But when you frost a cake with whipped cream or want to make the perfect rosettes from a decorator bag, the grocery store cream in the US falls flat. Either you whip it to butter or you have a soft product which will not keep its shape. On the other hand, the bakeries always seem to turn out amazing products with beautiful decorations. Why is that?
The Problem With Whipping Cream
The biggest problem with whipping cream you buy in the store is that it is less than 40% fat. Regular whipping cream can be as low as 30% fat and heavy whipping cream is 36% fat. When a restaurant or bakery purchases fresh cream, however, they receive heavy whipping cream with at least 40% fat.
The higher the fat content, the stiffer the whipped product can become, without turning into butter, and the longer it holds its shape without weeping or separating. So if home cooks cannot buy the restaurant whipping cream, what can we do to make our desserts look just as beautiful?
We can use a stabilizer. There are many different kinds. In the US, for many years, we only had the option of using gelatin to stabilize whipping cream, which is a fussy method in which you have to heat the gelatin and pour it into the cream while beating. It often results in clumps and once it thickens, you cannot modify its form very well (like Jello).
Modified Food Starch
In recent years some other products which have come onto the US market stabilize whipping cream much better than gelatin. One of these products has been sold in Europe for years, and that is modified food starch. Modified food starch starts with a plant starch molecule (many kinds, including wheat starches may be used) which is then altered by chemicals, heat or even genetically modified organisms (GMO). These modified starch molecules have different properties; add them to some foods, for instance, and you will get a pudding or gravy powder which instantly dissolves in cold water without clumping. Some starches are used to keep frozen foods from separating when thawed and others can thicken instant puddings and cream.
See here for a list of starches one company sells to the prepared and frozen food industry. While most of these starches are not available to home cooks, except in prepackaged foods, a few are now for sale which are very useful at times.
Since 1967, Sahnesteif has been sold in Germany as a whipping cream aid. Also called Whip It, it is made with dextrose (aka glucose), modified corn starch and tricalcium phosphate (anticaking agent). One package (0.35 oz. or 10 g.) will stiffen one cup of cold whipping cream, although for a simple cake (not frosting or decorating) you can use the same amount in two cups of cream.
I have tried Whip It and it does not alter the flavor of the cream, nor make it gritty. It keeps the cream in the refrigerator overnight without separating and the taste is still fresh the next day. It is stiff enough to pipe decorations.
Instant Clear Gel is a modified food starch made from waxy maize. Waxy maize is amylopectin and a small amount of amylose, very large starch molecules. The package does not say how they are modified, but the clear powder dissolves in liquid without clumping and can thicken whipping cream and fruit fillings which are baked or raw.While it is sold in order to thicken fruit pies, it is very good for stabilizing whipped cream. For one cup of whipped cream, a pinch up to 1/8th teaspoon is necessary (see picture). It imparts no flavor and leaves no gritty feeling. Whip the cream to soft peaks first, then sprinkle it on top while beating and keep mixing until the desired thickness is achieved. This will make your whipped cream frosting last up to two days or perhaps even longer (in the refrigerator).
One woman wrote a review for King Arthur which even stated that her whipping cream had been frozen, thawed and would not beat. She added a little Instant Clear Gel and could use the result to frost a cake!
Experiments show that 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Instant Clear Gel sprinkled onto cold milk and beaten will create foam that would be good for lattes or cold drinks.
One package is 8 ounces, which will last a lifetime if you are just stiffening cream with it.
The ingredients are gelatin and dextrose. One to two tablespoons is necessary per cup of whipping cream, depending on if you are serving it as a side or want it to hold up to decorating with it. It comes in a four ounce bag.
Xanthan Gum is a white powder sold as a thickener to people who are sensitive to gluten. It may have some allergens for sensitive people however, so buy from a source which is guaranteed gluten free if that is your concern.
This thickener is derived from a strain of bacteria, Xanthomonas campestris which feeds off of simple sugars and makes a polysaccharide (complex sugar). It has high thickening capabilities which are lowered when the liquid is shaken (low shear strength). That makes it useful in salad dressings which become more pourable if you shake the bottle, but do not separate in the refrigerator.
Based on original research, a quarter teaspoon or less will stabilize a cup of whipped cream for more than a week (but the cream will go sour).
Guar gum is a polysaccharide like xanthan gum, but it is won from guar beans (a plant) and is called galactomannan. It is an off-white powder sold in health food stores, often as an ingredient for gluten-free baking. More guar gum is needed than xanthan gum and its properties lie in the thickening and emulsifying side of sauces, salad dressings, bread and dairy products.
Use up to one teaspoon per cup of cold, whipping cream. This will also keep in the refrigerator without separating for quite a long time.
You can also use a bit of each in the whipped cream. Use a very small amount of xanthan gum (maybe a pinch) plus a slightly larger amount of guar gum. Read more about their synergistic effects here.
This is a canister of nitrous oxide attached to a dispenser filled with cream, sugar and flavorings. Nitrous oxide flows into the cream and dissolves creating high pressure in the dispenser. When the button or lever is pushed, the cream flows out, the nitrous oxide expands and "whips" the cream instantly.
The whipped cream you squirt on the plate or dessert is four times the volume of hand-whipped cream, making it lighter and fluffier. If no stabilizers are added to the cream, it will separate within a few hours, so it is not a whipped cream stabilizer by itself.