in melt-and-pour soap, you should see a nice shimmer in your soap. I do still notice a little bit of shimmer in cold process soap as well, and it definitely adds something that just plain titanium dioxide lacks.

Goat Milk and Coconut Milk

After my oils were prepared, I prepared my milks and lye. Why didn’t I do that before preparing the oils? Well, if I were using water, I would have prepared the lye mixture first because it needs time to cool. However, if I am starting with frozen milk, there is no reason to start with the lye mixture because it doesn’t need to cool. In fact, I find that I can control my milk and lye much better if I prepare it after the oils. I have found that if you prepare the milk and lye before the oils, the fats in the goat milk begin to saponify, and while that’s not necessarily problematic for any reason, I just find I like it better if the milk is still liquid. I used a 6% lye discount in this soap, but you could alter it to your preferred superfat if you like. I find 6% to be my personal sweet spot.

Lye MixtureWorking with milk requires a bit more effort than working with water. I use a stainless steel pot because if I need to quickly cool it down the mixture, stainless steel is a better conductor (hot or cold) than plastic or glass. I also add the lye to the milk just a little at a time and stir until the lye is dissolved. Then I add more. It can take a little while. Once all the lye was added, and I was relatively sure the all of it had dissolved in the milk, I added the sodium lactate to the lye mixture and stirred well to dissolve it.

Lye MixtureI checked the temperature of the lye mixture, and it was about 82°F. Pretty good. I don’t like it to rise above 90°F. If it starts to become too warm, I put the pan in a cool water bath to bring the temperature down.

Another benefit of preparing the oils first and then the lye mixture is that the oils have a little bit more time to cool down as well. I didn’t take their temperature, but my guess is that they were 90-95°F by the time the lye was ready. They would likely have been about 100°F when I began preparing the lye mixture.

Once the lye mixture was ready, I added it to the oils and stirred a little bit. Anne-Marie Faiola of Bramble Berry likes to pour the lye mixture down the barrel of her stick blender to reduce splashing and bubbles. I did that this time, too.

Stick Blending SoapI stick blended until a very light trace, then I added the honey. Honey will accelerate trace, so make sure you add it at a light trace, or you may find you have gone too far with the stick blending. When I use honey in soap, I mix it with an equal amount of distilled water. In this case, I used 1.5 t of honey, so I mixed it with 1.5 t of water. Then I microwave the honey for a very short time—only 5-10 seconds. I stir until it dissolves in the water. I find that I have fewer issues with scorching, overheating, and caverns in soap if I dissolve the honey. I have also learned not to use more honey than I need. I wouldn’t go higher than a tablespoon in a batch of this size, and given I used a log mold instead of a slab mold, even that much might have caused temperature issues. Honey is a natural humectant and contributes to the lather in soap.

I added my fragrance, which was Nature’s Garden’s Brown Sugar and Fig. I wanted a scent that evoked the creaminess of the soap. I chose this fragrance also because I knew that it had a very small amount of vanillin in it, and reviews said that it didn’t discolor. I love the fragrance description:

This magical, complex fragrance oil by Nature’s Garden is composed of top notes of fresh figs, peaches, and passion fruit; followed by middle notes of coconut milk, vanilla orchid, jasmine, muguet, and freesia; well-balanced with base notes of vanilla beans, caramel, maple sugar, fig leaves, and musk.

To be honest, I don’t smell any fruit notes, with the possible exception of the fig. I mostly smell vanilla, sugar, and musk. It smells great, and I think it’s perfect in this soap. I had no issues with acceleration or ricing. I’ll have to wait and see as the soap cures to determine whether the claims that it doesn’t discolor are true.

I should think other good fragrance choices might be Nature’s Garden’s Baby Bee Buttermilk or Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey or Bramble Berry’s Wildflower Honey (which will discolor, but to a nice honey shade).

TraceI blended to a pretty thick trace, then poured the soap into my 10-inch silicone loaf mold, which was the perfect size for this recipe. Bramble Berry recommends using sodium lactate to make it easier to remove soap from this mold, and in any case, sodium lactate adds a nice silky feel to soap.

Soap In the MoldLike Cee, I spooned soap on the top after doing a little bit of sculpting, but I didn’t think my tops were as pretty as hers, so I experimented a bit with a skewer to create a slightly different design.

Swirled Soap TopsI spritzed it with 91% isopropyl alcohol, which might not have been strictly necessary since I didn’t choose to gel the soap, but it can’t hurt anyway. Isopropyl alcohol can help prevent soda ash on the tops of soap, but it’s not 100% effective.

A quick word about gelling milk soaps. You will hear some soapmakers insist that you can’t or shouldn’t gel milk soaps. I don’t see any problem with it. I gel most of my milk soaps. Even the ones with honey in them, too. I have only had a problem with overheating once, and it was because I used way too much honey. My advice is to do what you want. I chose not to gel this one because I didn’t want it to darken as much as I knew it would if I gelled it. You might not need to insulate, or perhaps just to insulate lightly, but your milk soaps will gel just fine if you are mindful of the other additives you use and keep an eye on the temperature.

Cut Luxury SoapThe cut soaps smell wonderful. I am going to let them have a nice long cure and give them to family and friends for Christmas.

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Natural and Rustic Soaps

I absolutely adore the artistry in soaps. Talented soapmakers can do some really incredible things with color, swirls, and embeds that just blow me away. But my first love is natural-looking and rustic homemade soap. It was through a natural soapmaker that I was first introduced to handmade soap. This soapmaker was at my local farmer’s market every week, and I was entranced by some of her soaps. I never bought it (my daughter did once), but her Sunrise soap with an orange slice tucked in the top and litsea cubeba and blood orange essential oils captivated me. I started using her Dead Sea mud bar on my face, and I noticed how much better it was for my skin.

I stocked up on these soaps as I prepared to move to Massachusetts because I knew I most likely wouldn’t be ordering them online, and I was determined to see if I could figure out how to make soaps myself. The first soaps I made on my own were natural-looking soaps. When I first started, I had every intention of making 100% natural soaps, but I quickly realized that there was nothing wrong with soap colorants and fragrance oils, and in fact, fragrance oils have undergone testing to ensure that they are skin-safe while essential oils are not as regulated. Using these materials in my handmade soaps did not hurt their quality. They were still handmade, which is better than any commercial soap.

I haven’t made any natural-looking soap in a while, however, with the exception of my Lavender Oatmeal soap.

Lavender OatmealThis soap is absolutely DIVINE, and I really wish it got a little more love. I adore it. It has a thick, luscious lather and it smells amazing—it’s scented with lavender essential oil and oatmeal, milk, and honey fragrance. It is made with aloe vera juice and finely ground oatmeal to make it extra good for your skin. I have given most of the first batch I made away. My children’s teachers will receive the last of it in a bath basket I’m putting together for end-of-year gifts. One of the nice things about being a soapmaker is that I always have the very excellent gift of handmade soap at the ready for any occasion.

Another natural soap that has been a big hit with friends and family and a few customers is my Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey.

Oatmeal, Milk, and HoneyIt’s a very pretty soap, and the Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey fragrance oil is yummy. I make this in an unscented variety, too, and it also smells pretty good. I actually like the smell of goat milk. Is that weird? Honey smells awesome in soap.

I recently received a package of soaps from fellow soapmakers participating in a swap. They made some lovely, natural-looking and, in some cases, rustic soaps.

Soap SwapsSeriously, how delicious does this cinnamon oatmeal soap look?   Cinnamon Oatmeal

And I absolutely love the label on this one.

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Seriously, how cute is that? Southern Romance, and the couple sitting on the hood of a Chevy pickup complete with cowboy boots together with the rustic font? Awesome! Might be the cutest packaging I’ve ever seen.

But look at what you see when you pull off the cigar band.

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Don’t you love it? It’s beautiful! Look at the oats on the top and even the drag marks make it seem somehow more wholesome and natural than it would if they had been planed away.

And check out this Cocoa Coffee soap.

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It smells awesome and feels so smooth.

I think this last one even has dandelion flowers in it. It’s so pretty.2013-06-16 17.53.28

Opening this box made me want to ditch the colors and fancy swirls and make a natural soap again. I made a new batch of the Lavender Oatmeal, but I wanted to make something new, too.

Then I happened upon Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve’s website through some circuitous route through the web, and I was inspired by the simple beauty of their soaps. There truly is nothing like a natural-looking bar of soap.

I had been wanting to make an almond soap for a while, but thinking about ways I could make it more natural prompted me to try making my own almond milk. I tried a recipe found at Frugally Sustainable via Pinterest:

  1. Soak 1 cup of almonds overnight (she recommends 48 hours, but 24 was fine for me).
  2. Peel off the skins. She didn’t say to do this, but I did.
  3. Put four cups of distilled water in a blender along with the peeled almonds.
  4. Blend until smooth. It took me a minute.
  5. Strain milk from ground almonds with cheesecloth. I had to use a tea strainer because I don’t have cheesecloth. I am definitely getting one because a tea strainer was slow going.

The milk might taste better if you used three cups of water instead of four. It tasted fine—sort of like milk with no milk fat flavor, if that makes sense.

Before I drank any of it, however, I measured out the amount I’d need for my soap recipe and froze it overnight.

The next day, I used it instead of water in my lye.

Almond Milk and LyeThis is what it looked like once the lye was fully incorporated. It stayed a pretty, creamy white and the temperature never rose above 77°F.  Isn’t it pretty?

I decided to add some honey to the soap, even though I knew that the fragrance oil I planned to use had vanillin in it and the soap was likely to discolor. Honey can also discolor.

AdditivesThe honey is dissolved in a little bit of the almond milk. I decided to use a tablespoon of the ground almonds in the soap itself.

To keep the soap a little bit lighter, I did add titanium dioxide, but I’m not sure how much that will really prevent the vanilla from discoloring the soap.

OilsHere is the oil mixture with some kaolin clay and titanium dioxide. The recipe I used included sweet almond oil, coconut oil, olive oil, palm oil, shea butter, and castor oil.

I should have taken more pictures of the soap in process, but I didn’t. Here is how it looked when I unmolded it the next day. Don’t you love the cute honeycomb look? I love to do honeycombs on my honey soaps.

Soap in the MoldYou can’t really tell because of the honeycomb top, but this soap turned out rock hard and really creamy in appearance. I am not sure if that’s the almond milk or the large amount of sweet almond oil. I have never used almond milk before, and my recipes generally have around 10% almond oil at most, but this recipe has 25% sweet almond oil.

Here are the cut bars.

Sweet Almond and Honey SoapI do not know how much they might darken as they cure, as the vendor from which I purchased the fragrance oil warned that this fragrance does cause discoloration. The titanium dioxide will counter it some, but if they stay this color or perhaps darken a little more, I’ll be satisfied. But then again, this is supposed to look natural, so if it darkens a lot, I’ll just roll with it. It smells absolutely incredible. Even the sweet honey scent comes through. If you are an almond fan, you are going to want to this soap.

Ingredients: homemade almond milk, sweet almond oil, coconut oil, olive oil, sustainable palm oil, sodium hydroxide, shea butter, fragrance, castor oil, finely ground almonds, kaolin clay, titanium dioxide, honey.

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Making Milk Soaps

Milk via FreeFoto.comAfter making a few milk-based soaps, even considering some spectacular failures and the extra work involved, I have come to the conclusion that I really enjoy making milk soap.

Earlier this week, I made a yogurt-based soap using a recipe in Anne L. Watson’s Milk Soapmaking. The yogurt feels great, but I tried to control the heat (possibly unnecessarily) by putting it in the freezer, and it partially gelled, leaving an oval ring in the middle of each bar. I am not sure what to do with it now. I might cut it up and incorporate it other soaps. It did turn out a pretty yellow color naturally just because I added some lemon zest. It might be nice as a confetti in another soap. My point (and I do have one) is that I really enjoyed making the soap. Today I made another batch of my chocolate milk soap, and I enjoyed making that, too.

I think one of the reasons I enjoy making milk-based soap is that it’s just a bit more challenging. The milk really seems to behave better with the lye if it’s frozen first. Adding the lye slowly also helps. I usually add a bit of lye, stir it completely, and then add a bit more, repeating these steps until all the lye is dissolved. It can take 15 minutes or more, but while I’m doing it, I feel so relaxed and peaceful, but also focused. I find this extra step in making soap enjoyable, particularly when the results are good. I’m looking forward to trying new milk-based soaps and refining the technique of making milk soaps.

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Smart Soapmaking and Milk Soapmaking

  

At this point, I’ve read several good books about making soap. I have to put Anne L. Watson’s Smart Soapmaking and Milk Soapmaking at the top of the pile. Both of these books are practical, no-nonsense books that should get any beginner on way to making soap. Both books include several tried and tested recipes that are easy for beginners. Most soap-making books just include one basic recipe with variations. Those books can be nice, but they’re not very helpful for beginners who want to try different combinations of oils to see what will happen. Another extremely useful feature of Watson’s books are her myth-debunking sections. For instance, Watson shares that it isn’t necessary for your soap to reach trace before you pour it into your mold. I have been struggling with swirling for this very reason—I’ve been trying to get all my colors to trace. Another great myth she debunks is that the lye and oils have to be the same temperature before they mix. I had never tried too hard to make sure my oils were at 100° when my lye reached 100°, but so much I had read insisted this step was critical to the point of instructing soapers to have hot water and cool water baths to help reach equilibrium. My soap was turning out fine, so I couldn’t figure it out. I will say that it does seem to be easier to soap if the temperatures are close together, but it’s nonsense that they have to be exactly the same. Watson recommends a range of about 20°F, and that seems right to me.

I purchased these books after eying them for some time mainly because I had been having so much trouble with my milk soaps. I made a goat milk bastile that has some lighter spots that look like oil (they are not lye spots), and I don’t know how it happened. I made another goat milk soap that turned into a huge mess. The last soap I made with cream appears to be getting DOS and went through a partial gel. I successfully made soap with cow milk, so I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, and I decided perhaps these books could help me. Watson breaks down milk soap making into two major categories: the cool technique and the warm technique. The cool technique begins with frozen milk, while the warm technique begins with powdered milk. She includes milk-based recipes I had not even thought of, including yogurt, sour cream, and butter.

After purchasing a digital thermometer I call my “temperature gun,” I have come to believe most of the milk soap issues I’m having are temperature-related. I think I’ve been soaping too hot. I have noticed that it seems to be taking longer than usual for my lye to reach 100°. In actuality, I think my thermometer hasn’t been accurate. I have been rigging it to the side of the lye bowl to keep it from falling in, and I think the temperature around the edges is cooler. As a result, I do believe I have been soaping too hot with the milk. I made two batches of soap using the temperature gun to keep an eye on the lye mixture, and both soaped up very nicely. Now that I’ve read Watson’s books and purchased this temperature gun, I feel ready to try milk again.

I wish I had read Watson’s book before I read some of the others because I think I would have trusted myself more. Readers should be aware neither book includes photographs. I have come to believe that good photography is extremely important in a soap-making book, just as it is in a recipe book. Photographs are a baseline you can use to determine 1) whether the soap looks like something you want to make, and 2) how it should turn out. I think Watson’s books were published by a smaller press and may even have been self-published, and photography would probably have been cost-prohibitive. I missed the photographs, but unlike other books with bigger publishing budgets, I was willing to forgive their absence because the information was so clear and helpful.

A side note: I wrote an email to Anne L. Watson asking a question about clean up. Every book I read says wait to clean up for about 24 hours, same as you would to unmold the soap. I didn’t wait the first couple of times because I hadn’t realized you needed to. Then I read that cleaning up right away could gunk up your plumbing, as the soap would saponifiy in your pipes and cause clogs. So I started waiting to clean up, and it was painful. I think perhaps waiting might be a good idea if you have a lot of left over soap, but I only make up what I will use, so I mainly just have a few globs on my soap-making bowl, spoon, and stick blender. And it was a beast to clean up the next day. I asked Watson if this was yet another myth or whether it was a good practice to wait to clean up. She wrote back and said she believes it is a myth. She recommends wiping off excess soap with paper towels and cleaning up with gloves and goggles still on. That makes a ton of sense to me. I am embarrassed not to have thought of it. She also recommends blue Dawn for clean up. So there you have it, friends. Another myth debunked.

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