Homemade whipped cream is an indulgent treat that elevates even the simplest of desserts. The unique composition of heavy cream allows for it to be whipped from a velvety liquid to a billowy foam, but it often falls flat or becomes watery within a few hours of our hard work. Since whipped cream is difficult to prepare in advance and keep, some rushed cooks might be tempted to skip this treat altogether in favour of a faster, pre-made option. We’ve researched a few of the best ways to stabilize whipped cream with the goal of helping you spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying dessert.
Whipping cream has a high fat content (between 33 and 35%), which is why it can be whipped from a liquid to a foam. The whipping action incorporates air bubbles, and the fat helps them stay in the mixture. Unfortunately, because fat is less dense than water, the smooth mixture will eventually separate into layers, causing the whipped cream to deflate and weep.
While nothing will make your perishable cream last longer at room temperature (two hours is the maximum!), we do know that whipped cream can be made more stable by adding ingredients that contain extra protein or carbohydrate. Both of these help to give the foam more structure so your whipped cream stays fluffier longer. We’ve tested gelatin, cream of tartar, cornstarch, and Dr. Oetker brand Whip It (a cornstarch product). While they all help the cream stay fluffy, most of them have drawbacks to consider:
- Cornstarch by itself creates a grainy texture
- Cream of Tartar imparts a sour taste
- Gelatin is difficult to work with because it tends to form small lumps in the cream after refrigeration (and results in a marshmallow-like consistency after a day or two)
It may not come as a surprise that our favourite whipping cream stabilizer is the one designed specifically for the purpose: Whip It. Even through days of refrigeration, freezing, and thawing, whipped cream stabilized with Whip It maintains a bright white colour, creamy texture, and minimal deflation. Based on our tests, it is an excellent choice.
Here are a few steps anyone can and should take to prepare outstanding homemade whipped cream, with or without additional stabilizers:
- Use cream labelled specifically for whipping. It usually has a fat content between 33 and 35%, which is essential to maintaining airy foam.
- Keep everything as cold as possible. Fat is more stable at low temperatures, so the foam will stay intact better when your beaters, bowl and ingredients are cold. Use a stainless steel bowl, not glass, and keep cream refrigerated whenever it’s not being used.
- If you are sweetening the cream, use powdered sugar. The smaller sugar crystals are less likely to puncture and deflate the foam, and it usually contains some cornstarch which can aid with thickening.
- Whip the cream until you’re confident it will hold firm peaks, stopping only when your beaters leave distinct trails in the cream. Watch carefully: over beating your cream will turn it to butter, but under-whipped cream will deflate and separate more quickly.
With the right ingredients, utensils, and a long enough whipping time, you might find that your cream stays stable enough all on its own. If you do need to make it far in advance, consider using a product specifically designed for whipped cream stabilization. We loved the results we got with Dr. Oetker’s Whip It, following the package instructions exactly as written. Time to get whipping!