Making whipped cream from scratch is easy. Like, ridiculously easy. All it takes is heavy whipping cream, an electric beater, and about five minutes of your time. Here’s how to make whipped cream, and five ideas for easy variations on the basic whipped cream.
For most desserts you’ll want a few cups of prepared whipped cream (that’s about how volume much you get in a store-bought can or tub of prepared whipped cream). To make a few cups’ worth, all it takes is a small carton (or 1 cup) of heavy whipping cream. Before you get started, place a medium-sized mixing bowl and the whisks for your electric beater in the freezer for 10 minutes or so. Working with a cold bowl prevents the cream from “melting” as you’re whipping it.
When you’re ready, pour the cream into the chilled bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form. This will take about three to five minutes, depending on the speed of your mixer. What exactly are “stiff peaks?” Gently dip a spoon into the whipped cream, and let a dollop drop back into the bowl. If the dollop drops down like the “peak” of a mountain, that means it’s stiff enough, and done. But it falls heavily back into the bowl and disappears into the cream, that means it’s too soft, and could use a bit more beating.
The only thing you’ll want to add to this basic formula for whipped cream is sugar, as almost all prepared whipped cream is sweetened. Unless you’re making unsweetened whipped cream, add about 2 tablespoons sugar to the 1 cup cream before you whip.
Ready to get creative? Here are five easy variations on the basic whipped cream to make a gourmet dessert in minutes. Now get whipping!
1) Stir in pureed fresh fruit. An incredible transformation occurs in whipped cream when fresh fruit puree, or a coulis, is stirred into it. What begins as a sweet, fluffy topping for cakes, pies, and breads becomes a dessert star of its own. The dish is classically known as an English fool, and can be served just as you would regular whipped cream, or simply in a dessert bowl alongside a giant spoon.
To do it: Puree fresh or frozen fruit of choice (try berries or cherries) with a few pinches of sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Gently fold the mixture into chilled, prepared whipped cream. Re-chill to set before enjoying.
2) Add fresh zest from citrus fruits. Nothing else can bring life to a recipe–whether savory or sweet—quite like fresh citrus. Plain whipped cream becomes bright and less heavy-feeling on the palate when it’s prepared with the zest of orange, lemon, lime, or any of your other fave citruses.
To do it: Stir in about 1 tablespoon citrus zest (or the zest of one whole fruit) to prepared whipped cream. Alternatively, add the zest to the whipping cream before you whip it up, and the movement from the beater will help to release more of the essential oils from the citrus, making for a more richly-infused whipped cream.
3) Splash in a few drops of liqueur. Just a tablespoon or so of liqueur can add a lively punch to regular whipped cream (without adding any real appreciable amount of alcohol). Choice add-ins include rum, spiced bourbon, orange liqueur, or almond liqueur. (And there are so many wonderful artisanal, small-batch liqueurs available these days, we could get deliciously lost experimenting with them all!)
To do it: Stir about 1 tablespoon liqueur of choice into prepared whipped cream.
4) Sprinkle in a dash of baking spices. Whipped cream can take on the flavors of the desserts you’re serving it atop of—even if you’re serving it on its own—by just adding a few dashes of ground spices! Think warm, holiday spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice mix. Other interesting spices might be cardamom, star anise, or fresh vanilla bean. How about a Mexican-inspired mixture with cocoa powder and red pepper?!
To do it: Add a few dashes of chosen spices to cream before whipping. For milder spices like ground cinnamon, aim for about ¼ to ½ teaspoon; for stronger spices like cloves or nutmeg, use sparingly to avoid flavor overkill.
5) Experiment with alternative sweeteners. Raw or organic white sugar is typically used for making whipped cream (or even confectioner’s sugar), but you can also make it with honey, maple syrup, or agave. Each imbues a slightly different type of sweetness to the whipped cream—honey gives it brightness, maple syrup gives it depth and spice, and agave gives it a clean, slightly earthy touch.
To do it: Add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of sweetener of choice to cream before whipping.
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