There’s a few skills that every baker, professional and novice alike, needs to have in their repertoire. This is the second installment in the “You Need to Know” series where we explore basic baking techniques and tap into the know-how that is required to master them. In today’s edition, we are going to whip our way to the cloud-like heaven that is perfectly whipped cream, so if you need to know the ins and outs, keep reading!
What is it?
Whipped cream is cream or heavy cream that has been whipped until the texture changes from a fatty liquid to a light and fluffy foam. As the cream is whipped, air bubbles are incorporated into the fat, resulting in an airy mixture that is approximately double the volume of the original liquid. A high amount of fat is required for the whipped cream to be stable, so heavy whipping cream or one that contains at least 30% fat is typically recommended for best outcomes.
How do you make it?
Whipped cream can be prepared in a number of ways and with very little equipment.You can use a chilled bowl and wire whisk, a hand mixer, a stand mixer, or even a a glass jar with a lid! The key is to start with very cold cream, because the fat in the cream will melt at warmer temperatures, resulting in a lack of stability for the emulsification. I prefer to make my whipped cream with a hand mixer fitted with the beater attachments, because it’s a lot easier to monitor the progress of your whipped cream with a low-powered hand mixer as opposed to a high-powdered stand mixer. Feel free to use whatever you have on hand and feel comfortable working with.
Step One: Begin whipping!
Pour the cream into a mixing bowl and begin whipping at low speed. If you are using a stand mixer, I use the whisk attachment on speed 2 or 4. Beat the mixture steadily until you notice the cream beginning to froth and barely thicken.
Step Two: Add sweetener and flavoring!
Once your cream is frothy, it is stable enough to add sweeteners and flavoring. For a traditional sweetened whipped cream, a small portion of granulated or powdered sugar is typically used, however, you can use honey, brown sugar, or even agave nectar. The color and texture may differ slightly, but all can be used successfully. Vanilla extract, lemon zest, almond extract, or even cocoa powder can be added to your cream for flavor, but use in moderation, adding only until the desired flavor is achieved.
Step Three: Watch for peaks!
After the add-ins have been included, continue whipping and increase the speed. The cream will transform from a bubbly liquid to a thickened mixture that barely retains a trace of the beater or whisk as it spins around the bowl. Man your post at the mixer because once the cream begins to thicken, you’re only a few moments away from perfect whipped cream. Keep whipping and watching, and you’ll soon notice soft and fluffy mounds forming on the top of the cream, finally increasing in volume to thick, smooth clouds that barely billow up onto themselves in the bowl.
Once your cream gets close to doubling in volume, turn off your mixer and pull the whisk from the bowl. The cream is adequately whipped once it holds its shape on the end of the whisk without wilting over or plopping off the end of the attachment. Be sure to not over-beat the cream- you may end up with butter!
What if I over-beat it?
If you continue beating your cream beyond the point of whipped cream, you’ll notice small lumps in your bowl, forming a grainy, thick mixture. Don’t fret- as long as you haven’t breached the fine line between whipped cream and butter, you can still rescue it! Add a few extra tablespoons of cream into your bowl and slowly whisk it into the mixture. If it’s not beyond repair, the mixture will smooth right back out and you’ll be back in the game. If you happened to take it too far, that’s okay too! You’re well on your way to making fresh, homemade butter, and we all know there’s plenty of room in the kitchen for that.
What do I use it for?
Whipped cream is an excellent topping for cakes, pies, coffees, and sundaes, but is often incorporated into recipes in a number of other ways. You may fold whipped cream into trifles or cream pies, no-churn ice cream or icebox cakes. With nothing more than a bit of cream and a handful of fresh fruit, you are well on your way to preparing a simple dessert that takes little time and zero fuss. Homemade whipped cream is fantastic on its own and adds a sweet and creamy mouthfeel when incorporated into homemade desserts.
Is there anything else I need to know about whipped cream?
Yep, probably. If you want to get your nerd on, be sure to check out this article from Serious Eats. If you’re interested in more photos of the different phases of whipped cream, this post from King Arthur Flour is really helpful. And if you’re just wanting some inspiration on how to use whipped cream, be sure to check out this page of my blog that includes a number of recipes requiring a little fluff of cream.
To all of my American friends, have a great Labor Day! Be sure to reference this post next time you need a little whipped cream in your life. And don’t forget to vote for the Saveur Blog Awards! The polls are open until Wednesday, the 6th of September, and you can find me in the “Best Baking and Sweets” category. Have a great week!
Homemade Sweetened Whipped Cream
Learn how to make whipped cream, step by step with photos, in this quick and simple tutorial.
- Prep Time: 5
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- 1 cup (240 mL) heavy whipping cream, very cold
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Pour the cream into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium-low speed until the mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Add the sugar. Increase the speed to high and whip until you notice traces of the mixer attachment in the cream. Continue whipping, watching carefully, until the mixture thickens into smooth pillowy clouds, nearly doubles in size, and barely holds its shape on the end of the whisk attachment. Use immediately.
- For vanilla whipped cream: add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For chocolate whipped cream: add 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- For honey whipped cream: add 3 tablespoons good honey in place of the sugar.
- For lemon whipped cream: add 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest or more, according to your preferences.