Cream is a delicious and versatile dairy ingredient used in many sweet and savory recipes. However, with so many options available, it can get confusing to know whether you need heavy whipping cream or regular whipping cream. Though their names sound alike, there are important differences between these two popular types of cream.
Read on, we will break down everything you need to know about heavy whipping cream versus whipping cream. We'll cover how they are made, their fat contents, best uses, whipping qualities, nutritional profiles, and more.
How Heavy Whipping Cream and Whipping Cream Are Made
To understand the difference between these two dairy products, it helps to first look at how they are made.
Heavy whipping cream, sometimes simply called heavy cream, is made by skimming off the high-fat cream from the top of whole milk. This fatty cream is then pasteurized and homogenized into the thick, rich heavy whipping cream product we are familiar with.
According to U.S. federal standards, heavy cream must contain at least 36% milk fat to be labeled as such. Anything containing less fat is not true heavy cream.
Whipping cream, on the other hand, starts out the same way by skimming the fatty cream from whole milk. However, more of the lower-fat milk remains blended in with the cream. This results in a lighter product with a lower fat content.
Key Takeaway: Heavy whipping cream and whipping cream originate from the same high-fat cream skimmed from whole milk. The difference lies in how much of the lower-fat milk remains blended in.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires whipping cream to contain between 30-36% milk fat to be labeled as whipping cream. The exact percentage can vary between different brands.
So in summary, both heavy whipping cream and whipping cream come from the fatty cream skimmed off milk. Heavy cream retains more of the pure high-fat cream while whipping cream mixes in more of the lower-fat milk to dilute it down to 30-36% fat.
Fat Content Differences
The key distinction between these two creams lies in their fat content. Let's look closer at how their fat percentages compare:
|Cream Type||Fat Content|
|Heavy Whipping Cream||36% or more|
As you can see, heavy whipping cream has a higher fat content than whipping cream, with a minimum of 36% fat versus whipping cream's 30-36% fat. This 5-6% difference in fat content may seem minor, but it has a significant effect on the flavor, texture, and performance of the creams.
The higher fat content gives heavy cream a richer, thicker, and creamier consistency. Whipping cream with less fat has a lighter, more delicate texture.
When whipped, heavy cream will form stiffer peaks that hold their shape for longer compared to whipping cream. The additional fat enables heavy cream to trap more air bubbles and remain stable when whipped.
So in summary, heavy whipping cream's higher fat content (36%+) makes it thicker, richer, and ideal for whipping while whipping cream with 30-36% fat has a lighter texture and doesn't whip as stiffly.
Best Uses for Heavy Whipping Cream vs. Whipping Cream
With their differing fat contents and textures, heavy whipping cream and whipping cream each shine in certain recipes and applications.
Heavy whipping cream is perfect for:
- Sturdy whipped cream toppings that hold their shape
- Frostings, ganache, fillings - anything that needs to be piped or sculpted
- ice cream and custards for added richness
- Cream sauces and soups where a silky texture is desired
- Richer desserts like panna cotta or crème brûlée
Whipping cream works best for:
- Light, delicate whipped cream topping on fruits and pies
- Adding a light creaminess to soups, sauces, and chowders
- Folding into mousses, biscuits, scones, and other baked goods
- Sweet sauces like berry or caramel that don't need heavy creaminess
- Coffee drinks like lattes where you don't want heavy richness
So in recipes where you want a thick, stand-up whipped cream or cream sauce, go with heavy whipping cream. When you need a delicate light cream, choose whipping cream instead.
A key use for both heavy whipping cream and whipping cream is making freshly whipped cream. But with their differing fat contents, the results will vary when whipped.
Heavy whipping cream with 36%+ fat whips up into a thicker, firmer whipped cream that can hold both soft and stiff peaks for piping and decorating. The higher fat enables it to stabilize and trap air bubbles efficiently. The whipped cream will be more luxurious and creamy.
Whipping cream with 30-36% fat can whip to soft peaks but won't hold stiff peaks as well. The whipped cream will have a lighter, airier, and more delicate texture. While delicious, it won't be as stable for piping and shaping.
So if you need a sturdy whipped cream, heavy cream is the clear choice. But for a billowy cream topping, whipping cream does the job deliciously.
When whipping either cream, the proper technique helps achieve the best results:
- Chill the cream and tools first
- Use a hand or stand mixer on medium-high speed
- Whip just until soft or stiff peaks form
- Be careful not to overwhip
Key Takeaway: Heavy whipping cream makes a thicker, firmer whipped cream, while whipping cream yields a lighter, airier whipped texture.
Follow these tips, and you'll whip up perfect freshly whipped cream every time, whether using heavy whipping cream or whipping cream.
With heavy whipping cream's higher fat percentage, it is a bit higher in calories compared to whipping cream. However, the difference per serving is minimal.
Here's a nutritional comparison of heavy whipping cream versus whipping cream:
|Cream Type||Calories||Fat||Saturated Fat|
|1 Tbsp Heavy Cream||51 calories||5g||3.5g|
|1 Tbsp Whipping Cream||44 calories||4.5g||3g|
As you can see, heavy whipping cream has only 7 more calories and 0.5g more fat per tablespoon compared to whipping cream.
Both creams provide mostly fat calories, with minimal carbs and protein. The fat is highly saturated, but recent research suggests that dairy fat may not need to be restricted for heart health as previously believed.
Overall, the nutritional profile of these two creams is fairly similar. So the choice between heavy whipping cream and whipping cream should be based more on the texture and performance you need rather than small nutritional differences.
How Cream Is Processed
For the smoothest, safest, and best-tasting cream products, heavy whipping cream and whipping cream both undergo processing including:
Homogenization - Breaks up the fat globules in cream so they stay suspended evenly instead of separating and rising to the top. This creates a smooth, uniform product.
Pasteurization - Heating the cream to at least 160°F kills any potentially harmful bacteria and increases shelf life and safety.
Ultra-pasteurization - Heating to an even higher temperature of 280°F makes the cream shelf-stable for months. The trade-off is a slightly cooked flavor.
These processing methods ensure both heavy whipping cream and whipping cream have a smooth texture and are safe to consume. Make sure to check the labels when buying cream to know which processes were used, especially if you want to avoid ultra-pasteurization.
Light Cream vs. Heavy Cream
In addition to whipping cream, another lighter-fat cream product is a light cream, which contains between 18-30% milk fat. This is even lighter than whipping cream.
Light cream can be used in place of whipping cream when you want a lighter consistency and don't need to whip it. It provides a creamy flavor without so much richness.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, heavy cream must contain a minimum of 36% milk fat, the same as heavy whipping cream. So heavy cream and heavy whipping cream are actually the same product with two interchangeable names.
Here's a summary:
- Heavy cream = heavy whipping cream (36%+ fat)
- Whipping cream (30-36% fat)
- Light cream (18-30% fat)
So when it comes to the cream spectrum, heavy cream, and heavy whipping cream are the richest and thickest, whipping cream is midrange, and light cream is the lightest.
Non-Dairy Cream Alternatives
For those avoiding dairy, vegetable-based cream alternatives provide a substitute for whipping up non-dairy "whipped cream."
Some popular options include:
- Coconut cream - Made from the fatty layer of coconut milk. Whips up thicker than whipping cream. Provides coconut flavor.
- Cashew cream - Cashews blended with water create a thick, mild-flavored "cream." Fat content can be adjusted by diluting more or less.
- Nut milk - Such as soy milk, almond milk, or oat milk. Won't whip up exactly like dairy cream but can be used in some recipes.
When using non-dairy substitutes, expect differences in texture, flavor, and whipping ability compared to real dairy cream. But with some trial and error, you can find the right substitutes for your needs.
Heavy Whipping Cream vs. Whipping Cream Comparison Chart
For quick reference, here's a comparison chart summarizing the key differences between heavy whipping cream versus whipping cream:
|Heavy Whipping Cream||Whipping Cream|
|Minimum fat content||36%||30%|
|Texture||Thick, rich, creamy||Lighter, more delicate|
|Whipping ability||Forms stiff peaks||Whips to soft peaks|
|Best uses||Whipped cream, frostings, ice cream, rich desserts||Light whipped cream, folding into baked goods|
|Nutrition per tbsp||51 calories, 5g fat||44 calories, 4.5g fat|
So in summary, heavy whipping cream is ideal when you want a thicker, richer cream that whips up firm while whipping cream provides a delicate light creaminess perfect for topping off desserts.
Can I use whipping cream instead of heavy cream?
You can substitute whipping cream for heavy cream, but the texture may be a little lighter and less creamy. For the best results, use heavy cream when the recipe calls for it.
Is heavy whipping cream the same as heavy cream?
Yes, heavy whipping cream and heavy cream are names for the same high-fat dairy product containing at least 36% milk fat. They are interchangeable.
What's the difference between half-and-half and whipping cream?
Half-and-half contains 10-18% milk fat, much less than whipping cream's 30-36% fat content. Half-and-half is thinner and won't whip up like whipping cream.
Is whipping cream keto-friendly?
Yes, both heavy whipping cream and whipping cream are low in carbs while high in fat, making them suitable for a ketogenic diet. As always, check the nutrition labels.
While their similar names can cause confusion, heavy whipping cream and whipping cream differ in their fat content and best uses. Now that you know how to distinguish between them, you can decide which type of cream is right for your recipes and whipping needs.
Heavy whipping cream offers a rich, thick texture and stable whipped cream while whipping cream provides a delicate light creaminess.