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Whipping cream is one of the kitchen tasks that I find weirdly soothing. That’s useful, because I use whipped cream for all kinds of desserts, from No-Churn Corn Ice Cream to Key Lime Pie, or even just by itself with some in-season berries or a spoonful of jam swirled into it. Sure, you can buy the canned stuff to spray onto your dessert, but making whipped cream doesn’t take much time, and it allows you to customize the flavor of the cream and manage how sweet you want it. All you need is heavy cream.
You can make whipped cream easily with a stand mixer, but it works just as well with an electric hand mixer or just an old-fashioned whisk. Make sure to choose a bowl that’s big enough that the cream won’t spatter all over as you whip it, and allows for you to whip air into the cream. After all, at its core whipped cream is just heavy cream whipped with air. If you’re stuck without a mixer or even a whisk, here’s a tip from our Culinary Director at Large Justin Chapple: you can even make whipped cream by shaking up a Mason jar.
One cup of heavy cream whips up to about two cups of whipped cream. Use that as a rule of thumb. For covering a pie, you’ll usually need about a cup of unwhipped heavy cream. Make sure to use heavy cream rather than light cream or half-and-half, which won’t whip up the same (if at all).
Coconut Milk Cake with Pistachios, Whipped Coconut Cream and Strawberry Glaze
The key to whipped cream that doesn’t take forever to make? Keeping everything chilled. Don’t take the cream out of the fridge until you’re ready to use it. If you have time, you can even stick your mixing bowl in the fridge or freezer for ten minutes before you whip to make sure everything is nice and chilled. If you don’t have the time, you can also set the bowl with the cream into a bigger bowl of ice to keep things cold.
If you prefer your whipped cream sweetened, add the sugar in with the cream before you start whipping. Confectioner’s, or powdered, sugar is your best bet here, sincere irregular sugar can make the cream grainy. A tablespoon per cup of unwhipped heavy cream will make it lightly sweet, but if you like it much sweeter, add up to two tablespoons more.
Whipped cream is a great vehicle for flavors and extracts, too. For vanilla whipped cream, add a half teaspoon of vanilla extract to the cream before you start whipping. But you don’t need to stop there: almond, coconut, coffee, or orange extract would be just as delicious. Any flavor that you think would work well with the dessert you’re serving is worth a try. You can also add a tablespoon of bourbon or rum, as in this Bourbon Whipped Cream served with Georgia Peach Pie.
Once you have your cream, flavorings, and sugar in the bowl, the next step is simple: Whip it! Use a stand or hand mixer on medium until you see the cream begin to hold tracks from the mixer’s beaters. If you take the beater out of the mixture and you see peaks on the end of it, that cream is whipped. If the peak slumps over, it’s softly whipped. For stiffer whipped cream, whip until the peaks stand up and hold their shape when you take the beater out of the cream. Once you reach that stage, stop—if you whip too much, you’ll have butter, not whipped cream.
If you’ve ever kept whipped cream in the fridge overnight, you may notice it starting to deflate. To prevent the whipped cream from weeping when you make it ahead of time, add a tablespoon or so of Greek yogurt or sour cream into the cream before you whip it. That will help stabilize the cream so it keeps its shape longer. Just be sure to enjoy every cloud-like spoonful within five to seven days.