Great Cakes Soap Challenge Club Cold Process + Melt & Pour Soap Designs

Blossoms of Hope



Thank you for your interest in this month’s installment of Amy Warden’s Soap Challenge Club. For the February 2017 challenge, we were asked to combine two different soap making techniques – specifically cold process (CP) and melt & pour (MP) – and incorporate them into one batch of soap. The challenge will be divided between newbies (making soap for less than 2 years and/or fewer than 50 batches) and experienced (everyone else). I will be entering the experienced category.

Our guidelines were:

  • Your soap must feature cold process and melt and pour soap in a cohesive design. No other techniques can be used.
  • Visual non-soap embellishments are limited to natural or synthetic colorants and body safe glitter.
  • You may use any type of mold you wish – cavity, log, slab, etc.

 Click here to skip straight to the How-To


Melt & Pour?…No Thanks

I have to admit, I had initially planned on skipping this challenge. In my journey as a soap maker, I have been very eager to learn everything I can about making soap. I have also been willing to try pretty much any and every technique known, and unknown, in the soaping world. Except melt & pour. This particular technique has not really resonated as something I was yearning to try. The biggest reason I have not been interested in this avenue is because of the MP bases themselves. Many of the bases I have run across seem to consist of a bunch of synthetic ingredients that I don’t care to use. The main reason I even got into soap making in the first place was to have control over what ingredients I used. Using a base of this nature seemed contradictory.

The other reason melt & pour had not called my name was because I felt like it was for beginners and/or children, or people who were afraid of lye. I also felt kind of like it was cheating in a way and not challenging enough, not to mention the design options were less than exciting. When I sat down and actually started researching a little bit, I realized I was actually very misguided in my beliefs. I came across many different creations using melt and pour soap and I have to say, I was incredibly naïve believing MP soap design was limiting or only for beginners. Some of the soaps I found were anything but simple or boring, and some absolutely breathtaking!

Take these designs for example:

Debbie Chiatlas’ Floating Dots soap

Geode Soaps from Cedar Creek

Debbie Chiatas’ Bicycle Soap – winner of Best Melt & Pour at HSMG Conference 2010

Gelatin Party Soap from Kokolele Soaps –

So I scratched both “not challenging enough and limited design opportunity” off the list. Now came my issue with the MP bases. Last year, I tried making a MP base from scratch. It was okay, but it wasn’t translucent at all, and it hardened up pretty quickly after melting, pretty much rendering it useless for many designs. I began researching ways to make a better, more translucent MP base. Thankfully, before I got too deep into my mad scientist mode, I happened upon a wonderful discovery. We have a new sponsor this month, Elements Bath and Body. I decided to take a look around at what they offered and I was tickled to see two things: 1) they offer natural MP bases with the “purest, most environmentally friendly, cruelty free, natural, vegetable-derived ingredients possible”, and 2) they are located in COLORADO!!! How on earth did I not know about this wonderful company?? With both of my reasons for not wanting to try MP debunked, I set forth to design my entry.

My Inspiration

Winters here in Colorado can get dreary. Very dreary. And very, very monotonous. Fortunately, every year around this time I feel like I have been slipped some sort of magical happy pill. Just when I feel like I cannot take another frigid night, another round of snow, another day of looking at the brown ugly landscape, just when I feel like the season is never going to end, I wake up one day and – BOOM! Spring is in the air!

(I am a Colorado native however, so I know enough about Colorado weather to keep me from packing away my winter gear just yet.)

Even though we can be almost -20°F one day and over 50°F two days later, there is still a feeling of renewal and the optimism of new beginnings permeating the air. Maybe it is the first sounds of woodpeckers pounding on the trees. Maybe it is the first sight of buds forming on tree branches. What ever it is, it is amazing how the change begins to penetrate my soul, filling me with an overwhelming sense of hope.

Although we are still a bit early, one of my favorite signs of spring is seeing all the beautiful trees in bloom, especially the cherry trees. I look forward to seeing the profusion of flowers, in every shade of pink, explode from the trees. They never fail to add an amazing abundance of color and beauty to their surroundings. 

Image by photosynthetique

I have never really considered what other significance the cherry blossom might hold beyond its beauty, so I was fascinated to find they are actually quite important in many areas around the world. Not only do they hold great historical importance in many countries, some cultures, especially those in Asia, view the cherry blossom as symbolic in nature as well. For example, in Japanese culture the cherry blossom, also known as “Sakura”, is the  symbolic flower of spring, ushering in new beginnings, renewal, and hope. Both the Japanese and Buddhist cultures also see the cherry blossom as a symbol of the fragility of life. Because the delicate flowers have a very short life-span before they are scattered to the wind and rain, they serve as a reminder to live in the moment and cherish the beauty of life before it is gone. The Chinese culture sees the cherry blossom as a symbol of a woman’s dominance and beauty as well as feminine sexuality. In the spring time, festivals to honor their beauty, as well as their historical and symbolic significance, are held all over the world. 

The Design and Process

After settling on the cherry blossom as my theme, I wanted to add an additional inspirational component to the overall design. I have long admired the beauty of the written language and symbols of Asian countries. Something about the graceful lines is so captivating and mysterious. To those of us unable to translate the symbols, I’m sure any word can can be beautiful. In fact, I sometimes wonder if some of the tattoos I see out there actually mean what the person thinks they mean. My luck, I’d get some evil tattoo artist and end up with a tattoo saying “ugly goat” instead of the inspirational symbol I thought I was getting! I digress… Because spring is a time filled with the optimism of new beginnings I decided to add the Japanese kanji meaning “hope”.

In the beginning, I had some wonderful ideas on how to create a cherry blossom design using both CP and MP soap. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use them per the guidelines. My next step was an obvious choice, at least for me. In case you have missed a few of my recent Challenge Club entries, I have become a little obsessed with soap dough; it seems to be the answer to many of my soap design dilemmas.

Bee Iyata, of Sorcery Soap, is the magical witch and the pioneer behind this fascinating technique. Basically, soap dough is soap made by taking a cold process soap recipe, letting it saponify for 24-48 hours, and then putting it in an air-tight container. Three to five days later the soap can be taken out and molded into anything your mind can think of.  Soap dough can be kept in the sealed container for quite a while and still remain pliable. Bee has a posted a basic soap dough recipe on her site and has also released a couple of wonderful books, both printed and eBooks. 

Since this was going to be a fairly detailed process, I decided to lessen my workload by only making three soaps. My plan was to have a layer of soap dough on the bottom, and a swirled layer of CP soap in the middle. I would then place a layer – with the cherry branch and the kanji already sculpted on it – on top of that and finish it all with a clear layer of MP, sealing it all in.

Phase One

For the cherry blossoms, I started making tiny and fairly intricate blooms for each cherry blossom but quickly realized it was a bad idea. Sculpting such detailed pieces would not only take forever, but the details probably wouldn’t even show through. I decided to save those for the tops of other soaps.

I found a simpler method that worked much better and greatly sped up this part of the project.

Using one of my fondant tools, I cut small stars out of the dough:

Then used one of my shaping tools to make a small indentation in each petal:

After they had dried, I painted a little bit of mica on each flower to give them more depth:

For the sculpted layers that would sandwich the CP layer, I used white soap dough. I thought it might be a nice touch to have a little texture on them so I rolled the dough on top of a bamboo place mat.

I then used a cutter to cut out circles to fit precisely in the individual mold cavities.


Phase Two

To sculpt the actual cherry blossom branch and the kanji, I created my design and printed it to scale, which I then placed under a clear piece of acrylic. This gave me a template to follow which made it much easier to form everything without having to guess the shapes or the correct dimensions.

Before the kanji and blooms

Adding the kanji


Phase Three

After the three top layers were completely sculpted, it was time for the CP layer. I used some tape to indicate the top of the design to ensure I had everything lined up properly. I also used some tape to mark my mold indicating where the CP layer needed to stop. 

I placed one of the sculpted bottom layers, face down into each cavity and then poured my CP design in each one. I opted for a spin swirl but in the end, not much of a swirl was visible at all. If I were to do it again, I probably would just pour alternating lines of color which might help the design to be a little more defined.
After all of the cavities were filled, I let them set up just a bit so they could better hold the weight of the next layer. I then very gently placed the top sculpted layer on top of the CP layer.


 Final Phase

While I allowed everything to set up a little bit, I microwaved my MP base. 

A few days earlier, I became a little concerned that the hot MP base could possibly melt the soap dough. I contacted Elements Bath and Body to see if they had any suggestions and Tammy Tivis promptly returned my email. She discussed it with someone with more experience who suggested a temperature between 125-130°F. This way the base would be hot enough to set up and not separate from the dough but not be hot enough to melt it. 

I then poured the beautifully clear mixture over the top, sprayed the tops with alcohol to get rid of any bubbles, and allowed everything to set up.



The results were beyond my expectations! I was absolutely amazed at how clear the MP base remained, allowing every bit of detail to shine through. I rounded the edges of the MP and really loved the results. It honestly looks like a layer of glass was beautifully set on top of each soap! 

My Entry!


Soap Specs:


Soap Dough:

Coconut oil
Mango butter
Cocoa butter
Castor oil
Olive oil

CP Layer:

Coconut oil
Olive oil
Powdered sugar 
Tussah silk

Melt and Pour:

Soap Base: Super Clear Melt & Pour Embeddable from Elements Bath and Body


Yuzu (an Asian citrus fruit) from Rustic Escentuals

Vanilla from Wholesale Supplies Plus



All from Steph’s Micas (Micas and More)

Pinks: Pink Lemonade, lighter colors mixed with Titanium Dioxide

Brown: Cocoa Brown

Black: Activated Charcoal

White: Titanium Dioxide




Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time…

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carolyn newton
carolyn newton
February 22, 2017 9:02 am

This is so beautiful Debi! I was also going to say it looks like a posh paper weight. You always put so much effort into your designs and it really does shine through. A true soap artist extraordinaire!! Good luck x

Amaryce Cousins
February 21, 2017 8:39 am

Your last entry actually inspired me to buy a soap dough ebook, but I haven’t had time to play with it yet! This is a great use of the M&P, it makes the sculpting look like a piece of Japanese art under glass. Now I REALLY need to go make some soap dough.

February 21, 2017 7:40 am

I love your blog, idea and soap! The soap looks like a beautiful glass paper weight. It’s so fun to see your designs for each challenge and how they were accomplished.

Melissa B
Melissa B
February 20, 2017 7:22 pm

Simply gorgeous! I really love cherry blossoms and this entire concept. It immediately catches the eye. Your patience, dedication, and talent really show in this piece of art!

February 20, 2017 3:42 am

Wow wow wow, Debi! You really went above and beyond – and your soap is gorgeous!

February 19, 2017 5:33 pm

So beautiful, Debi! The detail is just amazing. I absolutely love your little cherry tree blooms. I so enjoyed reading your blog post, too. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

Jennifer Hight
Jennifer Hight
February 19, 2017 1:20 pm

Beautiful. The amount of time and effort you put into this gorgeous soap is laudable. Congratulations on a beautiful design,

Bonnie Howard
Bonnie Howard
February 19, 2017 8:35 am

Great concept – beautifully executed. Your work is always top notch. And I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the process.

February 19, 2017 7:46 am

I keep coming back to look at this soap.
The photographing and explanation of the process of making it is almost as much work ad the soap.
Thank you for telling us about the symbolizism of cherry blossoms.

February 19, 2017 7:37 am

This is stunning Debi! Oh my the detail is unbelievable! So beautiful!

February 19, 2017 7:14 am

Beautiful design and artistry!!! I love the inspiration and the effect you were able to achieve! It reminds me of a paperweight my mom use to have. Amazing detail!! Congratulations!!

February 18, 2017 8:00 pm

Beautiful Debi!

Love Your Suds
February 18, 2017 10:48 am

These are just gorgeous, Debi! The time and effort you took in creating them really shows through 🙂

February 18, 2017 8:02 am

Wow, so many different elements and your results are fantastic! These are works of art!

February 17, 2017 11:42 am

Debi this soap is beautiful and all I can say is wow! lovey !

February 17, 2017 7:30 am

Wow, Wow, Wow – Super creative and beautiful soaps.

Claudia Carpenter
February 17, 2017 7:15 am

What a gorgeous design and a fabulous implementation! Of course I wasn’t surprised that you came up with something so fresh and lovely, as you always do. It’s such fun each month to come find what you’ve made and how… And I’m glad you explained about how you sculpted the blossoms, branches, etc., or I would have thought they were painted on! I agree with you about the spin layer, as spins are less impressive from the side, but I expect you just wanted to add some classic CP to it? You could probably have gotten away with plain light… Read more »

February 16, 2017 9:54 pm

soap looks amazing. You did a great job as many times before. I really love your soaping style.
Beautiful !!!

February 16, 2017 9:07 pm

Debi you have a wonderful imagination! Not only are your soaps lovely, but you write it all out so enjoyably as well. Thanks for sharing! : )

Amy Warden
February 16, 2017 7:32 pm

This is crazy cool, Debi! I’m astonished at the level of detail and the beauty that shines through the clear MP base. It really does look like a layer of acrylic! Your soap belongs in a museum!

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