Whether you are planning to create an ice cream cake or simply to serve a perfect scoop with every slice of your birthday confection, a block of rock-hard ice cream can throw all of your party plans into disarray. Fortunately, softening up ice cream doesn’t have to be difficult, and there are plenty of tips and tricks to turn your Neapolitan nightmare into a soft, scoopable or spreadable ice cream dream.

Rely on Your Refrigerator

If you have the time, softening your ice cream in the refrigerator can be an easy and effective solution. Depending on the size of the container and how hard the ice cream was to start with, it should take about 10 to 30 minutes to soften the ice cream enough to use it.

Mix Into Softness

Your electric mixer can help you soften ice cream and get it all the same consistency. Scoop small balls if ice cream, about six per pint, into the bowl of your mixer. Add the paddle attachment and turn it on for about two minutes. The ice cream should soften enough to use in recipes, such as for an ice cream cake, but still be solid enough to hold its shape. You can remove it from the bowl with a wooden spatula and spread it directly on the cooled cake.

Microwave Miracle

If you forgot to soften it early enough and you need your ice cream to be scoopable right away, your microwave can work a softening miracle in a pinch. The most important thing to keep in mind when using the microwave to soften ice cream is to avoid heating it for too long. As a general guideline, set the microwave on high and melt one pint for 10 to 15 seconds, one quart for 15 to 25 seconds or a half-gallon for 30 to 40 seconds. Another option is to use the defrost setting and heat at 10 second intervals, checking the ice cream regularly to see if it is soft enough. There is no need to remove the ice cream from the container before microwaving it. Simply pop the cardboard box or carton into the microwave and turn it on.

Emergency Scoops

When you are faced with a room full of kids with plates in hand awaiting the ice cream scoop to match their hastily-grabbed pieces of cake, you might need= to resort to emergency measures to get the scoops out as quickly as possible. You can soften ice cream as you scoop by filling a cup with very hot water and dipping a metal spoon or ice cream scooper into the water before scooping out each serving of ice cream. This melts the ice cream just at the point where the metal meets the cold dessert, letting you slide it in just enough to create a nice, round ball of ice cream.