Fun to use
Great for kids
Hard to clean
Some features don’t work well
Difficult to store
We purchased the Cuisinart ICE-45P1 Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.
I don't know about you, but for me, ice cream is the answer. I’ll visit any restaurant with soft serve on the menu; I love its whipped texture and subtle creaminess. The only problem with it is that it usually requires leaving the house.
I love the idea of dispensing endless cones of soft serve in the comfort of my own kitchen, so I was eager to test out the Cuisinart ICE-45P1 Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker. Check out the scoop.
Design: Big, very big
This is a big, tall machine. Although some small parts are removable, the height can’t be reduced for storage at all. It’s hard to find a place to store a 17.25-inch ice cream maker in my kitchen.
Once you get past that, this product is designed for maximum fun. It includes a stand for displaying stacked ice cream cones, a large, beautiful handle for dispensing soft serve, and clear display cases for mix-ins like colorful sprinkles, candies, or cookies. From a functional perspective, having a stack of ice cream cones built-in isn’t that helpful, but the visual impact is enough to make anyone feel like a kid in a candy store.
Performance: Heavy-duty churning
The key difference between soft serve and ice cream is the serving temperature. Soft serve is served around 25 degrees Fahrenheit, while traditional ice cream is served between 6-10 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme cold numbs the tongue, so we’re actually able to perceive more flavor in soft serve than in traditional hard-pack ice cream. That’s why soft serve seems so sweet and creamy.
The soft serve that you order from an ice cream shop is made in a machine that also injects air as it cools and churns the base. These machines are pretty heavy-duty, so I was eager to see if the same results could be achieved with the at-home Cuisinart ICE-45P1 Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker.
The most exciting feature of this machine is the promise of mix-ins. Freshly made soft serve with candy swirled right sounds delightful, unfortunately the feature doesn’t quite deliver.
Functionally, this machine is essentially a regular ice cream maker with a hole in it. There’s no special air injection system and most of the technology is focused on the dispensing mechanism. To start making soft serve, you just flip the machine on and pour an ice cream base into the freezer bowl through the opening in the top. A plastic piece then covers the opening while the ice cream is churning. When you’re ready to dispense, pressing down on the lever opens up the base of the freezer bowl, and the ice cream can flow out. The churning paddle has a threaded piece of plastic in its center that rotates to help feed ice cream down through the opening.
Timing can get a little tricky here. The base needs to churn for about 20 minutes to reach the soft serve state. If it goes for too long, the ice cream will solidify too much to dispense properly. This means that all the cones need to be served at the same time. When I tested this machine, I paused frequently to take photos, jot down a few notes, and, of course, eat the ice cream. By the time I dispensed the last cone, the ice cream had solidified too much for the machine. Firmer ice cream creates more pressure, and the final portion of ice cream actually started to squirt out of the side of the machine. Setting this machine up for people to dispense soft serve at their leisure is definitely out of the question.
The machine churns in the same way that a classic ice cream maker would. The main difference is that instead of transferring the churned ice cream to the freezer to solidify, this machine allows you to dispense and eat immediately. You could achieve the same results with a traditional ice cream maker by just eating the ice cream straight out of the freezer bowl before it hardens. If the aesthetic appeal of a cone is important, you could use a piping bag to imitate the appearance of a soft serve machine.
Features: Promising, but falls short
The most exciting feature of this machine is the promise of mix-ins. Freshly made soft serve with candy swirled right sounds delightful. Unfortunately, the feature doesn’t quite deliver. The mix-in dispenser is primarily powered by gravity. To use it, you fill small plastic containers on the side of the machine with toppings of your choice. To mix them into the ice cream, you pull out a stop on the bottom of the container. This should allow toppings to fall down a slide and into your ice cream as it’s dispensing.
There are a few problems with this. The first is a shortage of hands. If you’re holding the ice cream cone with one hand and dispensing the ice cream with the other, it doesn’t leave any available appendages to operate the mix-in containers.
The machine churns in the same way that a classic ice cream maker would. The main difference is that instead of transferring the churned ice cream to the freezer to solidify, this machine allows you to dispense and eat immediately.
Even if you’re able to have someone else take over one of these tasks, the sprinkles just fall down the chute and sort of bounce off of the ice cream. There’s no way to actually stir them in. My attempt to make rainbow soft serve resulted in more sprinkles on my table than in my ice cream. You also have to be careful about the toppings that you choose since large pieces will get stuck. The opening is small enough for sprinkles to pass through, but toffee chunks, cookie crumbles, or nuts are slightly too big. I feel this feature would work better as a toppings dispenser than a “mix-ins” dispenser.
Cleaning: Not so sugary sweet
There’s no way to sugarcoat it (pardon the pun): This cleanup was annoying. In general, the ice cream had glooped and glopped all over every part of the machine. In addition to the many ice cream-coated components, my unfortunate incident with the mix-ins chute left my kitchen table covered in sprinkles.
The machine components themselves have a lot of small nooks and crannies that are difficult to reach. It would be more effective to soak everything in very hot water than to try to get into the corners with a sponge. The plastic containers of mix-ins aren’t air tight, so if any toppings remain, they should be removed and repackaged, or they will be stale the next time you want to make soft serve.
Price: A bit hefty, just like its size
While the Cuisinart ICE-45P1 Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker is big in design, its matching price of nearly $130 might not be as warranted given the extra leg work involved in the mix-ins feature.
Competition: Cuisinart ICE-45P1 Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker vs. Cuisinart ICE-70 Ice Cream Maker
Even though they're the same brand and around the same listed price, the Cuisinart ICE-70 Ice Cream Maker, which we also tested, seems to offer the same easy and creamy appeal after churning without the difficulty in performance. Not to mention, it has a slim design in contrast to the Cuisinart ICE-45P1 Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker's bulkier build, which means better ability to store it away when it's not in use.
If you really really want soft serve, try it.
For some, the trademark creamy, swirl appeal of soft serve might be enough enticement to give the Cuisinart ICE-45P1 Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker a go. So long as the price point isn't a concern, it's worth a shot and the ice cream it creates is tasty. But you might be better off leaving this to the pros.
- Product Name Mix It In Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker
- Product Brand Cuisinart
- MPN ICE-45P1
- Price $129.95
- Weight 17.2 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 9 x 18.2 x 9.75 in.
- Color White, Pink
- Material Plastic, Aluminum