“Life is SO much better with whipped cream on top.” ~Unknown
It turns out that Whipped Cream has been around for a long time. Records show that the Italians were whipping cream in the mid-1500s, with the French not too far behind. Evidently cooks used a handful of twigs or thin branches to form a primitive sort of whisk with which to whip the cream. As time went by, wire whisks became the tool of choice. Eventually whisks morphed into rotary beaters, and those beaters evolved into electric mixers. Recently, I read about an innovative family that puts cream, sugar and vanilla into an air-tight container and lets the children shake their “whipped” cream.
Rich, Aged and Chilled
The American Woman’s Cook Book 1966 gives a basic formula for whipped cream success: Rich, Aged and Chilled. Rich refers to the level of butterfat in the cream to be whipped. The higher the fat content, the more stable the whipped cream. Heavy whipping cream, as regulated by the FDA must contain 36 — 40% butterfat. Regular whipping cream contains 30 — 35%. Light cream comes in at 18 — 30% , and Half and Half contains only 11 — 18%. By comparing the levels of butterfat, it becomes apparent that heavy cream and regular whipping cream are suitable for making whipped cream, whereas, light cream and Half and Half are mainly coffee creamers. (Incidentally, heavy whipping cream is a better option in cooking as well — think of alfredo sauce or scalloped potatoes — as it is less likely to separate or curdle with its high fat content).
The American Woman’s Cook Book 1966 continues to point out:
“Cream must be ‘aged’ [24 hours] to produce lactic acid. The acid thickens the cream”.
Watkins Cook Book 1948 also calls for “day-old” cream for whipping. However, in the twenty-first century, cream is now ULTRA-pasteurized, meaning that dairy products are quickly heated to 280*F (as opposed to traditional pasteurization of 161*F). This higher temperature extends the shelf-life of dairy products, but causes the cream to become more difficult to whip. To offset this, processors add stabilizers to the cream to help make it whip-able again. And unlike the days of family farms and local creameries, the time it takes these days for milk to go from producer to processor to consumer, the cream has already “aged”.
As far as the chilling goes, everyone knows that the cream must be thoroughly chilled. Nearly all twentieth-century whipped cream recipes suggested chilling the beaters and the bowl as well, warning that the warmer the cream gets the more likely it is to churn to butter. Joy of Cooking 1985 warns home cooks to begin whipping cream on low and to increase the speed only to medium-high as the mixture thickens. Beating cream on HIGH creates friction which warms and softens the butterfat resulting in a softer set. With all this fuss, its no wonder whipped cream from a spray can has become so popular. However, I’m sure most home cooks would agree that a homemade dessert deserves homemade whipped cream.
Home cooks of today want their whipped cream to be soft and billowy, yet sturdy and long lasting. Our twentieth-century grandmothers were no different. While researching, I found several interesting suggestions to extend the life of whipped cream:
Modern Meal Maker 1939 includes a recipe for Whipped Cream Sauce (above) which suggests folding a stiffly beaten egg white into a cup of sweetened whipped cream.
Watkins Cook Book 1948 offers two stabilizing suggestions (above). The first recipe says to dissolve a teaspoon of unflavored gelatin in a tablespoon of water and to add it to a pint of whipped cream. The second recipe calls for an eighth teaspoon of Cream of Tartar to be whipped with a cup of cream. These suggestions may seem a little antiquated, but many home cooks of today still use them. A more modern suggestion comes from Cooking from Quilt Country 1989 — a teaspoon of light corn syrup per cup of heavy cream. (My recipe for Whipped Cream, including a “magical” stabilizing ingredient is posted below).
A lot of things can be said about twentieth-century home cooks — hard working, industrious, dedicated — but creative must top the list. I am amazed with how many different ways cooks elevated humble whipped cream. Sweeteners ran the gamut from powdered sugar to honey, jam, jelly or marmalade, brown sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup and molasses. Recipes included almond extract or flavored liqueurs in the cream. Fresh or frozen fruit purees, orange juice (I must say, adding liquid ingredients to the cream seems risky to me), crushed fresh berries, chopped nuts, including pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, toasted coconut or almond paste were all suggested add-ins. Crushed candy, such as nut brittle and mints were listed. Instant coffee, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate sauce were included as well. The American Woman’s Cook Book 1966 published the most unusual whipped cream recipe of all. Flavored with salt and sprinkled with paprika and finely chopped parsley, it is recommended as a simple garnish for soup. I have never tasted whipped cream flavored with anything but sugar and vanilla. Its obvious that I have been missing out!
What is a Dover
While doing research for this post, I found instructions for making whipped cream in my grandmother’s The Household Searchlight Recipe Book 1944 that calls for a particular tool that I had never heard of — a “dover”. So I turned to the internet to learn that “Dover” is a brand of cast iron egg beater manufactured by the Dover Stamping Company located in New Hampshire at the turn of the last century. Dover beaters were so popular that they became synonymous with all rotary egg beaters, (similar to “Kleenex” in referring to any brand of facial tissue) and folks just called them “dovers”. Interestingly, in my collection of vintage kitchen utensils, I found a cast iron egg beater (above). Now I know it is a Dover!
Stabilized Whipped Cream
As promised, I have included my recipe for whipped cream (below) along with the “magical” stabilizing ingredient — mascarpone cheese. In the article above it was mentioned that the higher the fat content the more stable the whipped cream, so by adding additional fat (mascarpone cheese) it stays whipped longer. Fortunately mascarpone has a mild taste so it won’t over-shadow the addition of creative flavorings. This is my go-to recipe every time I make whipped cream, and I also use it for frosting cakes. If refrigerated, the “frosting” will stay fluffy 24 — 48 hours. Enjoy!
Stabilized Whipped Cream
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
- 2 Tbsp powdered confectioners sugar (or to taste)
- Speck of salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Chill mixing bowl and beaters in refrigerator for 30 minutes or more.
- Place mascarpone cheese in chilled bowl, mix on low for a few seconds.
- Continue mixing on low and gradually add heavy whipping cream. Sprinkle in powdered sugar and salt, increasing speed gradually as mixture thickens. Blend in vanilla extract.
- Whip until soft peaks form (at this point it can be used as a topping), or continue whipping until stiff peaks form (to be used as frosting), being careful not to over-mix.
P.S. A couple years ago, I was having guests over for a meal. In a rush, I over-whipped my cream and it started to turn to butter. I didn’t have a Plan B for dessert, so I used it anyway to frost my Banana Poppy Seed Cake. Everyone complimented me on the delicious dessert. Whew! I got lucky.
Recipe Compliments of cookbooklady.com