And why you should use one instead of the other.

 

Have you ever wondered how cream changes from an entirely liquid state into a fluffy and airy solid by just a few minutes of whisking? You can whisk milk as long as you want and you’ll never get anything more than a wet bowl of bubbles. Cream, on the other hand, transforms. It’s a homogenized blend of milk and milk fat (meaning solid milk fat is microscopically distributed throughout the milk rather than separated into a solid layer at the top of the liquid). It’s this distribution of fat throughout the liquid that allows cream to be whipped in the first place. As air bubbles are forced into the cream, they get caught by the fat molecules and are suspended throughout the substance, forming an airy and pillowy texture from an otherwise thick liquid.

But if you look at the top shelf of that small refrigerated section in your grocery store, you’re sure to notice that both “heavy cream” and “whipping cream” sit side by side. But what accounts for the difference, you might ask? It’s the amount of fat in the cream. Heavy cream has a higher percentage of milk fat (about 36%) while whipping cream has less (around 30%). Don’t let the names deceive you: both can and should be used for whipped cream. However, since there is more fat in heavy cream, the air bubbles that get caught in the heavy cream are held firmer and longer than those in the whipping cream. This means that heavy cream makes a sturdier whipped cream that holds its shape longer than the lighter and softer whipped cream made from whipping cream.

Heavy whipping cream should be used for sweets that require a stronger cream (like trifles, with layers of whipped cream sandwiched between heavy layers of fruit and cake) while pies and desserts like strawberry shortcake or a gooey fudge cake benefit from a simple dollop of whipped whipping cream that’s softer and a little more “wet.” Choosing one or the other will never ruin a dessert, but picking the right cream might just make it a little more perfect.

Advertisement