What should I use instead? Thank you. ;o)
Heavy cream is about 36% butterfat. Table cream is 18% Half & half is 14% Whole milk is 4%. I'm guessing that half & half is what is being called for.
The reason I am attempting to answer this is I just had a long conversation with my daughter who wanted to sell me on a butter called Plugra and all I know is that when in doubt and cooking higher fat content is good.
This is what Harold M. says:
Half-and-Half: 12% fat
Light Cream: 20% fat
Light Whipping Cream: 30% fat
Whipping Cream: 35% fat
Heavy Cream and Heavy Whipping Cream: 38% fat
As food scientist Harold McGee explains, "The proportion of fat determines both a cream's consistency and its versatility." As the fat content increases, the cream gets thicker and you can do more with it.
Creams with more fat will whip up better into a stable whipped cream, and they will also resist curdling when used to enrich soups. Creams with lower fat content are better used in beverages or for pouring over desserts.
If you can't find the specific cream needed for a recipe and are looking to substitute, it's always a safe bet to go for a cream with a higher fat content than the one called for. This ensures that everything on a molecular level will work out.
Light cream here in Canada is actually labelled as such, and has a 5% fat content. You could for sure use Half and Half, which is 12%, or "Table Cream", which is 18%. Good luck!
Sometimes table cream has stabilizers or is sterilized in order to extend its ability to stay at room temperature longer when served in a creamer with coffee, tea, or whatever. So if you purchase table cream that is also labeled as light cream, you may want to keep that in mind depending on what it is that your recipe is for. For as much as the fat content is important, additional stabilizers, thickeners and so forth can also disrupt the chemical balance of more delicate things. That being said, it could just be a "light cream of choice" as in "thicker than milk, yet light", and anything within a certain fat percentage margin would work.
The person who wrote the recipe must live on the East Coast. I have never understood why they do not sell light cream on the West Coast. It does not bother me enough to move back east, (hardly!), but it does bother me, and I just don't get it. Whenever we would go back to take care of ailing parents, we would buy the light cream again, and enjoy it thoroughly. I know that I could probably make my own by buying a container of heavy cream and a container of half and half, but we don't go through that much. Why doesn't anyone here produce it?
I also wonder why it it that cream is sold in different categories on the East and West coasts and why there are more options in the East than the West. It would probably be better if dairies had a more prominent notation of fat content. They do it, at least for 1 and 2%, for milk. I bet recipe writers would start to recommend by fat content too.
By the way, this is what Wikipedia about the U.S. standards (info is from the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations). You can see that there are more options than dairies tend to make available.
Half and half (10.5–18% fat)
Light, coffee, or table cream (18–30% fat)
Medium cream (25% fat)
Whipping or light Whipping cream (30–36% fat)
Heavy Whipping cream (36% or more)
Extra-heavy, double, or manufacturer's cream (38–40% or more).
They also note that the categories are the same in Canda except for that super-light option that Shalini Roy mentioned, with a fat content of 5 or 6%, hardly more than whole milk.