The Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker review — goosebumps for all the right reasons

Testing the Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker meant eating dessert 7 nights in a row. Hurrah! Here's how I did making sorbet and soft-scoop vanilla

Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker on marble worktop with pint of whole milk and punnet of fresh strawberries
(Image credit: Cuisinart)
Real Homes Verdict

At $179.95, the Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker can whip up froyo and ice cream as good as McDonald's. However, patience is a virtue as you'll need to plan ahead to freeze your bowl, prepare your chosen base, and chill it. Once that's done though, you can have 1.5 quarts of dessert ready in as little as 15 minutes.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Double-insulated, 1.5 quart-freezer bowl

  • +

    BPA-free plastic

  • +

    Cone holder

  • +

    No harsh chemicals, salt, or ice required

  • +

    Three 6-oz. removable mix-in containers

  • +

    Removable parts for easy cleaning

  • +

    Warmer on the side to gently heat sauces

  • +

    Can be used by children aged 8+ with supervision

  • +

    Motor overload sensation

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Have to prepare ahead by freezing bowl

  • -

    Bowl not designed for small refrigerators

  • -

    Dispensing shoot can be messy

  • -

    Pricey for what it does

  • -

    Can't store frozen dessert in the ice cream bowl

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The Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker solves a problem I’ve encountered more than once — craving creamy soft-serve with toppings and candy piled on — but being fresh out.

But thankfully, this device now means I can live my best life, creating a dreamy, creamy, concoction any time I want from the comfort of my own kitchen. No waiting in line, and no paper spoons from drive-thrus making my hair stand on end. 

The icecream-loving kid inside me was screaming when Cuisinart asked if I wanted to review this ice cream maker. As an ice cream aficionado who books my vacation spots based on the quality of the Gelatarias nearby, this review was slated to be an easy-freezy breeze.

Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker 

What I thought of the Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker

Assembled Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker with small teal ceramic bowl underneath

(Image credit: Future / Christina Chrysostomou)

I recently read a book called Ultra Processed People by Chris Van Tulken (available on Amazon) and was shocked to find the expensive Gelatos I love to buy often has unnecessary nasties in the ingredients list (what's guar gum?). 

Since then, I've been on a quest to make my own frozen treats so when Cuisinart approached me to review this small kitchen appliance, just after I'd seen TV commercials promoting it, it felt very serendipitous.

While the preparation and churn process might take 20 minutes or so, you should manage your expectations on the four-hour freezing process, and the size of the machine and bowl. It is a big product for something quite novel and if you don't have a large freezer, you'll struggle to get past the first hurdle of freezing the bowl.

If you live in a household where dessert is mandatory and have been spending a few too many bucks on Ben & Jerry's, it's worth having this bit of kit in your arsenal. You'll be surprised how good the simple combination of milk, sugar, and cream tastes. 

If priority is your convenience, you can cut some of the prep by using a pre-made ice cream mix — the same stuff your neighborhood ice cream truck uses. The Junket bundle on Amazon contains two boxes of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry for under $30, and is highly rated by customers.

My two biggest disappointments were not being able to use the ice cream bowl to store my finished product, and even in an airtight container I found the ice cream lost its soft consistency. If you want fluffy, whipped results, you won’t be able to make it in advance. It's usually why mass producers of ice cream add those unfamiliar ingredients: to retain that freshly-made texture.

Testing the Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker

Christina Chrysostomou selfie
Christina Chrysostomou

Christina Chrysostomou is acting head ecommerce editor at Real Homes. She lives in a two-bedroom apartment in the suburbs with her husband. As our in-house customer advisor and appliances expert, she tests all things kitchen-related including coffee makers, air fryers, and ice cream makers.

Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker specifications

  • Item model number: ICE-48
  • Dimensions (in.): H17.7 x W9.4 x L11
  • Weight (pounds): 14.7 lbs
  • Capacity (quarts): 1.5 qts

Unboxing and setting up the Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker

Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker box on worktop in kitchen

(Image credit: Future / Christina Chrysostomou)

Unboxing

Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker machine with parts, accessories and plastic packaging on induction hob in white tiled kitchen

(Image credit: Future / Christina Chrysostomou)

On first impression, it's quite a large box but weighs just shy of 15 lbs. Upon opening, there were three pieces of styrofoam packaging molded around the product. Usually, this would annoy me, but it did protect the plastic machine from knocks and bumps in transit.

One thing I will say is Cuisinart may have gone a little overboard with the individually wrapped parts. I counted seven plastic bags, each with a suffocation warning, on a product marketed for kids to enjoy using, too.

Setup

As with any kitchen appliance fresh out of the box, you'll want to give it a clean. Cuisinart specifically instructs you not to use anything abrasive or hard.

However, you can't dump this in the sink for a rinse. I used a damp microfiber cloth and washed the lid, freezer bowl, mixing arm, topping containers, topping chute, and drip tray by hand, using a little dish soap, warm water, and my trusty Dishmatic washing up brush (you can grab these on Amazon)

Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker Freezer Bowl with care instructions on white label with black text

(Image credit: Future / Christina Chrysostomou)

One of the downsides to this machine is needing to forward-plan by a day. In fact, the first ice cream making step is to freeze the bowl on a flat surface, in an upright position for at least 24 hours. Note, it might take a little longer if your refrigerator isn't that cold. Ideally, it should be around -0.4°F.

Cuisinart instructs you to wrap the large bowl in a plastic bag to prevent freezer burn, but that was the least of my problems. As an avid user of my small air fryer, I usually have a few convenience foods in my refrigerator, so fitting the bowl into it, became a game of fridge Tetris. 

Luckily, I have an average-sized appliance, but you might struggle if your drawers are small. You'll see here that I had to remove one entirely. If you do have the luxury of space, the brand advises that you leave the bowl in the freezer at all times. But I don't think this would be practical for most busy families.

Assembling the Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker

Overhead shot of Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker with freezer bowl in-situ

(Image credit: Future / Christina Chrysostomou)

You can put the machine together in five relatively-simple steps. I timed myself and and it took me less than five minutes to complete the setup.

  1. Remove the bowl from the freezer and place it into the main housing of the ice cream maker. Align the mixing paddle into the hole on the underside of the lid. Push it into place until it clicks and locks into place.
  2. Slide the topping containers into the indent on the side of the ice cream maker. Place the lids over the top.
  3. Attach the dispensing arm with the handle. Place it so that it sits right underneath the product, but at a 45-degree angle, to the front of the unit. Align the hole in the handle and turn clockwise towards you until it's in position.
  4. Slide the toppings chute into the space provided underneath the toppings containers. Be sure to slide it all the way in until it stops.
  5. Place the drip tray on the base, under the dispenser. Put the lid, with the mixing paddle, over the ice cream bowl and push down until it clicks securely into place.

Making ice cream

Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker with recipe card, instruction booklet, warming cup with chocolate sauce, and crushed nuts in topping compartment

(Image credit: Future / Christina Chrysostomou)

The Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream & Slushy Maker comes with an eight-recipe booklet that includes instructions to make 0.8-0.9 liters of basic soft serve, plant-based ice creams, berry and peach sorbet, and dairy-free vanilla.

Preparation time ranges from five to 15 minutes, churning time around 20 minutes, and you'll need to chill your mix for a minimum of four hours. All is good and well for patient adults, but you might need to manage the kid's expectations.

Vanilla soft serve

Overhead shot of Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker with prepared Vanilla bean, cream and sugar preparation

(Image credit: Future / Christina Chrysostomou)

Out of all of the recipes provided, this four-ingredient soft serve using regular whole milk, sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla extract seemed the easiest, so I started with this. I combined all the ingredients and chilled the mix for four hours (but you can leave it overnight).

Once the four hours were up, I added the frozen freezer bowl to the machine, turned it on, and poured in the chilled ingredients. The churning process took just under half an hour, though I set a timer on my phone for 15 minutes to check the consistency. It was still runny, even after 25 minutes, but just shy of the half-hour mark, it was ready.

And this is where the real magic happens, kids. Unlocking a core memory of attending many McDonald's birthday parties as a kid, I positioned my bowl and pulled the arm, releasing continuous thick ribbons of smooth soft serve vanilla. This can take some trial and error, so if it is a little viscous, just pop the mix back into the frozen bowl and be patient.

Thick ribbons of Vanilla bean soft serve ice cream in a green ceramic bowl made using the Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker

(Image credit: Future / Christina Chrysostomou)

There is a cone holder that accepts flat-bottomed and pointed cones, but I always opt for a cup at my local scoop shop, so I used my La Redoute Gogain snack bowl

Vanilla soft serve ice cream with melted chocolate sauce and chopped peanuts made using the Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker

(Image credit: Future / Christina Chrysostomou)

Rather than spooning toppings on, I used this as the perfect opportunity to try the toppings chute. Cuisinart warns that the knob may be hard to turn if the toppings are too sugary and it should not be left in the containers as moisture can get into them. I think the best thing to do in this instance is to anticipate how much you will use per session, and run it down in one go.

The brand recommends crushed M&Ms (available at Amazon), crushed chocolate chips, sprinkles, crushed nuts, or finely crushed cookies (I buy both Oreos and Biscoff in bulk from the Lotus Store at Amazon). Whole candy or chocolate is too big to dispense and may jam the machine, so don't put these in straight from the package.

When turning the knob, you'll need to place your bowl quite close to the chute. Otherwise, be prepared for flying toppings all over your worktop.

Berry sorbet

My husband calls me a fruit bat because of my love of fresh produce. So seeing as we had a few punnets of berries in the house, I decided to try a red fruit sorbet next. This involved making a sugar syrup mixed with blitzed berries, water, and a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

All in all, the extra legwork does mean boiling the kettle, using my handheld blender (and then cleaning the blender). But the resulting sherbert is refreshing and makes a great palette cleanser after dinner. Note that when it came to churning, the dairy-free mix took half the time of the cream-based recipe, and was less sweet using 30% less sugar.

Using the keep warm plate

Close-up of Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker keep warm plate with metal container and melted chocolate sauce

(Image credit: Future / Christina Chrysostomou)

I love a hot fudge sundae, but hated that until now, I'd have to drive to my local fast-food restaurant to get one. With this kitchen item, I can spoon warm caramel or chocolate onto my ice cream for that dreamy hot-cold sensation. I noticed, however, that Cuisinart kindly instructs you not to use it to melt chocolate or warm up sauces — it's only meant for retaining the heat of pre-warmed liquid toppings.

I tested this feature by microwaving a few squares of milk chocolate and reviewing the consistency of the melted confectionery. The good news is the warmer itself isn't hot to the touch, but does keep the contents liquid.

Cleaning and maintaining the Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker

Disassembling the Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker to clean

(Image credit: Future / Christina Chrysostomou)

Keeping the ice cream maker clean is relatively simple. Of course, before any of your best cleaning supplies touch your appliance, you'll want to switch it off from the main power unit.

To clean the exterior and base, I used a damp microfiber towel (I like these Amazon Basics cleaning cloths). The ice cream bowl, lid, and handle are unfortunately not dishwasher safe, so I used a little Gain dish soap (available from Amazon) with my Dishmatic.

The mixing paddle, topping containers, topping chute, and drip tray are all dishwasher safe, but on top rack only. However, seeing as I already had my faucet running, I cleaned all of these in the same washing-up session.

Good to know

This product comes with a three-year guarantee, however, if you notice a fault or defect within 12 months, you can return the product to Cuisinart or the retailer you purchased it from, for an exchange. After 12 months, an after-sales service team will repair or replace the product. This is subject to terms and conditions, but do retain your proof of purchase whether that's a physical receipt, invoice, or email.

Where to buy

The Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker is available directly from the brand, as well as Amazon, Kohl's, Macy's, Wayfair, Williams-Sonoma, and many other good retailers.

Should you buy the Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker?

Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker in small white kitchen with stainless steel microwave, and beige colored Our Place Always 2.0 pan

(Image credit: Future / Christina Chrysostomou)

If you have a young family or live with two or three other people who love ice cream as much as I do — the Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker is a great (albeit novel) kitchen appliance. It's a great eco-friendly alternative to driving to a fast food restaurant, idling in a queue, and then driving home. That carbon footprint for an ice cream doesn’t seem worth it. Plus, at home, you can customize your order, and know exactly what's gone into it.

The downside with testing alone is I had to make a 0.9-liter tub of soft serve, and was left to eat as much as I could so it wouldn't go to waste. Of course, I could have made less, but we don't do things in halves here, so I gave it my best in true Bruce Bogtrotter style! 

On the contrary, if you're more of the sorbet type, you can decant it from the bowl and keep your frozen fruit mix in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator.

Size-wise, there is enough counter clearance (if you're wondering where to store appliances in a small kitchen), but it does feel quite large in my galley-style cook space. But if you are looking for something a little slicker, the Ninja Creami (available on Amazon) might be a better option. Our former head of reviews reviewed the Ninja Creami and awarded it 4 out of 5 stars.

How we test ice cream makers

Wide shot of Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker on black induction hob in white tiled kitchen

(Image credit: Future / Christina Chrysostomou)

I was sent this Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker by the brand for free, and used it over the course of one week in my two-bedroom apartment. Here are some of the things I scored the appliance on.

Packaging: How well are the machine and accessories protected in transit? Do the parts come wrapped in unnecessary amounts of plastic?

Weight: How easy is it to carry from my front door to the kitchen?

Setup: How easy is it to assemble the machine (if applicable) and make ice cream? How long does this process take? Does it require instructions?

Recipe and performance: I sampled a few of the recipes from the booklet, assessed the ease of preparation, and evaluated the consistency and flavor. 

Noise levels: Is this machine quiet enough to make ice cream on demand, without disturbing co-habitants and neighbors?

Size: Can the machine be used in a small kitchen? How tall is the machine and is there adequate counter clearance for it to sit underneath cupboards?

Features: Are the programmable settings helpful? Does the keep-warm plate keep sauces liquid?

Cleaning: How easy is it to maintain this machine? Are milk and chocolate stains wipeable? Can the drip tray and waste bin be removed easily? Which parts are hand-washable or dishwasher-safe? How easy is it to deep clean this ice cream maker?

Christina Chrysostomou
Acting head ecommerce editor

Hi, I'm the acting head ecommerce editor at Real Homes. Prior to working for the Future plc family, I've worked on a number of consumer events including the Ideal Home Show, Grand Designs Live, and Good Homes Magazine. With a first class degree from Keele University, and a plethora of experience in digital marketing, editorial, and social media, I have an eye for what should be in your shopping basket. I'm the in-house appliances expert and have gone through the internal customer advisor accreditation process.