There’s nothing lovelier than a heap of billowy whipped cream on a piece of key lime pie or strawberry tart, on a sundae, or in the middle of a cake. Whipped cream also makes the base for some ice creams and parfaits, mousses and tortes.
The mechanics of whipping cream are relatively simple, all you are doing is encouraging the fat molecules to join together to trap air, but there are a few rules to apply to make it as easy as possible, and to ensure you don’t end up with butter.
Rules for whipping cream:
- The cream should contain enough fat, at least 30%. Single cream won’t whip but whipping cream (36%) and double cream (48%) will. Thick cream and clotted cream don’t need whipping, they have a different, heavier, smoother texture than whipped cream. Whipping cream will be lighter and fluffier than double cream.
- You can whip cream with another creamy ingredient such as crème fraîche and mascarpone – make sure it has enough fat content or it won’t whip.
- The cream should be very cold.
- The bowl and whisk should also be cold, chill the bowl if you have time and use a glass or metal bowl if you have one.
- You can use an electric hand mixer, stand mixer, food processor (see below) or balloon whisk (and elbow grease) but you need to adjust the timings depending on which method you use. If you plan on using a balloon whisk then the bigger the head is, the less effort you'll have to put in. A balloon whisk with a wire ball inside it (and hard ball inside that) will work even more efficiently. You can use a flat whisk, or at a pinch a fork – sometimes needs must – but it will take you much, much longer.
- Whip it slowly and in a controlled way.
- Don’t over-whip it – once it just reaches stiff peaks, then stop. Over-whipped cream will first turn grainy and then to butter.
- Cream will roughly double in size when whipped.
- Cream whipped in a food processor with a blade won’t be as light and fluffy as cream that is whisked. The cream will be thicker, so if you want to cover a cake with cream, use this method.
How to whip cream
Makes 600ml, serves 10
- 300ml double or whipping cream, chilled
- flavourings (see below for inspiration), if using
With a whisk:
- Pour the cream into a chilled bowl and begin to whisk, moving the cream back and forth across the bowl – take breaks when you need to. The cream will start turning to frothy bubbles and then to a thick liquid.
- When you can make trails of cream on the surface that don’t sink in immediately, you’ll know you are nearly there. Keep whisking until the cream forms peaks that flop over (soft peaks).
- Once it starts to form soft peaks, whisk in any flavourings and then keep whisking until the cream starts to feel more solid and the peaks don’t flop over any more (stiff peaks). Stop at this point.
With a hand mixer or stand mixer:
- Pour the cream into a chilled bowl and begin to beat it on a medium speed, you’ll soon have a bowl of froth and bubbles which will begin to thicken. When you can make trails of cream on the surface that don’t sink in immediately you’ll know you are nearly there.
- Keep whisking until the cream forms peaks that flop over at the peaks (soft peaks).
- Once it starts to form soft peaks, whisk in any flavourings, then keep whisking on a slower speed until the cream starts to feel more solid and the peaks don’t flop over any more. Stop at this point.
How to use whipped cream for...
Spreading: Cream will continue to stiffen while you spread it, so the more you need to move it around after you have finished whipping it, the softer the whipped peaks need to be at the start.
Piping: You can put softly whipped cream in a piping bag and chill it until you need it, but be very careful that you don’t over-whip it, otherwise the heat from your hands might make it go grainy as you pipe it.
Decorating: If you're finishing desserts with whipped cream just before serving, don't do it too early. If there is anything wet, fruit in syrup for example, on top of it the cream will start to ‘crack’ and look messy.
How to flavour whipped cream
You can add a touch of sweetness or flavour by incorporating icing sugar, vanilla, a sprinkle of a spice such as cinnamon, melted and cooled chocolate or a spoonful of alcohol like Baileys or whiskey while you are whipping. Add this when the cream is beginning to thicken and has soft peaks – if you add it at the end you might over-whip it. Bear in mind that as the cream thickens the flavour will dilute, so add enough to take account of this.
Another way to add flavour is to infuse cream before whipping it. Put strips of citrus zest in cold cream, or warm some cream in a pan with a cinnamon stick and leave to infuse (then cool and chill before whipping), for example.