Whipped cream is a beloved topping for everything from hot chocolate to banana splits. Light, airy, and sweet, it's the perfect finishing touch for both savory and sweet dishes.
Overview of Whipping Cream Types
There are three main categories of whipping cream:
- Dairy whipping creams - Made from dairy milk and contain no additives. Higher fat content produces better whipped cream.
- Non-dairy whipping creams - Made from vegetable oils and contain stabilizers for improved whipped texture. Stay fresher longer than dairy creams.
- Powdered whipping creams - Dehydrated dairy or non-dairy whipping creams. Require reconstituting with water or milk before whipping.
Within these categories, the fat content is the key factor that determines how well a cream will whip up. Here's an overview of common whipping cream types by fat percentage:
- Light cream (20-30% fat) - Does not whip well due to low fat content
- Whipping cream (30-36% fat) - Whips to soft, billowy peaks
- Heavy cream (36-40% fat) - Whips to firm, sturdy peaks ideal for piping and decorating
- Heavy whipping cream (36-40% fat) - Can be used interchangeably with heavy cream
- Manufacturing cream (40-48% fat) - Very high fat content creates ultra-stable whipped cream
Now let's explore each of these popular whipping cream varieties in more detail.
Dairy Whipping Creams
Dairy whipping creams are made solely from dairy milk. They contain no added stabilizers or emulsifiers. As a result, dairy creams:
- Have a fresh, pure cream flavor
- Do not hold their shape as long once whipped
- Spoil more quickly than stabilized creams
Whipping cream and heavy cream are the two most widely used dairy whipping creams. Both can whip up into mounds of billowy deliciousness, but there are some differences:
- 30-36% milk fat
- Whips to soft, creamy peaks
- Holds shape for a moderate time after whipping
- Found in the refrigerated dairy case
- Common brands: Land O'Lakes, Organic Valley
Whipping cream is the best choice when you need a light, cloud-like whipped cream that will start to deflate after an hour or two. It's ideal for fruit desserts, hot chocolate, milkshakes, and other applications where you'll eat the whipped cream shortly after preparing it.
Since whipping cream is not stabilized, avoid making whipped cream too far in advance with it. For maximum fresh whipped cream flavor, whip chilled whipping cream right before serving.
- 36-40% milk fat
- Whips to firmer peaks than whipping cream
- Holds its whipped shape longer
- Found in the refrigerated dairy case
- Common brands: Organic Valley, Horizon, Lucerne
The higher fat content of heavy cream makes it easy to whip up into stiff peaks that hold their shape well. That makes it perfect for piping decorative details on cakes and cupcakes. Heavy cream whipped cream also stands up better as a cake filling.
For sweet whipped cream, simply beat heavy cream with a bit of sugar and vanilla extract. It can also be infused with flavors like orange, mint, or coffee before whipping.
Other Dairy Whipping Creams
Heavy whipping cream is another term for heavy cream and can be used interchangeably in recipes.
Manufacturing cream contains 40-48% milk fat, making it even higher in fat than heavy cream. It whips up incredibly thick and stable - perfect for decorating wedding cakes and other special desserts. However, it can be difficult to find outside of specialty baking stores.
Non-Dairy Whipping Creams
Non-dairy whipping creams provide an alternative for those avoiding dairy. They are made from soy, vegetable oils, and added stabilizers that help maintain the whipped texture.
Compared to dairy whipping creams, non-dairy varieties:
- Have a longer shelf life before and after whipping
- Require no refrigeration after opening
- Whip thicker and hold their shape better
- Do not curdle or separate when heated
Keep in mind that non-dairy whipping creams are thinner in texture and tend to have a less creamy, more artificial taste. Always check the label for unwanted ingredients if you have food sensitivities.
Powdered Whipping Creams
Powdered whipping creams provide the convenience of shelf-stable storage. They are made by dehydrating liquid dairy or non-dairy whipping creams into a dry powder.
To use powdered whipping cream:
- Combine the powder with cold milk or water
- Chill thoroughly before whipping
- Whip with a mixer or in a whipped cream dispenser
Powdered whipping creams make an excellent option for whipping small batches of cream as needed. Just mix up a bit at a time instead of worrying about leftovers going bad.
Common brands include Whip It, Dream Whip, Purasnow, and Presto. Find powdered whipping creams near cake mixes and puddings in the baking aisle.
Key Takeaway: Powdered whipping creams provide convenience and longer shelf life but dairy creams offer purer flavor.
How to Choose the Best Whipping Cream
Now that you know the differences between types of whipping cream, how do you choose the right one for your recipe? Here are some tips:
- For firm, stable whipped cream, choose heavy cream or non-dairy whipping cream.
- For lightly sweetened whipped cream, stick with dairy whipping creams. Non-dairy creams already contain sugar.
- For making whipped cream in advance, non-dairy and powdered creams hold their shape the longest.
- For small batches whipped à la minute, dairy whipping cream provides the freshest taste.
- For whipping by hand, use heavy cream or whipping cream. Non-dairy creams whip thicker and require a mixer.
- For sweet whipped topping on hot drinks, non-dairy and powdered creams won't curdle or separate.
- For stabilizer-free whipped cream, choose dairy heavy or whipping cream.
Experiment with different varieties to discover your favorites!
Whipping Cream Substitutions
Don't have the right cream on hand? Try one of these whipping cream substitutions:
- Light cream + butter - For 1 cup whipping cream, use 3/4 cup light cream + 1/4 cup melted butter
- Half-and-half + butter - For 1 cup whipping cream, use 3/4 cup half-and-half + 1/4 cup melted butter
- Full-fat coconut milk (chilled) - Whips up like dairy cream but denser, use less sweetener
- Full-fat canned evaporated milk (chilled) - Less tender than whipping cream but can be whipped
- Milk + cornstarch - For 1 cup whipping cream, mix 1 cup milk with 1-2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1-2 tbsp milk
- Non-dairy whipped topping - Brands like Cool Whip make a convenient shelf-stable substitute
- Whipped cream cheese - Sweetened whipped cream cheese or mascarpone can mimic the texture
For the best stand-in, opt for ingredients with higher fat content like half-and-half or full-fat coconut milk. Low-fat milk and cream will not whip up properly.
Storing Whipped Cream
To get the longest life out of your freshly whipped cream:
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Smooth the surface before covering to minimize air exposure.
- Press plastic wrap directly on the surface if storing more than 2-3 days.
- Add a bit of powdered milk or gelatin to help maintain firmness.
- Or transfer piped whipped cream decorations to the freezer until ready to use.
All whipped cream will eventually deflate, separate, and develop whey. Consume homemade whipped cream within 2-4 days for the freshest texture and flavor.
What is the difference between whipping cream and heavy cream?
Heavy cream contains slightly more fat (36-40%) than whipping cream (30-36%). It whips to firmer peaks and holds its shape longer.
Can you whip light cream?
Light cream only contains 20-30% fat, which is too low to whip up properly. Stick with whipping, heavy, or double cream.
Is whipping cream the same as heavy whipping cream?
Yes, "heavy whipping cream" and "heavy cream" are interchangeable names referring to the same high-fat dairy cream.
Can you substitute half-and-half for whipping cream?
In a pinch, you can substitute 3/4 cup half-and-half + 1/4 cup butter for 1 cup whipping cream. It will not whip up as thick.
Can whipped cream be frozen?
Yes, homemade or store-bought whipped cream can be frozen for 1-2 months. Thaw in the fridge before using.
How long does whipped cream last?
Freshly whipped cream lasts 2-4 days in the fridge. Non-dairy and stabilized whipped creams last 5-7 days refrigerated.
Can you reuse whipped cream?
Leftover whipped cream can be briefly re-whipped if it still has a fairly stiff texture. But it's best to use whipped cream within a day or two.
From dairy whipping cream to non-dairy alternatives, understanding the differences between types of whipping cream ensures you whip up the perfect texture every time.
Choosing a cream with at least 30% fat content is key, as lower-fat varieties will not whip properly. For stable whipped cream that holds its shape, opt for heavy cream, heavy whipping cream, or non-dairy whipped topping.