Besides being a great excuse to consume soft-serve like there’s no tomorrow, National Soft Ice Cream Day on August 19 reminds us of all our best memories involving the dessert — from the county fair we visited as children to the amusement park we went to with friends last year. Soft ice cream seems to pop up only in the happiest of places, and it has a fascinating history as well!
History of National Soft Ice Cream Day
Though there’s evidence that the first real ice cream possibility originated as early as 200 B.C., there aren’t any anecdotes or notable stories from the time. Early tales of ice cream include Alexander the Great and Emperor Nero of Rome, both of whom enjoyed flavored snow and ice. After Marco Polo came back to Italy from the East with an ice-cream-like recipe, it took off in Europe by the end of the 16th century. ‘Cream Ice’ was featured on the table of Charles I and, in 1553, Catherine de’ Medici brought it to France after marrying Henry II of France.
America, which was later the birthplace of soft-serve ice cream, wasn’t introduced to the dessert until the 1740s. While it may have been at dinner tables earlier, ice cream first appeared in advertisements in the U.S. in 1777. George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon featured two ice cream pots, and he reportedly spent over $200 on ice cream over one summer!
It wasn’t until the 1800s that ice cream became accessible for the general public, thanks to newly constructed ice houses and ice cream manufacturing. By the middle of the century, ice cream manufacture and sale was a booming industry. Ice cream became part of American culture, which led to the emergence of soda fountains and sundaes. By World War II, ice cream was brought to troops to boost morale, and floating ice cream parlors were built for sailors in the Pacific.
Around the time of World War II, soft ice cream was born — though, there’s a battle over who started it. Carvel claims that the father of their brand, Tom Carvel, accidentally created soft ice cream when his ice cream truck caught a flat tire and he was forced to quickly sell off his melting wares. He soon returned and set up a permanent shop selling his softened ice cream with great success. Dairy Queen also claims to have invented soft-serve in Illinois, when J.F. McCullough and his son perfected their formula and held a massively successful all-you-can-eat trial at their friend’s store. There are also reports that Margaret Thatcher, former U.K. prime minister, helped develop American soft-serve recipes while working as a chemist at a food manufacturer!
We can’t know for sure how soft-serve came to be, or what involvement Margaret Thatcher had in it. Since those intrepid scientists innovated upon the centuries-old classic, soft-serve has been a staple at some of the most exciting venues — sporting events, amusement parks, and fairs! Today, most people can conjure up a great memory of soft-serve from childhood.
National Soft Ice Cream Day timeline
Though ice cream is thought to have been around since 200 B.C., one of the earliest tales of it is between 50 and 80 A.D., when Emperor Nero of Rome sent runners to the mountains for snow, which he would then eat flavored.
When Tom Carvel’s ice cream truck suffers a flat tire, he sells his melting ice cream in a parking lot — with huge success!
The former U.K. prime minister works for a company dedicated to developing a soft-serve recipe compatible with American machines.
Mechanized air pumps are added to the soft-serve machines, allowing better aeration and boosting sales for ice cream machine manufacturers.
Until the 1950s, the Minnesota legislature actually prohibits the sale of ‘ice milk’ from trucks, specifying that the dessert has to be sold prepackaged.
National Soft Ice Cream Day FAQs
Where is National Soft Ice Cream Day celebrated?
The United States.
Are there other holidays on August 19?
Yes! August 19 is also Islamic New Year, National Aviation Day, National Potato Day, and World Humanitarian Day.
Are there other national holidays about ice cream?
Yes! July 19 is National Ice Cream Day, June 7 is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day, and July 25 is National Hot Fudge Sundae Day.
National Soft Ice Cream Day Activities
Make ice cream
While soft ice cream isn’t simple to make at home, today is still a great day to try your hand at making regular hard ice cream. All you need is cream, sugar, and some ice — there are many recipes online to test out today!
Have an ice cream taste test
No two soft-serves are equal. Round up some friends and take a soft ice cream tour of the city — taste test as much as your stomach lets you! We guarantee it will be an afternoon well-spent.
Post #NationalSoftIceCreamDay on social media
That beautiful soft-serve swirl is basically art and deserves a spot on your Instagram feed. Share your treat on social media to promote this sweet holiday!
5 Fun Facts About Soft Ice Cream
It’s harder to make
Between the prepared liquid mix, precise machinery, and the art of dispensing, making soft-serve quickly proves more complicated than making hard ice cream!
An average serving of soft-serve ice cream contains 35% air — this keeps it fluffier than hard ice cream!
It’s the preferred frozen snack
According to one statistic, 70% of people will choose soft-serve over hard ice cream.
It’s healthier than ice cream
Yet another reason to love ice cream’s younger sibling, soft-serve — soft-serve has 3–6% milkfat, while ice cream has 10–18%.
It has different names
In parts of Europe, it isn’t called ‘soft-serve,’ but rather ‘American ice cream’ and if you want a soft cone in Greece or Romania, you might order ‘machine ice cream,’ while, in Ireland, you’d ask for ‘soft whip.’
Why We Love National Soft Ice Cream Day
National Soft Ice Cream Day is one of the most delicious days of the year. We love the excuse to indulge in one of the best desserts around. No low-fat or frozen yogurt for us — it’s soft ice cream all the way!
It’s a new twist on ice cream
While ice cream has been around in some form for thousands of years, soft-serve style ice cream had its start in the 1940s! It is a truly delicious innovation of an already-fantastic dessert.
It’s a classic favorite
Over the years, soft-serve ice cream has come to be associated with fairs, carnivals, amusement parks, and more fun venues. The first lick of a soft-serve cone brings back happy childhood memories for many of us — maybe that’s why it’s been a bestselling dessert for decades.
National Soft Ice Cream Day dates