Start to Finish: 45 minutes (20 minutes preparation time)
Servings: 10 medium, 8 large
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Soft serve ice cream is a treat generally reserved for trips to a commercial chain where the mere sight of the creamy goodness swirling from the tap is enough to start your taste buds tingling. Making your own ice cream turn out soft and silky is simple and doesn’t require a lot of special equipment. Just a couple of tweaks to a standard ice cream recipe does the trick.


Gather Your Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons powdered unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 vanilla beans (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Pinch of salt
  • Sprinkles or other toppings
  • Cake or waffle cones

Mix It Up

  • Mix water and gelatin in small cup. Set aside.

  • In a medium saucepan, heat 2 cups milk to just before it comes to a boil. WIth a sharp knife, split vanilla beans and scrape interior contents into milk. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 10 minutes.

  • To saucepan, add sugar and the gelatin mixture. With a rubber spatula, stir until thoroughly mixed, scraping sides of pan.

  • Add 2 cups cream, salt and (if using) vanilla extract. With a whisk, whip vigorously for one minute to introduce air into the mixture.

To the Machine

Pour mixture into your ice cream maker, following manufacturer’s guidelines. The addition of gelatin accelerates the freezing process, so check the consistency after 20 minutes. With a rubber spatula, smooth and flatten the top of the ice cream. Swipe the back of a large spoon across the ice cream and if a firm groove results, your soft serve is ready to go. Freezing times vary from machine to machine. If ice cream is too soft, continue freezing, checking consistency frequently.

Serving It Softly

  • Straight from the machine, scoop the ice cream into cake or waffle cones and add sprinkles or other toppings.

  • For slightly firmer softer serve, scoop ice cream into an airtight container and freeze for 2 hours.

  • Pack in airtight container and freeze for later use. Before serving, allow ice cream to thaw slightly.

Hot Tips for Cold Fun

If you are feeling lazy or merely rushed, just add a half can of whipped cream to a quart of store-bought ice cream and pulse it in the food processor. For extra creaminess, start with a frozen banana cut in 1/2-inch slices. Pulse until smooth, then add ice cream one scoop at a time. Add whipped cream last, blend until smooth and creamy. It’s cheating, but that doesn’t affect the taste.

If you’ve taken the easy route of using store-bought ice cream, you can make your soft serve look all the better by piping it through a pastry tube. Use the star tip and you can swirl your yummy concoction into a cone that would make kids and adults line up around the block.

Add a shot of vodka or other alcohol to your ice cream machine’s standard recipe or any other ice cream recipe. Alcohol freezes at a lower temperature than dairy products so your ice cream will be softer, even if your recipe includes eggs.