delicious. reviews: Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker

The Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker from Cuisinart pitches itself as a “personalised ice cream parlour at home”. But does it stand up to the test? Our reviewer Lucy Dearlove takes it for a spin to find out whether the automatic machine is worth the investment.

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delicious. reviews: Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker

As a North East baby, I was practically weaned on ice cream from Pacitto’s, a North Sea-facing parlour of Italian heritage famed for their perfect whippy milk ice (topped with lemon sorbet for the full local experience). As a result, I take soft serve very seriously: it must be smooth without any granulation and it must taste like milk, not eggs, cream or vanilla.

Experiences of being served inferior 99s (ice cream cones with a flake in it) over the years have sent me down various research rabbit holes. A subreddit dedicated to ice cream shares woes of wannabe dairy queens who find it “impossible” to get right. Hardly surprising when you apparently need to take fat content, emulsifiers, milk solids, sugar content, texture of flavourings and optional stabilisers all into account. All of this is to say that, essentially, most soft serve is an industrial product and therefore I was very intrigued by the Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker ICE48U, a machine that promises to deliver a “personalised ice cream parlour at home.”

The machine stands upright on the counter and features its own dispensing system: with a simple lever, you can twirl finished ice cream straight down from the frozen bowl on the top into your cone or bowl and even simultaneously top with your sprinkles of choice via the dispensers on the side. What’s more, you can keep your favourite sauce warm with the inbuilt warmer. But does it meet the dizzy heights of the perfect seaside cone?

What’s good about it?

It’s really straightforward to use: freeze the bowl, make and chill your ice cream mixture and off you go. There are only two settings: ‘On’ and ‘On with sauce warmer’. The mechanism feels pretty powerful compared to cheaper machines I’ve used in the past. This means it doesn’t take too long to churn, which largely avoids the risk of the temperature of the bowl rising too much before the ice cream is ready.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to flavours and toppings, as long as you bear in mind that soft serve ideally needs to have a lower fat content to achieve the optimum texture. I tried out a couple of the recipes that came with the machine, but actually had results more to my taste with the Ultimate 99 Ice Cream recipe from delicious. as I found whipping the cream created an aerated custard that froze more smoothly for me.

One thing to bear in mind when using alternative recipes to the ones Cuisinart has supplied is that they can turn out thicker, and if the mixture gets too dense for the paddles the machine will stop churning, which also means it can’t dispense the ice cream. This isn’t a huge deal, but it means you’ll need to manually scoop it out. I also (whisper it) had really good results with a carton of pre-made ice cream base, which is a great option if you want to speed things up: just chill and churn.

The capacity is ideal for a family or group of friends: around 6-8 servings per batch, depending on how loaded you prefer your cones. Most shop-bought high quality ice cream comes in much smaller containers, so this is potentially more cost effective.

It’s really easy to clean: most parts can be disassembled for thorough washing and the rest of it can be easily wiped down. Other ice cream makers I’ve used had the mechanical parts in the lid, meaning it could never be properly washed. This is much better.

What’s not so good about it?

Firstly, it’s huge. Mine is lying unceremoniously on top of my kitchen cabinets when not in use as I just don’t have room for it anywhere else in the kitchen.

Although it’s functionally very simple and accessible there is margin for error. The instructions advise a minimum freezing time of 24 hours at -18 degrees or lower. I found out the hard way that it’s better to err on the side of caution; a 24 hour freeze for me, despite not being able to hear the liquid in the bowl moving when shaken, resulted only in a chilled, churned mixture and sadly no ice cream for my friends. I’ve started leaving it for at least 5 days to be on the safe side and have had no issues since.

Cuisinart soft serve

All of the additional bells and whistles (the toppings dispenser and sauce warmer) are fun and great in theory, but in practice slightly limiting. You’re advised not to store certain toppings in the machine’s containers for very long, meaning that you’d have to pour them in to serve and empty them out again afterwards, and they need to be a specific size to allow dispensing. The tiny little hotplate won’t actually warm up your sauce, just keep it warm, but it comes with a tiny (but very cute) metal pan that obviously can’t go in the microwave, so you need to decant pre-warmed sauce into it which does feel slightly long-winded.

Our favourite feature

Most conventional ice cream makers will instruct you to churn and then freeze the mixture to get the right texture; with the Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker, because the softer feel of a just churned mixture is what you’re after, you can eat it directly from the machine. It’s this softer texture that allows the machine to dispense it too, meaning you don’t need to wait and scoop. I don’t have kids but I can imagine that it would be a huge hit getting them to make, serve and decorate their own ice creams.

Overall verdict

Ultimately, despite the impracticalities, the Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker is fun and satisfying to use, and produces good results as long as you’re careful with sticking closely to the instructions. I was pleasantly surprised that the taste and texture of the ice cream I made with it was enjoyable despite my exacting standards, though I still haven’t quite captured that Italian milk ice magic with it. This machine is going to get plenty of use in my household this summer. All we need now is some actual sun.

The Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker is available from Cuisinart and Amazon (£200).

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