On paper, the Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker sounds like a dream summer time purchase that’ll keep the kids amused and stop all your money going to the ice cream van. But in practice, I found it rushed, messy, and stressful.
Ice cream mixes are simple to make
Includes dairy free and sorbet recipes
Easy to use all-in-one ice cream station
Expensive and bulky
Can only make up to 6 portions at a time
Have to pre-freeze bowl overnight
Small time window to dispense all the ice cream
Sprinkles go everywhere
Why you can trust Ideal Home
The Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream maker sounds like a dream – after all, who doesn’t love soft-serve ice cream? The sound of the ice cream van coming down your road, followed by a stampede of local children is such a nostalgic memory for so many of us in the UK. Plus, it’s virtually impossible to recreate at home.
Scooping a ball of hard ice cream out of a tub, then plopping it on top of a cone and fighting to get a flake into it just isn’t the same, even if you’ve made it at home using one of the best ice cream makers. So who wouldn’t be interested in trying out this new soft-serve ice cream maker from Cuisinart?
I’ve got a decent-sized garden, so I tend to do most of my entertaining in the summer. And when I saw this ice cream maker, I immediately thought it would be the perfect talking point at my next BBQ. A great way to entertain children and adults alike. The catch is that it’s pricey, and I soon discovered, using it was not as joyous as I had anticipated. Here's how I got on with this new product.
Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker review: Specs
- Capacity: 1.42 litre bowl
- Features: foldable cone holder, 3 topping dispensers, keep warm plate,
- Power: 1200W
- Size: (H)45 x (W)27 x (D)20cm
- RRP: £200
Who tested theCuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker?
After completing a Home Economics degree, Helen went on to work for the Good Housekeeping Institute and has been reviewing home appliances ever since. She lives in a small village in Buckinghamshire in the UK, where she reviews all sorts of home and garden appliances using her wealth of experience.
Helen tested this ice cream maker in January, in fact it was so chilly that when she made strawberry ice cream, it was even snowing outside the kitchen window. But she was dreaming of summer months and how well it would suit BBQ’s and summer gatherings.
Unboxing, setting up and first impressions
The Cuisinart soft serve ice cream maker comes in a tall box, indicative of its stature. The packaging isn’t as sustainable as I would like. Inside the box it is encased in polystyrene inserts, which will sadly end up in landfill.
To get it set up there are a few parts to position onto the main body of the appliance. But since these are all the parts that are removable for cleaning, this is an opportunity to familiarise yourself with how the parts slot into place.
The main bowl has to be frozen before you can use it for the first time, so I popped this straight into the freezer, then got to work setting up everything else. There are three dispensers that can be filled with different toppings such as nuts and sprinkles. Plus there's a warming plate and a little stainless steel saucepan for keeping warm sauces at the perfect temperature.
On the front, a big handle pulls down to dispense ice cream into your bowl or cone. And if you’re using cones, they can be stored in a flip-down cone holder at the side. It’s more than an ice cream maker, it’s like a whole ice cream sundae station.
When switching it on, there are only two settings, churn or churn with the warming plate on. The lid has a hole in it so that you can pour in your ice cream mixture with the paddle churning, but also so you can peek in at how it’s doing.
There are eight recipe cards included in the box, with recipes for dairy free and vegan ice cream, sorbets, and classic flavour soft serve. I couldn’t wait to get going.
What's it like to use?
To familiarise myself with the machine, I first opted for a classic vanilla soft serve. The mix of cream, milk, sugar and vanilla has to be made either the day before you make the ice cream or a minimum of four hours before, so that it has time to chill in the fridge.
I whisked up my mixture the night before, it was super quick and easy. Meanwhile the bowl was getting cold in the freezer. The next day I filled up the topping dispensers with sprinkles and chopped nuts and after dinner I excitedly started it up.
First you have to put the frozen bowl in position and start the churning paddle. Then, with the lid in place, the liquid ice cream mixture can be poured in through the large hole in the top. The recipe said it would take 25-27 minutes to churn and that it’s ready when the ice cream dispenses as a continuous thick ribbon.
About five minutes before it was due to be ready I switched on the warming plate and filled the little saucepan with salted caramel sauce. The plate doesn’t get very hot, so you’re supposed to preheat the sauce and just use the plate to keep it warm. But I just popped the room temperature sauce on so that it’d warm a little.
After 25 and 27 minutes I dispensed some ice cream and although it was coming out as a ribbon, it was just too wet and soft, I knew it wouldn’t hold its shape in an ice cream cone, so I left it for a bit longer. The great thing is that you can simply pour the runny ice cream back into the top so nothing is wasted when checking the consistency.
After 32 minutes I dispensed what I considered to be the perfect texture soft serve. It was soft but thick enough to pile high into a cone. However, I barely managed to fill one cone, before the paddle started to struggle and the ice cream stopped dispensing.
It had become too frozen to dispense any more and I had to remove the bowl and paddle and spoon out the rest of the ice cream into a tub before it froze solid in the bowl. So while my husband sat enjoying his cone, I was getting covered in sticky ice cream mess scooping it all out instead.
I also need to mention the topping dispensers. We tried these with the cone underneath and with a ramekin of ice cream underneath too. The sprinkles shoot out at the ice cream, but at least half miss and go skidding across the worktop. My chopped nuts must not have been chopped small enough, because they didn’t make it out at all.
The salted caramel sauce on the warming plate was okay, but it’s a small pot and there’s no pouring lip, so it’s hard to accurately drizzle it onto your ice cream. I’m not sure I’d bother switching it on again. All in all, it felt like quite a messy and stressful endeavour.
Undeterred, I tried again, a couple of days later. This time I made up the mixture for strawberry ice cream, which uses real strawberries and smells divine. Side note, since it’s winter I used defrosted frozen strawberries and they worked well.
Having learned a few lessons from the vanilla ice cream, I started dispensing it as soon as it had churned for the time suggested in the recipe. I filled a couple of ramekins first and the texture was slightly softer than I would like. Then I filled a cone and by this point it was a thicker consistency. But in under five minutes from filling the first bowl, and crucially, before I had dispensed all the portions, the ice cream was once again too thick and frozen, and no more could be dispensed.
I just think a five minute window to dispense all the portions isn’t very long, especially considering you can’t dispense ice cream while someone else is dispensing their toppings. It all feels very rushed, which really takes the fun out of it, especially if kids are involved. Plus, you can’t exactly make more. Once it’s been used once, the bowl has to go back into the freezer for several hours to re-freeze.
I should note though, that the flavour of all the ice creams was delicious. And the vanilla that I put in my freezer was really easy to scoop out of the tub and I enjoyed it for several days.
By this point I was starting to feel a bit underwhelmed, but nevertheless, I was keen to try the berry sorbet, so see how this behaved in comparison to ice cream. I halved the sorbet recipe because 800g fruit and 800g sugar felt like it would make more sorbet than I needed during a cold spell in January!
I churned the sorbet for the time suggested, but it was still very liquid when I poured some out. In the end, it took 35 minutes which is more than double what the recipe card stated despite me cutting the recipe quantities in half. But this may have been affected by the amount of water in my fruit since I used defrosted frozen berries instead of fresh.
Anyway, the result was delicious and smooth, and I managed to get all the portions dispensed into bowls before it ceased up, so it wasn’t quite as rushed and stressful as the ice cream. Though it was runnier than I would have liked, so in the end I put most of it in a tub in the freezer to firm up.
How does it compare to other ice cream makers?
If you’re serious about ice cream in all its forms you might consider investing in the Sage the Smart Scoop which is currently top of our estimations when it comes to ice-cream makers.
Yes, it's a very expensive option and probably only for true ice cream enthusiasts, but it does give you a lot of scope to adjust the hardness of your finished ice cream, as well as plenty of smart features.
Sticking with Cuisinart, the brand also makes the more affordable and more compact Cuisinart Iced Dessert Maker, if you are on a tighter budget. The viral Ninja Creami, which we covered in our Ninja Creami review, is also the subject of our Digital Editor Becky's obsessions, and a worthy candidate. While it’s somewhat of a sidestep from soft serve it’s a great choice for whipping up tasty homemade ice cream for less.
The ice cream bowl, dispenser, and lid are pretty easy to wash by hand so long as you rinse them soon after using. And though some of the other parts are a bit fiddly, they can all go in the dishwasher so it’s not too bad to clean up.
As with most ice cream makers, cleaning is easier if you do it straight after using. Otherwise everything gets a bit congealed and sticky which makes it more of a chore. For me though, the most annoying thing to clean up was all the stray sprinkles that shot across the worktop and inevitably ended up on the floor.
Should you buy the Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker?
If you really love soft serve ice cream and you don’t mind the rush to dispense all the portions in a very small window of time, then go ahead. But for me, while the ice cream tasted delicious, everything else simply didn’t live up to expectations.
I just found it more stressful than joyful, plus the clear up afterwards was too much. In theory I loved the idea of it, but in practice it's an expensive appliance that if you’re anything like me, will get used a couple of times then relegated to the back of the cupboard to gather dust.
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After completing a Home Economics degree, Helen went on to work for the Good Housekeeping Institute and has been reviewing home appliances ever since. She lives in a small village in Buckinghamshire in the UK.
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