10 Things You Didn't Know About Soft Serve

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Soft Serve

Soft serve ice cream is one of those perfect summer foods. Being handed a cone of the stuff from the ice cream man is a childhood memory that's hard to beat. But unlike ice cream, which started as a luxury product hundreds of years ago, soft serve has a much shorter history and is definitely a food of the people. 

It was Reportedly Invented Because of a Flat Tire

As legend has it, on Memorial Day weekend 1934, an ice cream truck driver got a flat tire in the town of Hartsdale, New York, so he pulled into a parking lot and sold his melting ice cream to vacationers. They loved the softer consistency, and his entire supply was sold out within two days. This was a "light bulb" moment for the vendor, who immediately set to work on developing the formula for soft serve.

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Two Big Names in Ice Cream Claim to Have Created It

What was that ice cream truck driver's name? Tom Carvel, the founder of Carvel. Within three years of his truck breaking down, he'd opened the first Carvel on that exact location, specializing in his newfangled creation. A competitor, Dairy Queen, also claims to have invented soft serve, but they date their creation to 1938, a year after Carvel went into business.

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Margaret Thatcher Helped Work on the U.K. Version in the 1940s

Yes, the Margaret Thatcher. Long before she became prime minister of the U.K., the Iron Lady worked as a chemist at a British food manufacturer at the time when they were working on a soft serve recipe that would work with American-made ice cream machines.

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It’s Not as Fattening as Regular Ice Cream

While ice cream has a milk fat content of between 10 and 18 percent, soft serve's milk fat level is usually between three and six percent. But that still doesn't mean it's healthy; a one-cup serving of Mister Softee's soft serve (which clocks in at six percent milk fat) contains 10 grams of fat and 260 calories.

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It’s All About the Air

Aside from the lower fat content and slightly higher temperature, the main reason soft serve is, well, soft, is because it contains a lot more air than traditional ice cream. Called "overrun," it's what makes soft serve so fluffy, compared to a "super premium" ice cream like Ben & Jerry's, which has a very low overrun.

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It’s Called ‘American Ice Cream’ in Parts of Europe

Soft serve is actually called "American ice cream" (translated into their local language) in many parts of Europe and Israel. It's called "soft ice" in Germany and parts of northern Europe, "machine ice cream" in Greece and Romania, and "soft whip" in Ireland.

In Britain, Ireland, Australia, and South Africa, many ice cream vendors sell what's called a "99," which is a cone of soft serve ice cream with a Cadbury Flake bar stuck into it.

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It’s Called a Creemee in New England

The term originated in Vermont. If you're up there and come across any shops selling a maple creemee, which is essentially soft serve flavored with real maple syrup, make sure you try one. 

It’s Easy to Make the “Magic Shell” at Home

That "magic shell" that you can get your soft serve from the ice cream truck dipped into (you know, the chocolate shell that hardens around the ice cream instantly) firms up so quickly because the chocolate is mixed with an oil that's high in saturated fat, which hardens when chilled. To make it at home, just mix melted chocolate with some coconut oil and corn syrup. Here's a good recipe.

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The Mix Contains a Lot More Ingredients than the Usual Ice Cream

Egg yolks are usually enough to emulsify traditional ice creams, but soft serve needs a lot more than that to combine all the ingredients and hold it all together. Along with milk and sugar, soft serve mixes usually contain at least a couple types of emulsifiers and thickeners; Mister Softee's contains mono- and diglycerides, cellulose gum, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, and carrageenan.

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The Mister Softee Jingle Has Lyrics

And while we're on the subject of Mister Softee, did you know that its earworm jingle has lyrics? Check it out:

The creamiest, dreamiest soft ice cream
You get from Mister Softee
For a refreshing delight supreme
Look for Mister Softee

My milkshakes and my sundaes and my cones are such a treat
Listen for my store on wheels ding-a-ling down the street

The creamiest, dreamiest soft ice cream
You get from Mister Softee
For a refreshing delight supreme
Look for Mister Softee

S-O-F-T Dubble-E
Mister Softee!

The Mister Softee Jingle Has Lyrics. Who Knew?