It’s Easy to Make Your Whipped Cream This Holiday Season

Photo CC BY lotherington

Friends don’t let friends use Reddi-wip at the holidays. (Unless you just really, really love dairy topping from a can, in which case, I’ll do my best not to judge you. We all have our quirks.) Real whipped cream is incredibly easy to make and absolutely worth it. One of my first jobs in the kitchen as a kid was whipping the cream for dessert, so enlist your kids if you don’t have a stand mixer! Either way, all you have to do is beat cream with powdered sugar and a bit of vanilla. If you’re a details sort, here’s everything you need to know.

The cream

What kind of cream? Heavy or whipping? The difference is fat content. Heavy cream is about 36%, while whipping cream is closer to 30%. Either will work, so it’s a matter of preference and how you’ll be using it. Whipping cream will result in a fluffier whipped cream, while heavy cream will be sturdier. If you’re making a filling, you should go with the heavy cream. Whipping cream will do well for dollops on your pie.

The sugar

You’ll find plenty of recipes that tell you to use granulated sugar. It’ll work fine. You may end up with a slightly grainier whipped cream if it doesn’t dissolve well, which is why I use powdered. But if you don’t keep powdered sugar around, it’ll be OK. I’m not really the measuring sort, but recipes generally recommend about 2 tablespoons per cup of cream. I’m pretty sure I go heavier than that. Start light–you can always add a bit more by tasting as it whips up.


Vanilla is classic. It’s not “no flavor.” Vanilla is a wonderful flavor. If you love it, add more. But hey, some people don’t like it. If that’s you, don’t use vanilla. Your whipped cream will be fine.

Or level up! How about lemon-flavored cream? Or rum? Or chocolate? The best way to achieve chocolate whipped cream is by melting chocolate, but this does lengthen the process. (Here’s a recipe.) You could also add a dash of your favorite liquor or extract, which seem to come in every flavor now. Root beer or maple whipped cream could be interesting!

When to make it

I generally make the cream after dinner. It only takes about ten minutes, which you can do while someone else clears the table and brings out dessert, and it’s much better fresh. If you need to, though, you can make it a few hours in advance and keep it covered in the fridge.

How long to whip it

While it’s not necessary to know why beating liquid turns into whipped cream for it to be delicious, this is GeekMom! In short, you’re adding air bubbles and letting the fat globules hold them up. (Check out this Serious Eats article for the details of the science.)

After the first three or four minutes of whipping, you should see trails behind your beater, which means things are starting to work. But it’s not whipped cream yet! Keep beating until it gets stiffer, and you start seeing peaks. After around eight minutes or so, you should be able to make fairly stiff peaks that you recognize as whipped cream. That’s the time to stop!

If you don’t, first it will start to get grainy. It’s edible, but if you got this far, stop! The fat and air have changed their relationship, and your whipped cream is going to turn into something else. Which isn’t all that bad as long as it’s what you were aiming for–butter! But that’s another post for another day.

Where did that mixer go?

One last note for those of you with houses full of energetic kids. There’s one more option that I put in the category of “technically possible, but I have appliances that do that for me.” But if you do need to entertain the kids while you finish the potatoes, chill a glass jar. Put in your ingredients. And give it to those kids to shake. Like little human stand mixers! (If they sit, are they sit mixers?) You may have heard that you can accomplish this in three minutes. If it takes longer, it’s OK. Tell them to keep shaking. It’ll get there!

And then regardless of how you made it, now is the best part–you get to eat it! And don’t forget the house rules: the one who made it gets to lick the spoon.

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