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Food & Recipes

We’ve All Been Using the Wrong Dairy For Homemade Whipped Cream


Whipped cream is the easiest dessert topping to make yourself — all you need is cream and sugar! And it’s just so tasty on top of a sundae, slice of pie, or fresh strawberries for a summer treat. However, many of us make a crucial mistake before we even start whisking any dairy. Although whipping cream seems like the obvious choice, it turns out heavy cream is the real winner for the best homemade whipped cream.

Whipping cream contains 30 to 36 percent milk fat while heavy cream usually contains 36 percent or more. We can thank this higher milk fat content for helping the whipped cream maintain firm peaks and last longer in the fridge. “Heavy cream makes the final product thicker and more luxurious and helps it hold its shape longer,” explains America’s Test Kitchen editor Danielle LaPierre.

Now, if you’re wondering whether heavy cream and heavy whipping cream are the same, Kate Trombly O’Brien, food editor for The Pioneer Woman, confirms that they are. She shares a handy tip when shopping: “Bottom line: If you see the word ‘heavy,’ it’s the higher-fat kind. If you don’t, it’s lighter.” 

I always prefer making this yummy topping from scratch for dessert like grilled fruit or ice cream. For me, it’s better than having an aerosol can spraying everywhere and ruining the cream’s soft, delicate texture (a small pet peeve of mine). Plus, it’s usually cheaper to do it myself and super quick with an electric mixer.

I did a quick test of whipping both types of cream to see if there was a huge difference in consistency. I also followed Alton Brown’s tip to chill my bowls and whisk in the freezer for 10 minutes before making both batches. It helps keeps the cream cold, which allows it to fold in more air as it’s being beaten. Next, I placed two tablespoons of white sugar and one cup of each cream into the bowls and whipped them for about five minutes, until stiff peaks formed.

I didn’t see or taste a major difference between the two right after they were whipped. Both had a fluffy texture and a lightly sweet, milky flavor. Take a look and see for yourself:

Heavy cream whipped cream batch
The batch made with heavy cream.Alexandria Brooks
Whipping cream whipped cream batch
The batch made with whipping cream.Alexandria Brooks

After letting them sit in the fridge overnight, however, the heavy cream batch held its stiff yet cloudy texture a lot better than the whipping cream batch. The whipping cream batch was still thick, but it wasn’t as airy compared to when it was freshly whipped.

So, if you want to make whipped cream that you aren’t immediately scarfing down, go with heavy cream. Brown says it will last 10 hours in the fridge stored in Tupperware, so it’s the perfect make-ahead dessert topping!

And if you only have whipping cream in your fridge, it’s still a great option to enjoy right away dolloped on top of ice cream or a decadent dessert like chocolate mousse. Whichever one you use, your homemade whipped cream will definitely be tastier than the store bought kind!

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