Monday, March 28, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Cake

My youngest daughter turned six today.  We decided to make a peanut butter and chocolate cake.  This is a fairly easy cake to make, especially if you cheat a little (like I did today ;)).  You'll need two round cake pans and the chocolate cake recipe of your choice.  If you are running short on time, just grab two boxes of chocolate cake mix.

Bake the cake as directed and cool completely.  Cut the tops off of the cakes and put the top sides together with frosting.  Frost the entire cake with the peanut butter frosting recipe below and sprinkle with chopped peanut butter cups.

Peanut Butter Frosting
1 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup (2 sticks) butter room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
course salt to add saltiness (if desired)

Beat butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer until smooth.  Mix in confectioner's sugar on low until combined and beat on high until fluffy and smooth (approximately 3 minutes). Add a sprinkle of salt, if desired.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

S.O.A.P. - The Wrap Up

I am finally finished testing all the wonderful fragrances for the Bramble Berry S.O.A.P. Panel.  I ended up testing them in three products: cold process soap, lotion bars, and since I had some left over, bath fizzes.  I am going to create some really nice gift sets with all the things that I have created during this experience.  They will be available as soon as the fragrance names are revealed. :)

As I mentioned in my last post, some of the cold process soap discolored unexpectedly.  Most of them remained white or ivory, but as you can see below, #8 and #9 turned a medium tan color (#5 was orange when poured and turned a dark tan).  I do process my soap using the CPOP method, which may darken it more than if I did regular cold process soap.  I was very pleased with how these fragrances held up under the soaping process.  The only one that seemed to change was #9, which I felt mellowed quite a bit in the soap.

There were really no surprises in the lotion bars and bath fizzes.  No discoloration occurred, they did not cause any problems, and all the fragrances blended well with the ingredients used.  I did notice that several of the fragrances smelled less strong in the lotion bars than out of the bottle, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

I am really glad that I had the opportunity to work with some unique fragrances while on this panel.  I feel that I have a new appreciation of florals and I am able to single out individual notes within a fragrance better than I could before.  I will take this skill with me as I pick new fragrances for my customers. Thank you so much Bramble Berry!

Did you miss my other posts about the S.O.A.P. panel?

Out of the Bottle Impressions
Testing Day One - The Trace
Testing Day Two - The Day After

Monday, March 21, 2011

Black Tea Shaving Soap

I had to wait to take some pictures of the soap I made the other day since it has been gloomy here in California.  We do not usually get this many rainy days in a row!   Here are some pictures of my black tea shaving soap after it was cut.  It will be several weeks before it is ready to use.  It smells so nice and manly. :)

I had to include this picture of the precut soap.  I thought it looked really cool.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tempering Butter 101(shea, mango, and cocoa)

Although I am in love with lotion bars and lip balm, I felt that mine were turning out slightly grainy.  It isn't something that completely ruins the products, for as soon as they warm up the graininess goes away and it melts into your skin, but I have not been entirely happy with them. I learned that the culprit is my butters. This has nothing to do with the quality of the butters, but more that the fluctuation in temperature causes the butters to crystallize.  The best way to get rid of the graininess is to temper the butters. Maintaining a high heat for a prolonged amount of time causes the crystals to melt completely, resulting in smooth butter (hopefully).  Each butter has a slightly different process, so I will share a little on each one.

Shea Butter: Heat to 170 - 185 degrees. Maintain this temperature for approximately 15-30 minutes.
Mango Butter:  Heat slowly to 100 degrees. Maintain this temperature for 45-60 minutes.
Cocoa Butter:  Heat slowly to 100 degrees.  Maintain this temperature for 45-60 minutes.

Slowly melt the butter, lifting the thermometer 
out and away from the pot occasionally to 
get an accurate temperature.

The most difficult part of this process is maintaining the temperature.  I heated my butters in a pot on my gas stove on low and stirred and watched until it was melted, all the while constantly watching the temperature.  With the shea butter, I slowly raised the temperature until I reached the desired 175, then eased it back down.  The mango and cocoa butter, in order to maintain 100 degrees, I had to alternately turn the burner on and off as the temperature climbed and decreased (usually in about 10 minute intervals).  It was kind of a long, tedious process, but I hope it will be worth it when I have nice, smooth lotion bars.

I have also reformulated my lotion bars, adding mango and vitamin E to create a more moisturizing bar that has more "slip" on the skin.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rainy Day

What else would I do on a rainy day?   I made a bunch of custom mini cupcakes for a couple wedding showers and some new manly soap.  I will post some cut pictures tomorrow.

Can you guess what I am making?

Pictures tomorrow.  I can hardly wait!!

These will have orange frosting when they cure.  I am
always anxious as I wait for the color to change!

These are actually pink, but the color looks
weird in this picture.  It is very gray outside

Thursday, March 10, 2011

S.O.A.P. Testing Day Two - The Day After

I do apologize that I didn't post this sooner.  Now that I got rid of that nasty cold, I can smell again (thank goodness!).  I found that most of the fragrances had nice staying power in the soap.  Some smell even better and more floral, and some mellowed a little, but there was nothing too surprising.  7-10 where tested in a separate batch.  These heated up a little more than I would have liked.  This was due to my error only and it didn't seem to change anything about the fragrances.  On the left are plain white soap without fragrance in which to compare the color of the tested soap.

The gardenias were very interesting to me.  Since I knew what they were beforehand, I was really able to judge according to my knowledge of the flower.  After reading my initial impressions, you may be surprised by my findings.

#1Gardenia:  This stayed a very light ivory, mellowing a little in the soap.  Although I think this is nice smelling, I do not think it smells like gardenia at all.

#2 Gardenia:  This settled into a nice ivory color the next day.  Smells much like it did in the bottle.  I really like this fragrance a lot.  Although this doesn't smell the most like gardenia out of all three fragrances, this is my favorite of the three.  It is such a pleasant scent and does smell very much like the flower.

#3 Gardenia:  This soap is also an ivory color. It still has some spots throughout due to that weird clumping thing it did when mixing in the fragrance.  It wouldn't bother me much, but they are there.  This didn't change tremendously the day after, but enough that I like it slightly less.  It almost has a sour note at the end, and although I do like the fact that it smells much like the flower itself, I actually prefer #2 to this one.  I know, I was surprised myself!

#4: This is also ivory.  The lily smell in the soap mellowed slightly, but it was able to retain the green note that I enjoyed so much.  Lovely.  I really like this one.

#5:  This one was still orange the next day (as you can see in the picture), but since I had to wait a few days before writing this up, it has darkened into more of a dark orange tan.  This has mellowed in the soap.  It is not quite as sugary sweet and I detect more of the floral notes in it than I did straight out of the bottle.  It is still a little sweet and sugary for my taste, but much nicer in the soap.

#6:  No color change to this soap at all.  You can see that it is the same color as my control bars.  No real change in the fragrance that I could detect.  I'm still thinking freesia.  A very delicate and pretty fragrance.

#7:  This one also appears to be an ivory color.  It isn't quite as strong in the soap as in the bottle.  Still very citrusy.  I still say orange blossom.  I wish it was a little stronger in the soap, but this may change as it cures (I hope!).

#8:  This one is interesting.  Looking at the pictures, you would say that there was hardly any color change.  It is nearly as white as the control bar.  After the last week, it has darkened into a tan color.  I will revisit this when I show the cured soap.  I thought it would be best to photograph them again after another couple weeks.  The fragrance is much the same as it was in the bottle.  No big surprises.

#9:  This one has also turned tan after time.  You can see that it was white in the picture also.  The fragrance is still very melon to me.  It seems quite a bit more mellow than in the bottle and less sweet.

#10:  Stayed a  nice white color, maybe yellowed a touch.  It has mellowed in the soap in a very good way.  I can smell more of the rose coming through and it has lost much of that OFF smell.  It still reminds me of the woods though.  I like it.

My favorites**: Hmmm.  I have a very difficult time picking favorites, but I will give it my best shot.  I do not have an intense dislike toward any of the fragrances, so that is a good thing. :)  My least favorite would be #5 - too syrupy sweet for me.  I like all the others in varying degrees.  Here are my top five in descending order (drum roll please...).
#2 (I felt I had to choose only one of the gardenias...#3 came in closely as a second gardenia)
Weird that they followed the chronological numbering...

I plan to do another post once they have cured a bit more.  You will see the color changes I was talking about above.  I will note any further changes in the fragrances then.  I also have made some very nice lotion bars with these fragrances.  I got sick half way through making those, so I will post on those next week!

**I reserve the right to change my mind after these babies cure... ;)

See my previous S.O.A.P. panel blog posts:

Out of the Bottle Impressions
Testing Day 1 - The trace

Friday, March 4, 2011

Spring Awakenings

grape hyacinth

I have been hibernating the last few days trying to get rid of this yucky cold I have, but today is beautiful. On my way to pick up my young one, I couldn't help but notice that my plants are starting to emerge from the ground and the blossoms are blooming all around us.  Here are a few pictures that should make you smile. They definitely helped me shake this cold off and enjoy the day. Enjoy!!

irises starting to peek through

my neighbor's plum tree blooming


hyacinth just starting to open

not open yet, but still pretty
Unfortunately, this also means I need to pull weeds.  I think they are taking over...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

S.O.A.P. Testing Day One: The Trace

I shared my first impressions about the S.O.A.P. fragrances the other day, but this post is all about the trace and pour in cold process soap.  I am predominantly a cold process soap maker, so this is the process I am most interested in testing, but I also plan to test them in some lotion bars later on.  As I am not used to making such small quantities of soap, I consulted Bramble Berry's Fragrance Calculator to see how much fragrance to use.  In this test I used .5 oz. of fragrance per roughly 9 oz. of soap.  I also made a small test log of soap (without fragrance) so that I would have something in which to compare the soap samples (color, consistency, etc).

I started out using large paper cups for this testing, but I quickly realized that the fragrance was going to leak through, so I switched to large plastic cups. This picture is of course before I made this discovery.

My testing set up.

I mixed the lye water and oils at 110 degrees and started mixing the fragrances at a light trace.  Here are my notes on the behavior of the fragrances in cold process soap:

#1 Gardenia: There was no discoloration to the soap right away, but it accelerated trace rapidly and was quite hard immediately after pouring into the mold.

#2 Gardenia: Soap turned a light ivory.  It caused moderate acceleration in trace.

#3 Gardenia:  Very slight acceleration occurred and little white clumps formed in the soap.  I was quickly trying to work them out before I poured, but as I had more soap to mix and pour, I just poured into the mold.  This is something I would like to compare to the other panel members.  Did they have the same problem? The soap appears to be an ivory color.

#4:  Very slight acceleration in trace, and the soap started turning a bright yellow.

#5:  Very light acceleration if any.  The soap immediately turned a bright yellow color.

#6: No acceleration to the soap and no discoloration.

fragrances 1-6

#7:  No color change, and no acceleration.  

#8: There was very slight yellowing to the soap, but absolutely no acceleration.

#9: Soap was a medium yellow after mixing, but again, no acceleration.

#10:  There was no color change with this one, but there was slight acceleration.

fragrances 7-10

As you can see, everything behaved rather nicely.  That first gardenia was a little sketchy, but I did get it into the mold.  The second gardenia (I still think this might be Bramble Berry's former gardenia scent ;)) accelerated, but was not something that would cause major problems if you were making a pretty straightforward soap (swirls might be a challenge), and the last gardenia was a bit perplexing with the white clumps.  Everything else was pretty much flawless.  I do have to confess that I did these in two separate batches (1-6 and 7-10) because I was limited in space with the molds I used (I wanted to make two separate bars per fragrance).  I did a modified CPOP (cold process/oven process) method as well.  Each batch went into a 170 degree oven for 15 minutes to ensure a nice gel.  Then the oven was turned off and they were left alone until the next day.

I will write another blog post soon to tell you how they did the next day out of the mold (color, fragrance, etc.).  I have caught a nasty cold (boo!), so I want to wait until my olfactory senses are back in working order before I share my findings.

You can find my first blog post about the fragrances here.