Why You Need To Be Careful When Adding Extracts To Whipped Cream


Cupcakes, pies, puddings, ice creams — our desserts just wouldn’t be the same without whipped cream. This silky layer of buttery foam can elevate any sweet treat, transforming it from dry and bitter to rich and dense with just one dollop. Imagine a strawberry shortcake without its signature mound of sweet, pearly mousse. What would alleviate this barren blend of tart fruit and crumbly scones? Not only is whipped cream a lovely treat by itself (we’ve all slurped it straight from the can before), but it’s essential for some desserts.

According to The Spruce Eats, whipped cream derives its texture from aerated butterfat. As speed and pressure are introduced, the dairy froths and builds to a unique level of height and density. These fatty bubbles double in form, creating a light, spreadable blend of ivory foam. Sweeteners are then added to modify the cream’s taste and (sometimes) texture. While lower-fat dairy products can essentially be whipped, they won’t be as thick or work as well as butterfat. Instead, they would make a lovely froth for homemade lattes and cappuccinos.

Still, shopping for pre-made whipped cream can be a somewhat scary experience. With the number of extracts and chemical flavorings in modern food — a lot of it is even banned in other countries — it can be challenging to find food with simple ingredients. Thankfully, whipped cream is an easy dessert to make and only requires two ingredients: whipping cream and liquid or dry sweeteners.

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing

Because whipped cream has a relatively neutral taste, additional sweeteners or flavors can be introduced without compromising the topping. Whether it’s infused with liquid sugars, syrups, extracts, or alcohol (as in Cardi B’s Whipshots), whipped cream can be altered to fit nearly any dessert or drink.

However, Serious Eats says users should be wary of how much they add. Extra liquid — especially those with intense flavor and no fat — can water down the whipped cream and deconstruct its fluffy, malleable shape. Additionally, these sweeteners can make the whipped cream too sugary and undesirable when paired with desserts.

There’s a homemade Cool Whip alternative

Though whipped cream and Cool Whip seem relatively the same, there are a few differences between the two. For starters, Cool Whip is a mixture of water, air, additives, oils, and other artificial substances and flavors, per TasteMade. These ingredients act as stabilizers and give Cool Whip its signature fluffy structure. In fact, there’s hardly any cream or milk within Cool Whip itself, deeming it a “whipped topping” instead of authentic whipped cream.

Refrigerated, frozen, or thawed — this whipped topping will remain intact without fear of melting or over-solidifying. As great as this seems, it does beg the question: How much is too much? During an at-home experiment, author Jonathan Fields found that it could last on the counter for nearly two weeks without much physical or chemical change. While Cool Whip may be perfect for Oreo dirt cake or no-bake desserts, you might be looking for another option.

Luckily, there’s a way to make homemade Cool Whip that can still retain its structure. Serious Eats reports that gelatin is the popular unifier between regular whipped cream and its Cool Whip counterpart. Mix it with cold water before adding water to your corn syrup-sugar mixture in a separate bowl, setting it over medium heat. Once the syrup has reached its recommended temperature, add the gelatin, whip, and let rest.

How long does whipped cream stay stable?

Use High-Fat Whipping Cream

By the way, if you’re concerned about your whipped cream holding its shape, the first thing to make sure of is that you are using heavy cream with a fat content of at least 40 percent. Also, extremely fresh cream is more difficult to whip. But you’ll only notice a difference if your cream is less than a day old. In most cases, this won’t be a factor.

Keep Your Cream Cold

The reason the temperature and the fat content of the cream are so important is that it’s the fat globules in the cream that form the network which in turn hold the tiny air bubbles in place when you whip air into the cream. And because butterfat (i.e. the fat in cream) is solid at cool temperatures and liquid at warm temperatures, the cooler the cream is, the more solid the network of bubbles will be. When it gets warmer, the bubbles collapse and the air escapes, thus deflating your whipped cream.

Therefore, you will have the best results from high-fat heavy cream that has been chilled to 40 F or below. And it’s not a bad idea to chill your bowl and the wire whip attachment you’re using to whip the cream. Anything you can do to keep the cream cool will ultimately help stabilize the whipped cream.

Stabilize Your Whipped Cream With Gelatin

But sometimes these tips aren’t enough, whether it’s because it’s a warm day or you’re making your whipped cream a couple of hours or more ahead of time. In this case, you can add a stabilizing agent to your whipped cream to help it hold its peaks. And the stabilizing agent that works best is plain, unflavored gelatin.

Figure 10 grams of gelatin for every quart of heavy cream you’re using. Start by softening the gelatin in 1/4 cup of cold water, then slowly warm it until the gelatin dissolves. Begin whipping the cream, as usual, making sure it’s well chilled before you begin. When it starts to thicken, pour the liquefied gelatin into the cream while mixing at high speed. Continue to whip until the cream reaches the consistency you want.

Whipped cream stabilized with gelatin will hold its shape for up to 24 hours. The fact is that if you’re piping decorations with whipped cream, it’s not a bad idea to use the gelatin method anyway, regardless of temperature or other issues.

Vegetarian Options

One thing to note is that gelatin is an animal-based product, so if you’re serving your whipped cream to anyone who is a strict vegetarian, you might want to consider some vegetarian options instead of gelatin. They don’t work as well, but they are arguably better than nothing.

In many cases, your whipped cream is going to be sweetened, which means you’ll be adding sugar to it. We’ve discussed elsewhere how important it is to follow the recipe you’re using, especially when it comes to baking and desserts. But if your whipped cream recipe calls for adding granulated sugar, you should substitute an equal weight of confectioners’ (aka powdered) sugar.

The reason for this is twofold. One, granulated sugar is made of heavy crystals which can weigh down the peaks of your whipped cream, causing it to collapse. Powdered sugar will dissolve more easily. But also, powdered sugar contains up to 3 percent cornstarch to prevent it from clumping. And cornstarch also happens to be an excellent stabilizing agent. So use powdered sugar for sweetening your whipped cream.

And of course, you can certainly add cornstarch (or tapioca starch, or arrowroot, or agar, xantham gum, guar gum, or innumerable other thickeners or stabilizers) to your whipped cream. As a general rule, start with 1/4 teaspoon mixed directly into the cream as you whip it. Excess starch can cause the whipped cream to be too dense.

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