Great Cakes Soap Challenge Club Dancing Funnel Challenge

Dancing Under the Tuscan Sun






It’s August, and boy, oh boy is it HOT here in Colorado!  Don’t get me wrong, I actually love August in Colorado because it usually starts out hotter than a billy goat’s butt in a pepper patch, but gets cooler and cooler as every week goes by. Heck, in 1962 we had our first snow of the year on September 3rd! But it is August. And it is still pretty hot outside. And it is the perfect time to make soap for Amy Warden’s Soap Challenge Club!


The Challenge

For the August challenge, we had the immensely talented Tatsiana Serko of Creative Soap by Steso back to teach us this really beautiful technique. Tatsiana and her friend Jelena Vasiljeva, from Soap Techniques (another EXTREMELY talented soap maker), were inspired by this soap and developed the technique based on the design. They have since created several gorgeous designs with this technique.

Soap Techniques

Jelena’s “Carnival”


Tatsiana’s soap


Another soap by Tatsiana


Yet another beauty from Tatsiana!


In order to create this soap, you need several squirt bottles, a slab mold, and a very slow-moving soap recipe. Despite the name, no funnels are involved. It is actually a variation of the “Faux Funnel Pour” so that’s where the funnel part comes in.

For this challenge, we had two categories to choose from, Natural or Synthetic, and a few specific guidelines. We could use as many colors as we wanted but each segment had to have the same color bordering it and the color inside the shape could only have one solid color, no swirls or mixes of different colors. The technique is achieved by squirting a large round dot first of your border color, and then squirting the alternate color into the center of it, forcing both colors to spread out into a larger dot. If done correctly, and with the right batter consistency, you get a segment with an outline of color around it. You then proceed by building up layers, repeating the same sequence over and over. 


First Try

The biggest thing I have learned from past tutorials taught by Tatsiana is that she makes everything look effortless and super-duper easy to pull off. With this in mind, I went forth knowing I would probably need a practice batch…or 10, to get the hang of it. Luckily, it only took me a batch and three-quarters before I figured out how to correctly do the technique. I hadn’t yet decided if wanted to enter the Natural or Synthetic category so I didn’t put that much time into the design process for my first batch. Since I was pretty certain I wouldn’t likely experience beginner’s luck and since I haven’t had the chance to work with a lot of natural colorants, I decided to get my feet wet with some colorants I hadn’t used before.

Tatsiana warned us that working with more than two colors, one for the outline and one for the inside, would be more difficult to pull off. I liked the look of the soaps with multiple colors but decided to play it safe and stick with two colors. I went with pink, using French pink clay and olive green, using an oil infusion of moringa powder. 

French Pink 2

French pink clay dispersed in essential oils


Moringa powder, heat-infused in olive oil

It is common for clays to speed up trace when added directly to soap. To combat that, it helps to disperse them in a liquid beforehand, giving them time to absorb the liquid they are in instead of adding them to the soap batter and allowing them to absorb that instead. I used 1/2 tablespoon of French pink clay and dispersed it in my 2:1 blend of grapefruit and ylang-ylang essential oils. Earlier that day, I used my mini crock pot to infuse 2 tablespoons of moringa powder in eight ounces of olive oil, letting it infuse for about three hours.

Tatsiana suggested using a recipe of 15% Apricot Kernel oil, 15% Babassu oil, 25% Coconut oil, 15% Macadamia oil, 20% Palm oil, 10% Shea Butter, a superfat of 8%, and 30% water as % of oils. Tatsiana stirred her batter by hand the entire time to reach emulsion. I was a little leery of the high percentage of oils and butters in this recipe that typically speed up trace, and since I was not very confident in my ability to keep this recipe fluid long enough, I went with a different recipe (see recipe in “Soap Specs” below).

Tatsiana suggested dividing the batter into one part border/outline color and four parts inner color. I used a small USPS Priority Mail box as my mold which I had previously lined with packing tape to help seal it and to also keep the soap from sticking to it. I then began squirting smaller, round dots of the green batter on the bottom, making sure to space them out, allowing for them to spread. I then squirted the pink into the center of each dot, causing it to spread into a bigger circle. If you want a fantastic video example of how the technique is done properly, see this video from the very talented Kenny, of Royal Apple Berry Soaps. Her technique is flawless and one of the best videos I have seen on what the technique is supposed to look like when you do it right!

( I apologize for the horrible color quality with the mold and fluorescent-colored plastic!)First-1 First-2 First

What I found to be a little challenging was figuring out what to do after the first layer was down. The correct way to do the next layer was to place the next outline dot between the previous circular shapes, not on top of or in the center of the ones that were already down. For some reason, when I was in the middle of pouring everything, I kind of lost track of what I was doing and where I was supposed to go next. This is pretty common for me. I usually watch all of the tutorial videos numerous times so I usually have all the steps and instructions swimming around in my head. It is very easy to get me confused! All the segments looked kind of jumbled and randomly placed in the end. 

As Tatsiana (and Amy) suggested in the tutorial, I put this in the oven (preheated to 170 °F, then turned off after putting the soap in) to force gel. 

The results:

 The pink? Pretty. The green? Um…not so much. I think I’ll be putting it in the category of having a face that only a mother could love! 

First Final


Second Try

I liked the pink and green theme, but thought I would go the synthetic route this time. I did like the recipe I tried the first time but wanted to learn more about keeping the batter thin for long periods of time. I started scouring the Internet for research and tips. I already knew lard was an oil that seemed to help keep a recipe fluid. I also knew lard helps to make a harder bar of soap with a creamy lather and lots of conditioning properties. I ran across several posts on the Soap Making Forum (SMF) regarding the use of lard in higher percentages in recipes to help keep a fluid batter. In addition to those tips, there were some suggestions about adding sugar to help boost the bubbles in a soap with high lard content.  

I usually soap at room temperature to help keep a fluid batter so that’s what I did with this batch. The problem this time is that the room may have been a little too cool. Since I had an air conditioner on near my workspace, the mixtures were around 75 °F when I combined them and the oils had started to become a tad cloudy, indicating the lard was starting to cool off and revert to its original form. This probably wouldn’t have been a huge issue if I had wanted to bring the batter to full trace instead of just emulsification. Looking back at my pictures, I can see indications that the batter was not fully emulsified because there were patches of oil floating on the top and color variations within the same bottle. 


Not only was the batter not emulsified properly, it was way too thin. To create the outlined circles, the batter needs to be thick enough so that the inside color can rest on the outline color and expand the circle as you squirt into it. If it is too thin, not only is it difficult to form precise circles, but the colors also just mix together. 


To add to the issues of this batch, I forgot to turn the oven off when I put it in to gel so it got too hot. (My oven, combined with the high altitude of Colorado, causes problems with CPOP. I can’t leave the oven for more than five or ten minutes after putting the soap in and I absolutely can’t cover it in any way.) I remembered about 15 minutes later to turn it off and by that time, it had started gelling in the corners and I could see oil coming to the surface and pooling.


I opened the oven door to cool it off and once it had cooled down, I shut the door and left it in to finish gelling. The next day there was a thick layer of oil on the entire surface about 1/4 inch thick. I was hoping a miracle would happen and it would reabsorb, but that never happened. I went ahead and cut them since they were pretty hard already, just to take pictures, but I am going to have to re-batch them. Such a pity, too – they were rather pretty little things!

Second Final

One of the only good things about this batch is that once the batter started thickening up towards the end, I finally started catching on to how to do the technique properly. Everything started to make sense! Even though this batch was kind of a dud, I felt an invigorating spark to try it once again now that I knew what I was supposed to be doing!


 Third Try

Filled with confidence from finally figuring out the right way to do the technique, I felt the need to go big! I had been searching for color inspiration online and was drawn to this “Colors of Tuscany” palette from Sherwin Williams:

Tuscan Palette

As I mentioned previously, Tatsiana warned us that using more than two colors would be more difficult. Evidently, my overconfident brain didn’t feel the need to heed that warning. You could almost hear it saying, “Forget the two colors. How about five different colors? Great! But wait, isn’t there black in there too? That would make six colors. Even better!” Then thought, “That isn’t quite enough of a challenge. These colors would be pretty easy to recreate with synthetic colorants so why not try to create them with all natural colorants? Especially since natural colors are not something you have much experience with! Bring it on!!” 

So after some research, these are the color combinations I decided to try:

  • Saguaro: separate oil infusions of moringa powder and nettles, plus dandelion powder added to the batter
  • Gold Crest: oil infusion of turmeric, plus yellow kaolin clay added to the batter
  • Gallery Green: Spirulina and indigo powder added directly to the batter
  • Hearty Orange: separate oil infusions of paprika and annatto 
  • Roycroft Copper Red: oil infusion of madder root, plus Moroccan red clay added to the batter
  • Black: activated charcoal, dispersed in oil

Since I didn’t have weeks to cold-infuse the powders and herbs, I had to go with heat infusions. I got some of my small canning jars and to each one added two tablespoons of the powder or herb to eight ounces of olive oil. I put on the lids and placed them in my large crock pot. I then filled it with enough water so that it came to about two inches below the tops of the jars. I put the lid on the crock pot, heated it up on high for about 15-20 minutes, then turned it on warm for about six hours.


This is what they turned out like:

I’m not sure if it is normal for nettles to create a more subtle green, but it was not as deep green as I had expected. I used the nettles from teabags (ingredients 100% nettles) so I don’t know if that may have caused the weaker color or if this color strength is typical of nettles. Regardless, I loved the colors! 

This time the temperature of the oils and the lye were at around 92 °F and I made certain the batter was fully emulsified. 

Here’s a condensed look at how it all went:

Third Setup-2

Set-up of mold and colors


Initial layer


Filling in


After several layers

Third Final

Ready for the oven

More than two colors definitely is a challenge. There are lots of colors to account for and when you are in the frenzy of squirting all the colors, making sure you are doing it correctly, it is kind of difficult to gauge where to put the next color. My fabulous photographer (AKA my beautiful daughter) was a tremendous help in this area. Since she wasn’t focused on the actual execution of the technique like I was, she was able to see the design from a different standpoint. She was much more able to see where to put the colors so they were evenly spaced, the same color circles touching each other as little as possible. Her guidance was incredibly helpful. (I have to admit that anywhere you see two of the same colors touching each other in the final soaps, it is highly likely I got squirt bottle crazy, tuned out her advisement, and went a little rogue)


The Result!


Everyone before final clean up

Main2-2 alternate


Color Results

I made the following chart to show a little of how each colorant did in the soap before and after saponification. For reference, I gelled the soap by CPOP in an oven that was preheated to 170 °F and then turned off. It was left in for about eight hours, and then taken out. I was able to cut it about 12 hours later, although I waited another day to plane them and clean the edges. 

Swatch Color  Colorant Used Wet Soap Result in Soap
Saguaro Nettle infusion, moringa infusion, dandelion powder added to batter Saguaro Wet Saguaro
Gold Crest Oil infusion of turmeric and yellow kaolin clay Gold Crest Wet Gold Crest
Gallery Green Spirulina and indigo powder added directly to the batter Gallery Green Wet Gallery Green
Hearty Orange Paprika infusion and annatto powder Hearty OrangeWet Hearty Orange
Roycroft Copper Red Madder root infusion and Moroccan red clay Roycroft Copper Red Wet Roycroft Copper Red

There were a few unexpected results. The Gallery Green was close to the correct color when wet but after gelling, it resulted in a color much closer to what the Saguaro should have been.

The Saguaro should have been a little darker and I definitely could have added something to the batter to make it more of an olive green but I was afraid that if I spent too much time experimenting and trying to get a closer match I would chance the batter getting too thick. I probably would have added some French green clay for a darker olive color but I am glad I didn’t in this particular design since the Saguaro ended up being a closer match. I would have ended up with two colors very similar in color. I did like the speckled look in the Saguaro, which I am pretty certain is from the dandelion powder. I would like to see what dandelion would do in an infusion.

I could have added some more red to make the Hearty Orange more of the red-orange color. I probably would have added some of the Moroccan red clay or some of the madder infusion. 

The Gold Crest was a pretty close match when wet but came out a little more orange than I had hoped. I think maybe a little annatto oil added to it may have helped and maybe some more yellow kaolin clay. 

The Roycroft Copper Red was the most spot-on. It was very close when wet and resulted in almost the same color after gelling. 


Although the color results were not exactly what I had originally intended, I was very happy with the deep, vibrant hues I was able to achieve. Unfortunately, the green of the spirulina has already begun to fade a little from when I first made the soap about a week and a half ago. It is still an olive green, but it is a lot lighter.  The other colors have stayed pretty much the same. 


Without further ado, my entry:


Entry for the Dancing Funnel Challenge


Soap Specs:


Attempt #1

French pink clay (Etsy), Moringa Powder (Soaper’s Supplies

Attempt #2

Pink: Ripe Berry (Steph’s Micas/Micas and More)

Green: Mixture of Peak Green (Steph’s Micas/Micas and More) and Reformulated Neon Green (TKB Trading)

Attempt #3

Saguaro: Moringa Powder – infused in oil (Soaper’s Supplies), Nettle tea – infused in oil(local), Dandelion Powder (Soap Making Resource)

Gold Crest: Turmeric Powder – infused in oil (local food co-op), Yellow Kaolin Clay (Steph’s Micas/Micas and More)

Gallery Green: Spirulina*, Indigo Powder (Soaper’s Supplies)

Hearty Orange: Paprika – infused in oil (local food co-op), Annatto Powder – infused in oil*

Roycroft Copper Red: Madder Root Powder – infused in oil*, Moroccan Red Clay (Soap Making Resource)

Black: Activated Charcoal (Steph’s Micas/Micas and More)

*I purchased these items from an Etsy Store that I had a very bad experience with and do not recommend purchasing from.



Attempt #1

Two parts Grapefruit Essential Oil (Majestic Mountain Sage)

One part Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil (Essential Depot)

Attempt #2

Guava Fig (WSP)

Attempt #3

Three parts Clary Sage Essential Oil (Majestic Mountain Sage)

Three parts Orange 5x Essential Oil (Soap Making Resource)

Two parts Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil (Essential Depot)


Attempt #1 

Almond oil
Castor oil
Coconut oil
Olive oil
Canola oil
Palm oil 

Attempt #2 and 3

Coconut oil
Olive oil
Powdered sugar

Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time…


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December 22, 2016 5:49 am

I love your blog entries! You are very thorough in your writing and make me want to try and make soap. Thanks for sharing!

August 31, 2016 4:46 am

This is a great tutorial and humorous commentary on this technique! I totally get your line of reasoning..especially with the third try – which is why I started more research before attempting this project! Thanks so much!

Kenny Lef
August 23, 2016 7:42 pm

I love your blog already! You did such a great job dear!

Ann Rein
Ann Rein
August 18, 2016 3:30 pm

I just loved your soap, I thought it should have won 🙂

August 17, 2016 7:38 am

Debi, you attempts were all beautiful and well done. The post is very informative, thanks for your color experiments and photos. Tail inspiration is the best))))) Thank you and very best luck with it!

Christine Bean
August 16, 2016 9:18 am

What a great blog post. Love that chart. You soap turned out great.

Lisa Maw Curl
August 15, 2016 12:22 pm

Debi, Your soap is beautiful. I love how many colors you have in this soap and the combination of herbs and clays to get your specific colors. Very well done as always!

August 15, 2016 7:27 am

Debi – Your entry is just stunningly beautiful. The colors just pop! The fact that you used all natural colorants and got such a rich looking soap amazes me. I loved that you posted your first attempts/fails and showed how you went through the whole process of learning this quite difficult technique. But I do think your 2nd attempt was quite cool looking. =) Well done! I just love your entry!

August 15, 2016 7:25 am

Beautiful color choices

August 15, 2016 6:14 am

Hi Debi! Wow what a job you did! I love the colors and the soap turned out beautiful! The blog post is amazing too. I used nettle too and was also surprised that it didn’t turn out darker. My soap looks like your first attempt lol. Thanks for sharing your experiences in such detail.

August 14, 2016 10:32 pm

Debi! These are all great, but I really love your entry soap. Your documentation and process and photos are all so well done. You are so good at helping others with your experiences. Thank you for such a wonderful post!

August 14, 2016 5:38 pm

Love your soap, the planning and the write up. Your before and after color chart is over the top. Thanks for sharing such a great account of the experience 🙂

August 14, 2016 4:48 pm

Beautiful colors and a such smooth and even line. Thanks for such a wonderful post. My first challenge was last month, and after reading your blog then, I hoped you’d be in it again just so I could visit and learn from your well documented experience.
As for the heat, our summers in South Texas are 103-104 with a heat index as high as 110 (mmmh, probably higher). It didn’t occur to me that the garage might have been a perfectly good place to help gel my soap.

August 14, 2016 4:11 pm

Wow, you got such a variety of colors using the natural infusions. I’m impressed! Lovely soap.

August 14, 2016 2:16 pm

So pretty!, i love the color choices! OMG, though, I had some of the same issuess….too thick, too thin. My final entry gelled incompletely ’cause if you think it’s hot in Colorado you ain’t been to South Texas…i just could not turn on the oven…but my garage, which is usually hotter than Hades cooled at night. Something I had not considered….so silly! Oh well, live and learn. Great job on you entry! Also love the name!

August 14, 2016 1:39 pm

Debi! These are gorgeous!! I love your color choices!!!

August 14, 2016 1:12 pm

Lovely Soaps Debi! I love bold colors ~ Thanks for sharing your interesting before/after color swatches! Soap is such a fun lab experiment. 🙂 It looks like you have a nice pattern on the side view also – Yay!

Claudia Carpenter
August 14, 2016 12:33 pm

Fabulous, Debi — I love these colors! You almost make me want to give up my synthetic colors… But, I have a hard time getting natural colorants to stick, and would love to see these in a few weeks.

BTW, your circles are beautifully defined and clean, which takes a skilled hand. They look like Tuscan cobblestones.

August 13, 2016 6:49 pm

Love this! Very nice work!

August 13, 2016 4:36 pm

Amazing job!!!! I loved this post and your color swatches!

Jenn Gonzales
Jenn Gonzales
August 13, 2016 10:34 am

Beautiful colors on your soap. I enjoyed reading about it too 🙂

Amy Warden
August 13, 2016 8:49 am

LOVE those colors!! I hadn’t thought to combine spirulina with indigo to create a teal color, but it looks fantastic! I hate that the spirulina fades though. Your soap looks fantastic with all those contrasting colors though!!

August 13, 2016 7:38 am

Wow Debi! What an impressive colour palette! I very much appreciate reading the results of your tests 🙂 So valuable and informative!

August 13, 2016 6:51 am

Debi: I TOTALLY agree with Holly – these soaps a really wonderful! Your helper did a great job in helping you get the colors so nicely spaced too. Thank you for sharing your process with this fun blog! I especially like the before & after pics of the soap – wet & dry – what a great idea, as even with synthetic colors (especially LabColors) they can change so much. What a great way to get some texture into the circles too!! I like your mold idea for the first batch…did you have any issues with it? (It looks like… Read more »

August 14, 2016 12:30 pm
Reply to  Debi

Great ideas with the box.
Question: Will you think about adding a subscription link on your Blog? (For your fans (me included) who want to get an email when ever you have a new posting.)
Thanks so much!

August 14, 2016 4:29 pm
Reply to  Debi

I TOTALLY understand….crack is right!! But I refuse rehab!
🙂 😀

Naomi Fraser
August 13, 2016 1:52 am

Beautiful soap, Debi! It’s like looking through a stained glass window at the Tuscan sun.

August 13, 2016 12:03 am

Debi, your soaps are just amazing! The colors are absolutely gorgeous. Thank you for sharing all the information on the colors, too. 🙂

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