Spotlight on Ingredients: Heavy Cream

Cream Drop
Cream Drop by Kyle May

Do you ever read over recipes or watch soaping videos and wonder why soapmakers use the ingredients they use? After all, the only essentials for a good bar of handmade soap are oils, water, and lye. However, certain additives do impart some nice qualities to your soap, and in a series of posts, I wanted to share some of the “extra” ingredients I use in soap and why I use them.

Heavy cream has a lot of fat in it—36% fat or more. Goat milk typically has 4-5% fat. Cream is very rich and smooth. While the benefits of milks—especially goat milk—are widely known, not as many soapers use cream, possibly because of the expense. I wouldn’t try substituting all of the water in a recipe with cream, and not only because of the cost, but also because of the high fat content. The cream will likely congeal fairly quickly, even if you freeze it first, because the lye will react to the fat in the cream. If you have made milk soaps, you may have noticed that if you set the milk and lye mixture aside for a few moments, it does start to thicken as the lye reacts to the fats in the milk. Another reason you might not want to use cream as a total water replacement is that the high fat content might really throw off your superfat percentage.

So how do I use cream in soap? I usually add about 4-5% of the amount of oils to a batch of soap. So, for example, if I make a batch of soap that is 500 grams (I always measure in grams; it’s more precise than ounces and easier to convert), then I would add about 22 grams of cream to the batch. I admit this is approximate because I usually add a round number of grams of cream to my soap. For example, my typical batch is about 2.5 pounds of oils, or 1120 grams, and I usually add about 50 grams of cream to a batch that size. I would recommend using heavy cream at a rate of about 3-5%. You really don’t need to use a lot. When I use cream in my soap, I remove the same amount of water from the recipe. For example, in my batch with 50 grams of cream, I remove 50 grams of distilled water from the recipe. If you use full water and cream, you might find your soap takes a little longer to harden. I have not experimented with using full water and cream.

Before I add the cream to the oils, I warm it up a bit so that it is the same temperature as the oils (more or less). Then, I add my cream directly to my oils and stick blend it before adding the lye. I have noticed that it will not emulsify completely with the oils. Typically there are tiny white flecks of cream floating on the top of my oils. I usually give the oils one more quick stick blend before adding the lye water, but it probably isn’t necessary because once the lye water is added, it will all blend.

I first noticed the benefits of using cream in soap by accident. I made a batch of Creamy Coconut soap with coconut milk and cream.

Creamy Coconut

I mainly added the cream because I felt it would be in keeping with the name of the soap to have both real coconut milk and real cream in it. When I used it in the shower, I noticed how smooth the bars felt. If you can believe it, I didn’t immediately realize this smoothness was because of the cream. I thought it might have been the coconut milk.

I started noticing that other soapmakers used cream in their soaps, and when I ordered soaps from these soapmakers, I noticed how smooth their bars were. At first, I wasn’t sure why their soaps were so much smoother than mine either because there are so many variables—oil recipes, other additives, and the like. But eventually I realized it was the cream in the soap that added smoothness. I have used cream in almost all of the soaps I have made since that discovery (I typically do not use it in milk soaps, with the exception of Creamy Coconut).

In addition to smoothness, cream adds some of the same benefits as other milks in soap—extra conditioning being the main benefit imparted by heavy cream. I mainly enjoy the feel of soap with cream in it. It is definitely smoother than soap made just with water. It feels silky on the skin. I typically do not have to use much lotion at all because of the conditioning oils and butters in my soap, but I have noticed even less of a need to use lotion in those soaps made with cream.

Adding just a little bit of cream can add some great qualities to your soap. With my recipe of just 50 grams, I am adding 18 grams of fat, so my superfat percentage will not be drastically different from my calculation.

As usual, David Fisher has experimented with cream and shared his results. You can see what will happen if you add lye to cream in his tutorial. I personally have not found it necessary to freeze the cream I use in my own recipes. In addition, I have never noticed any discoloration as can happen when you use goat milk in place of water. I actually haven’t tried using just a small amount of liquid goat milk and adding it directly to the oils as I do with heavy cream, so you might find that solution works just as well for you.

Creamy Soap
Print Recipe
Make your own version of my creamy soap.
Servings Prep Time
1.4 pounds soap 1 hour
Servings Prep Time
1.4 pounds soap 1 hour
Creamy Soap
Print Recipe
Make your own version of my creamy soap.
Servings Prep Time
1.4 pounds soap 1 hour
Servings Prep Time
1.4 pounds soap 1 hour
Servings: pounds soap
  1. Dissolve the lye in the distilled water and set aside to cool.
  2. Melt coconut oil and palm oil.
  3. Add olive oil and castor oil to melted hard oils.
  4. Add heavy cream to oils and blend.
  5. Combine lye water with blended oils when both reach about 100ºF. The temperature doesn't need to be exact, but it should be close.
  6. Blend with stick blender until you reach trace.
  7. Add fragrance or essential oil and stir well until thoroughly combined.
  8. Pour into a mold, cover mold with plastic wrap, and drape with towel. One pound of oils will make approximately 1.4 pounds of soap.
  9. Let soap go through gel phase and saponify for about one day before unmolding.
Recipe Notes

Note: you can substitute coconut milk, like I did, for the water simply by using 151 grams of frozen coconut milk and slowly adding the lye to the milk until the lye is dissolved. You can also use colorants. I have not had issues with this soap overheating or acting strangely in gel phase, but keep and eye on it, and remove some insulation if it appears to be getting too hot. Also, you can opt not to gel this soap and instead put it in the freezer overnight. The cream might make the soap heat up in the refrigerator, so it might need the additional chill of the freezer to prevent gel phase if you choose not to gel.

Share this Recipe
Powered byWP Ultimate Recipe

53 thoughts on “Spotlight on Ingredients: Heavy Cream

    1. It’s no different from any other soap. Soap does not need preservatives because the saponification process prevents spoiling. However, fragrances will dissipate with age. The only changes you might notice is soap is often harder with age. I have handmade bars I bought over four years ago, and the fragrance is gone, but they are still wonderful to use.

  1. Is there anything I can use in place of the palm oil, its so hard to find. And, how much if there is anything.

    1. You can use any oils you like. You just need to run the new recipe through a lye calculator like SoapCalc if you do. You can try lard or tallow, which are sometimes in the meat section at the grocery store. Or if you want vegetable oils only, you can try Crisco.

    1. It’s 6%. You can always run recipes through a soap calculator to make adjustments. I don’t tknow what the final superfat is with milks included.

  2. If I freeze this over night, can I cut it as soon as it has defrosted? Love the sound of this, thank you.

    1. It is a good idea to wait longer to cut if you freeze your soap. Usually at least a couple of days.

    2. This soap is everything you said it is! My friends keep asking for more, it’s their favorite, even better than the fancy oil soaps that I make! Only thing is that it traces quickly so no fancy designs with this one.

    1. I’m not sure. I haven’t tried to make milk soaps using the hot process method. I’m sure there are good resources for trying it online, though.

  3. I’m going to try this with hot process. I have used other recipes from cold process and I just add extra water. So far no fails. This sounds like a great soap. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Wanda, did you try this in hot process? I would love to know how it turned out and your recipe.
      Thank you, Ruth

  4. Hi Dana, did you achieve the 4 white bars in the picture above with the recipe you’ve so kindly shared? I was wondering if you had used any coconut milk in your batch. I have seen other recipes where the heavy cream has turned a dark brown.
    Thanks so much, I’m looking forward to trying the recipe.


    1. Violet, yes, but I added titanium dioxide. Those bars are my Creamy Coconut soap, so I did use both cream and coconut milk in them. One of the reasons I added titanium dioxide is that the coconut fragrance oil in them tends to darken the soap. I have never had cream soaps turn dark brown unless I had a discoloring fragrance in them, too. They actually tend to stay lighter than goat milk soaps.

  5. Hello…
    I was wondering if this soap recipe can be used to make loofah soaps.. It just sounds perfect to incorporate loofah in it.

    1. Possibly. I haven’t tried it. I don’t have a great deal of experience with MP bases. You could experiment with a small batch and see what happens.

  6. Hi Dana,

    NEWBIE ALERT(LOL): Thank you so much for sharing your recipe!!!! I love it and excited to try it…. Still learning but Was wondering, do you replace the coconut oil in this recipe with coconut milk??

    1. No, oils should never be “replaced” with liquids. They do different things in the soap. If you change out any oil amounts, always make sure to run everything through a lye calculator. Removing an oil and replacing it with coconut milk would result in lye-heavy soap that would be too corrosive to use.

      1. Newbie alert and dyslexic LOL I have read and read this recipe several times…. my perplexing question maybe a simple it’s two fold. If using heavy cream (huge fan of) do you have to room temp it to 100° or anything special. Secondly if you decided on coconut do you use same amount and proceed. If I have asked a redundant question I apologize

        1. I bring it to the same temp as the oils, usually about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I do the same with coconut milk.

    1. You might be able to. I haven’t tried it, so I can’t be sure how the creamed coconut would react to the lye or whether it might turn the the soap brown, as food sometimes does in soap. You could certainly try it.

  7. Can I add powdered coconut milk? If so how much powdered milk ppo and at what stage? Sorry still a newbie but gathering info. Thanks

    1. I’m guessing you can, but I’m not sure what amount. I am not sure if you are talking about reconstituting it first or not, but if you do, you might add it at the water phase. If not, you can try adding the powder to the oils. I do that all the time with powdered buttermilk.

  8. hi Dana thank you so much for your post. I am going to try this right away but was wondering if I use 1/2 water and 1/2 goats could I still use cream. I would deduct the amount from liquids.

  9. what essential oil do you recommend with this? I mixed a blend and it hardened up so quickly I didn’t even have time to put it in the mould.

  10. I’m confused when I run it through soap calc I come up with a different liquid amount than I do on yours when I set the batch to 2.5 lbs on yours can I just follow what your measurements are?

    1. Tamara, that may be because I do a water discount and superfat the oils. You can try following my measurements, but you might find the soap doesn’t fit your mold and you may need to put some in other molds.

  11. Hi Dana thank you so much for this article it has answered so many questions i had about using cream in my cp soap , as im quite new to soap making your article was so helpful especially the way it was explained so easy to understand . Thank you very much ,its much appreciated. Angie

  12. Sorry to be a pest however what a refreshing post… your active hand in helping everyone is amazingly refreshing just had to add that LOL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.