Whipped cream is a great way to finish off just about any dessert, adding a light sweetness to contrast with rich berry flavors and intense chocolate ones. For many, using whipped cream means picking up a can from the refrigerated section of the grocery store. This isn’t a bad solution in a pinch (I know I’ve used it many times), but making your own whipped cream is quick and easy – and you usually get a much more satisfying result. Many recipes call for lightly sweetened whipped cream and making your own is also a great way to control the sweetness because lightly sweetening the cream just means adding in a little bit of confectioners’ sugar.
To whip cream, start by pouring some cold heavy cream or heavy whipping cream into a large bowl, then beat it with a whisk or an electric mixer until it reaches soft peaks. This will take anywhere from about 1-5 minutes, depending on how much cream you are whipping. Cold cream whips up better than less cold cream, and a larger bowl makes the whole process go faster. Towards the end of the whipping time, sift in a small amount of confectioners’ sugar to make lightly sweetened whipped cream. While plain whipped cream is just fine, adding a bit of sugar mellows the flavor of the cream and, frankly, just tastes better with dessert. Sometimes I add a bit of vanilla if I want the whipped cream, but this is completely optional.
Both pasteurized and ultra pasteurized creams can be whipped, though pasteurized will beat up a bit more quickly and will achieve slightly greater volume. Don’t be tempted to overbeat the cream, or you’ll end up making homemade butter. Homemade butter isn’t a bad thing, but if that is what you’re going for you’ll want to leave out the confectioners’ sugar!
Lightly Sweetened Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream, cold
2-3 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
In a large bowl, beat heavy cream until it reaches soft peaks by hand (about 5-6 minutes) or with an electric mixer on low (about 3-5 minutes). Sift in confectioners’ sugar, using more or less to taste, and beat in. Briefly beat in vanilla extract, if using.