Don't weep, whipped cream, it's all going to be alright. Sure, you have a tendency to lose your spine as you sit out for a while (you fall, you run, and, no offense, you become a little unappetizing), but we're about to fix that.
Chin up! There are lots of ways to make longer-lasting, more stable whipped cream that won't have a breakdown as it graces chocolate cake, strawberry ice, rhubarb buckle, or a pile of vegetables (yes, you read that right). That means more opportunity to prep in advance and less of an urge to rush through dinner to get to that cream-topped lemon custard pie (though, let's be real, I do that no matter what).
The methods for achieving dependable whipped cream fall into two main categories: additional ingredients or whipping technique. Here's how to make fluffy, swoopy whipped cream that'll last as long as your dreamiest summer party.
Pastry chefs often look to a gelatin mixture for weep-less whipped cream with no unwanted flavor that will retain its fluff for up to 24 hours in advance (Cook's Illustrated also declared gelatin the best stabilizer of the bunch). To make about 3 cups of whipped cream, melt 1/2 teaspoon gelatin in 1 1/2 tablespoons of water (need a gelatin refresher? Here you go). Whip 1 1/2 cups of cream on medium speed just until the beaters leave a trail, then slowly stream in the gelatin mixture and beat on high until soft peaks form.
Baking queen Rose Levy Beranbaum recommends using a small amount of cornstarch. To make 2 cups of whipped cream, you'll first need to whisk the cornstarch with powdered sugar to prevent clumps (Beranbaum recommends 1 teaspoon cornstarch and 2 tablespoons sugar). Then, add this to a portion of the cream (1/4 cup), bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, and let it cool completely. Next, whip the remaining cream (3/4 cup) using a whisk attachment or hand mixer until the beaters leave marks, stream in the cornstarch mixture, and beat until you have peaks of the desired consistency.
This may sound like a bit too much trouble—and the mixture won't hold up well at room temperature—but your whipped cream will survive on a cake in the refrigerator for 24 hours (and Beranbaum says that "many people have reported that this recipes has saved their lives").
But let's say you don't want to add gelatin (hi, vegetarians) or cornstarch (too finicky). That brings you to crème fraîche, which I learned about from Chef Nancy Silverton via Kristen Miglore. I also saw this done at the restaurant where I used to work: We'd make "CFW"—crème fraîche whip—in the morning to last through the end of dinner service.
Crème fraîche not only adds a touch of tangy sophistication to plain ol' whipped cream, but the extra saturated fat (42% butterfat compared to heavy cream's 30%) helps capture and retain air bubbles for added resilience. Silverton instructs whipping the cream to soft peaks using a whisk attachment and then gently folding in the crème fraîche by hand. I took a shortcut and used a blender: I added the cream and crème fraîche to the container, started on the lowest setting, then increased to high speed for 10 to 15 seconds. Done!
Yogurt or sour cream
If you don't have crème fraîche on hand to make whipped cream, yogurt (full-fat plain or Greek) or sour cream will have a similar life-boosting effect. Start off with 1/2 cup of yogurt per 1 cup of heavy cream (simply whip them together until you have soft peaks), knowing that you can add a little more yogurt to taste.
And maybe we're stretching the bounds of what can be considered "whipped cream," but for her "cheater's whipped cream," Erin McDowell mixes heavy cream into a mixture of fluffy cream cheese and powdered sugar. This creates a sweet, tangy mixture that's as light and swoopable as traditional whipped cream yet strong enough to hold up three layers of cake-sized shortcakes—plus tons of juicy strawberries—in her Not-So-Short Cake.
Take a break from your stand mixer
Instead of always using the whisk attachment on your stand mixer to make homemade whipped cream, use a food processor, an immersion blender, or a blender for a dense, smooth, stable whipped cream made in almost no time. In other words: Don't walk away from the machine.
Use a mesh strainer to stabilize
Or, if you want to whip the cream ahead of time, but not to necessarily adorn your pie or cake in advance, you can hold the whipped cream in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl for up to 8 hours, according to Cook's Illustrated.
And for the lowest maintenance option, just whip your cream as usual, store the covered bowl in the refrigerator, then take a wire whisk to it, reincorporating any runaway liquid, right before you're ready to use it.
So now that you've got whipped cream that won't die out on you, what shall you do with it? I like to use crème fraîche whip to top a pavlova. Since the meringue can also be made ahead of time, you've got an easy-to-prep dessert that won't fade if dinner drones on.
This berry-topped version is flavored with almond and cardamom (a combination I love), but you could easily replace the almond extract with vanilla extract and/or omit the cardamom entirely. Flavor the whipped cream how you'd like and switch up the fruit, too. Two fun ideas: chocolate whipped cream with brûléed bananas; or date syrup whipped cream with crumbled halva and fresh figs.
But that's not all! Fill a cream puff, top a shortcake, smother a vanilla cake, or simply set a few punnets of berries next to a billowing bowl of whipped cream and have it.
“A whipped cream with staying power.” Now that’s a statement we can get behind. What gives this whipped cream its body and longevity is a few tablespoons of crème fraîche. This is a must-make stabilized whipped cream for make-ahead desserts, especially on a hot summer day.
This incredibly fun twist on a strawberry shortcake features mesmerizing layers of cream cheese whipped cream, macerated strawberries that get super jammy, and buttery biscuit cakes.
You only need two ingredients to make this variation on a classic whipped cream recipe, and you can probably guess what they are (but we’ll give you a hint: heavy cream and plain yogurt).
Take your whipped cream to the next level by adding two finely chopped Heath Bars and using it to frost a cake. The nutty toffee flavor of the candy bar is a lovely addition to delicate angel food cake.
Yes, you can make vegan whipped cream, and no, it doesn’t involve a million weird ingredients. Instead of heavy whipping cream, use a base of full-fat coconut milk or coconut cream. The fat is key to giving our dairy-free whipped cream body; low-fat coconut milk simply won’t do the trick.
No ice cream sundae is complete without whipped cream on top. Recipe developer Emma Laperruque’s secret is whipping the cream by hand using a metal whisk, like one of these from our shop, in a mixing bowl to avoid overmixing, which can cause too-stiff peaks.
No buttercream here! This cocoa-y, coffee-y cake is a fabulous, crowd-pleasing dessert topped with a three-ingredient whipped cream—all you need is heavy whipping cream, confectioners’ sugar, and pure vanilla extract.
Whipped cream doesn’t have to just be used to top desserts. Here, we gave it a savory spin by using an electric mixer to whip heavy cream with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (instead of the usual confectioners’ sugar). Use it to top buttery blanched asparagus for an indulgent side dish.