If you’re like me and you don’t get around to making many cakes, finding the right ingredients can be equally as daunting as the cooking process.
And when your favourite part is lathering sponge cakes with cream, picking the right variety is crucial. Between heavy cream, double cream and whipped cream, the choice isn’t easy. So is heavy cream the ingredient you need to nail desert?
What is heavy cream?
In Australia, heavy cream is commonly known as thickened cream The two both contain similar milk fat content percentages and are generally interchangeable in recipes.
“Heavy Cream, which is the one that’s often labelled thickened cream in Australia, consists of about 35 per cent milk fat (or 35 grams per hundred ml). Often, it contains additives – gelatine, vegetable gums and this helps hold its shape when it’s whipped and that reduces the likeliness of curdling when heating,” says Trent Watson, Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.
“Thickened cream is also available in the reduced fat version which contains around 18 per cent milk fat. Due to its lower fat content, it’s not often as useful from a whipping perspective and instead it’s used in savoury dishes.
“It’s available in Australian supermarkets and it’s always titled ‘thickened cream',” adds Watson.
However, In the U.S., cream with a milk fat content percentage of 36 to 40 is classified as heavy cream. Meanwhile thickened cream contains a milk fat content percentage of 35. Heavy cream has no additives but is still naturally thick and fit for whipping. in the US, heavy cream is usually sold as ‘whipping cream’.
Double cream contains more than 48 per cent milk fat content.
What do you use heavy cream for?
Typically, because heavy cream (labelled thickened cream here) is able to hold its shape, it’s often used for cake decorations and as the filling for inside pastries.
If the cream has a milk fat percentage of 35 per cent or more, it whips extremely well and can double in volume. It is also known as heavy whipping cream and is extremely suitable for topping and piping.
Including thickeners like gelatine and vegetable gums helps with the whipping process while also ensuring the cream doesn't separate or curdle.
In recipes, the cream can be used both for dessert and a main course. Creamy chicken dishes require about 600ml of thickened cream that is simply stirred into the pan of ingredients while a typical pavlova involves thickened cream to be beaten with icing sugar to help create the topping.
What can you use as a substitute?
“There are a couple of substitutes you can use - things like Greek Yoghurt or evaporated milk. The only other one, which would be suitable for vegans, is a blended tofu as a plant-based alternative," continues Watson.
“The other alternative is use the half-half approach, whether it’s greek yoghurt and thickened cream or substitute half the cream with a low fat alternative."
Can you make it from scratch?
“There are very few people out there who are going to be milking the cow and making it from scratch," jokes Watson.