On the Texture of Whipped Cream

Reader Kylie asks:

Why does homemade whipped cream seem to taste lighter or “thinner” than whipped that’s inside pastries that I get from a pastry counter? What are those bakers adding that I’m not?

They might not be adding anything at all, Kylie. Other than a little sugar and vanilla, that is. Oftentimes we home bakers serve whipped cream as soon as we prepare it, which means it’s a little warmer than whipped cream that’s been whipped and then thoroughly refrigerated. Whipped cream that’s chilled has a thicker mouthfeel because the fats have firmed up in the cold. Think of cold butter versus room temperature butter. It’s the very same phenomenon.

13 thoughts on “On the Texture of Whipped Cream”

  1. The other day, I took dessert to a dinner party (pound cake and whipped cream and fruit). I was running late, so I didn’t have time to whip the cream at home before I left, and planned to borrow the hostess’s beaters when I got there. It turns out that she didn’t have any beaters, so I used a whisk to whip the cream by hand, which I’ve never done before. I swear the texture was much smoother and thicker and more velvety than when I whip it with beaters at home, and it did not take as long to come together as I thought it might. So the method might also make a difference?

    1. Interesting. I’m not sure why that would be, but I’ll certainly think on it. I wonder what the difference there is, physically, between a hand with a whisk and a rotating whip? Perhaps more force? Hmm…

      1. this is intriguing because a week or two ago I had a similar experience. I was at home and needed just a little whipped cream so did it by hand and I, too, very much thought that the result was thicker than in the past when using an electric mixer. my guess is that there’s less air being whipped into the fat. in my case I was using a fairly small whisk and simply knocking it back and forth across the bowl (as it was a small quantity of cream) rather than really “whipping”. it might be interesting to compare beating say 1/2 cup of cream in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment versus the paddle (if it would work).

  2. I always assumed the difference was that the pastry counter whipped cream was in fact “stabilized” whipped cream, and had gelatin added to keep it from separating. Am I wrong?

    1. It depends on the bakery. Some, especially those that use whipped cream to frost cakes that need to hold up at room temperature for hours, do use gelatin. Others don’t, but it’s worth asking if you’re curious.

  3. In addition to colder temps and possibly stabilization, professionals have access to pasteurized, 40% butterfat cream, while most grocers stock ultra-pasteurized cream, which is often lower in butterfat.

      1. It is the high-fat, 40 percent cream that the previous comment was about. It can only be had from professional supply sources.

  4. I don’t know if someone will kill me for saying this, but a lot of bakeries use a product called B/C topping to stabilize their whipped cream. That is why it stays so thick and stiff in bakery cases.
    Hope this helps! 🙂

  5. A few comments and hopefully answers. First and foremost, often the difference between at home and professional whipped cream is, in fact, from the use of manufacturing cream which has a higher fat content and often comes with stabilizers added. Gelatin is not often added, at least by discerning chefs, as it drastically changes the mouth feel of the cream and detracts from the smoothness of the finished product.

    What hasn’t been discussed yet is the age of the cream. The older the cream, the looser the final texture. It is key that when making whipped cream you use cream that is as fresh as possible (with a minumum 35% fat content). Temperature also makes a difference. Try whipping cream in a bowl that has been set in the freezer for 10min. and notice how much better it holds.

    Lastly, the mystery of the hand whisked whipped cream. When whipping, folding or mixing anything by hand, it is very difficult to overwhip, mix, etc. a product when compared to using an electric mixer. A looser whipped cream from a mixer is cause by over mixing. The celluar structures of the cream (air cells) become so small that it looses its integrity and collpases, essentially breaking the cream and becoming “loose”. This is difficult to do by hand, which means you whip the cream properly, and it appears to be firmer than when using an electric mixer.

  6. The places where I’ve worked, we’ve only used gelatin as a stabilizer. But other bakeries may use the infamous “topping” instead of cream. More butterfat would make a creamier mouthfeel, but not necessarily “lighter” unless you mean airy? Also, we’ve used Oberweis at one of the pastry shops, which has a higher butterfat. I’ve not come across a product at any of my kitchens that couldn’t be purchased from a store. But then again, I’ve worked at high-end restaurants, not mass-produced bakeries, which tend to use other substances such as batter “conditioners” for cakes with textures similar to those box mixes which you can’t duplicate at home.

    Maybe this provides insight?

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